Today, my little girl turned 5. It really is hard to believe. Every year, I write a kids a letter on their birthday chronicling their year, what they learned, what is happening in our world as a family, etc. When they turn 18, I plan to give them a stack of letters as my way of helping to chronicle the story of their life.
Tonight, I preached on “Raising a girl to become a woman” as part of our parenting series. You can listen to it here. I finished my talk by reading the letter I wrote for Ava this year and thought I’d share it with you:
I am amazed that right now I am writing this letter while you sit in the first week of kindergarten. Right now, I am sitting the middle of a rain storm on the porch of a coffee shop on Mt. Lemmon. The last 5 years of your life have been incredible, they have also been tumultuous for us as a family. In 5 short years, you have lived in 5 different states and 6 houses. I have worked in 4 different churches. Most recently, we started Revolution Church in Tucson which is home.
While I hope and pray that this does not adversely affect you, I am beginning to see how it has shaped you. You have learned how to interact with many different people. Moving around has seemed to create in you a soft heart.
By the time you read this, you will have probably heard all the jokes about pastor’s kids and how terrible they often turn out, how they tend to be more sinful than any other child in the church. I’m praying that will be different for you and I am beginning to see why I believe that prayer will be answered. It has to do with your heart.
Right now at Revolution, I am preaching a parenting series called the perfect kid. The idea behind the series is that unless God gets a hold of a child’s heart, nothing matters. I can’t make you love God, I can’t make you act like a Christian or even talk like one. I can’t make you have a kind, generous, serving heart. God has to change your heart to be that way. Right now, your mom and I are beginning to see how God is changing your heart. How he is making you into a little girl who looks and acts like Jesus.
Everything from how you pray for people at night, you ask if we can pray for people who are hurting, you ask about the needs of people, you share and are a good example not only to your little brothers, but to those around you.
This year, we decided to pursue adopting a child from Ethiopia. While this is a huge leap of faith, and will drastically impact our families in ways I don’t think we even realize. It has been awesome to see how you have wanted to learn about Ethiopia, why little kids don’t have a mom and dad and how we can help. While you could fight and scream, make life difficult as we go through this process and try to raise money for it, you aren’t doing that. Instead, you are helping, talking about it with people, praying for the baby sister (you want a sister, your brothers want a brother) that will one day be a part of our family, a child that God has already picked out for our family.
In fact, in three days (on your birthday) I am preaching about how to raise a girl to become a woman. I’m using Titus 2 as my text. In it, it lays out that if your goal is to move the kingdom of God forward, if your goal is to be a gospel centered woman who pursues God’s dreams for your life, this is what you look like. My sermon is really my prayer for your life. It is what I hope through the power of God to instill in you. It is what I hope you become:
- To love your husband and children: It is my job to instill in you the values you need to know how to choose a husband. I will walk with you through this process. I will not send you alone to do the job God has created me to do. I will teach you that love is not just a feeling, but it is a choice of the will that you make that is followed by an emotion. You will have to choose each day to love your husband and your kids. You will not feel like it everyday, but God will give you the power to do so. One of the things I love about your mom is that she models this beautifully, everyday.
- Self controlled: I dream that you will be able to know your values and stick to them, even it means missing out on something that you want or desire. Being self controlled means having a long range view on life and seeing things from an eternal perspective. Not giving into to your heart, but protecting it. Not giving it away to every guy who enters your life, but saving it.
- Pure: I will teach you the difference between virginity and purity. Being a “virgin” does not make you pure. Purity is so much more. It is protecting your mind, heart and your body. We will talk about what you read, watch, who you hang out with and ultimately, who you marry. A man worth marrying will care about protecting your mind, heart and body as much as I care about protecting your mind, heart and body.
- Focus on your family and home first: The world we live in will push you to look out for number 1, it will tell you that having a career is the greatest aspiration you can give your life to, it will tell you that you can have a career of climbing the corporate ladder, memberships to the best country club, the perfect marriage, the perfect kids, you can have it all if you pursue the American dream. It is a fascade. You can’t have it all and you don’t need it all. The greatest thing you can give your life to is eternity. To focusing on your kids to push the kingdom of God forward. You can accomplish more by raising them up to pursue than you can on your own. The power you will hold in your husband’s life is unlike any other power in his life. No one holds the keys to his life the way you do. My life was changed forever when your mom made the choice to stop pursuing her dreams and give her life to the dream of eternity. To push me to be all I could be and to raise you kids to be all God called you to be. While you will not always feel like you are changing eternity, know that you are.
- Kind: By this time in your life you have probably met some women who are not kind. Sadly, you have probably been gossiped about and stabbed in the back by people who were supposed to be your friends. I am sure that in 18 years, I as your father have dropped the ball countless times. When I do, know that I will apologize and ask for forgiveness, but it does not take the hurt away right away, scars still exist. Don’t be bitter. If the gospel has transformed your heart, kindness will come out because that is what is in your heart. There is something so attractive about a woman who is kind. People want to be around her, they seek out her counsel and friendship, they want to be her. I want you to be that woman. I want you to not allow scars and pain to define you, but I want God to define you. Your identity is not in your hurt, your dreams and your wants, your identity as a follower of Jesus is in Jesus. That is where your beauty comes from. If a man is not attracted to your character, he is not worth wasting your life on and he will have no shot when he sits across the table from me and asks for your hand. I will have a gun.
- Submissive: In the process of helping you find a husband, we, together will look for a man who is worthy of submitting to. He will be what Scripture calls him to be: a prophet, priest, protector and provider. If he is only 3 of those, he does not pass. He must be all 4, you are worth it and scripture demands it and I have not done my job if he is not all 4. You will want to lead your family, you will want to be in charge, if you are like most women who get married, you will be more talented and smarter than your husband. This is God’s design. Each day, you must choose to follow his lead, to push him to be the pastor of your family, to follow him as he follows God. You must be strong and speak up, challenge him when it is appropriate, but you must also follow him when it is time. You must never disrespect him in front of your kids, always build him up. Your mom is always talking about how strong I am, how hard I work, how I provide for our family in front of you kids. Even writing that makes me want to cry. You must not put him down in public, never bash his work, never say he doesn’t make enough, always encourage him and praise him in front of others. If you find out that you are the only woman you know who does this (which you probably will find out), know that when other women are bashing their husbands, they are bitter, not kind, unfulfilled and they have decided that God’s ways are not the best ways, that the gospel is not powerful enough. Stay on track.
- That the gospel may not be reviled: This is the goal of your life and mine. As a follower of Jesus, which I pray everyday for you to become a follower of Jesus, I pray the gospel will be so attractive to you that you can’t imagine life without it. When that day comes, your life and goals and dreams change. It now becomes about moving the gospel forward and honoring God. All the things in this list honor God. It is a different way of living. You will have a hard time finding women who encourage you to become this list, you will have a hard time finding books and mentors who encourage and challenge you to be this woman. I want you to know who will encourage you, me, your mom, your church and God. I will stand with you, challenge you to give your life to a bigger dream. Don’t settle. Life is too short, too precious to not give your life to the transforming power of the gospel and not become this woman that I just listed. You can do it.
This will be a challenge, but one thing I have seen in your 5 short years on this earth is that you step up to challenges. You never give up, you push and push. That will serve you well. God’s dream for you as a woman and women in general is to be a strong woman, a woman with values, a woman with an opinion, a woman who voices that opinion, a woman who challenges and pushed her husband and her kids to be all that God created them to be. You will find that in the life of your husband and your kids, you are the most powerful person in their life. Never forget the power you hold and never forget that God created you with a specific way of using that power and that way is so that the gospel goes forth and lives are transformed and the world is changed.
You are 18 today. I don’t know where you are in life, I don’t know what has happened in the last 13 years, but know that everyday I prayed and begged God for you to have the character of this woman. Your mom and I have given our lives to becoming this woman. And by God’s grace, as you read this, you are that woman.
Love, Your Dad