The birthday blog has become tradition here at Tanner Manor, so here is my letter to my son on his 18th Birthday. A fine, young man he has grown to be, and Relentless in his pursuit of God and life.
Today I met in the woods again with Zach, my Dad, and my friends Ray and Joe. These important men in my life all had words of encouragement and affirmation for Zach, and when I was done, I presented him with a gift. I did this two years ago, and it was time to do it again. We need to recognize moments like these in the lives of our children. Milestones are important, and they need to hear from their parents just how proud they are of them. I have been both waiting for and dreading this day since day 1, and it is here. I know they will always need me, but still…
18 years ago today, you entered this world. You were quiet. Too quiet. I immediately thought that the son I had waited for was gone before he had the chance to live. I remember the fear in my heart, what was wrong? Why is he so quiet? What’s going on? Is he ok? C,mon, son! Fight!
After what seemed to me to be an eternity, you finally began to stir and then you found your lungs. I was the Dad of a healthy baby boy, and I could not have been happier. I had a daughter and now a son. Our family was complete, and it was all smooth sailing from that point on…
Not exactly. It didn’t take much time for me to figure out just how little I knew about being a husband and dad. I was getting by alright with the occasional bump or hiccup, but there was a lot of stuff that I just didn’t have the answers to, and truth told, I still feel that way sometimes!
Over the years there have been a few things I have done that I know were good moves, and one of the biggest was doing the men’s group and the Authentic Manhood studies. That study showed me a lot about myself, and the importance of trying to teach those principles to you. They showed me that there are battles that will take place in life that I would need to fight for you, but also I would need to teach you to fight for yourself.
There have been good and hard times on this journey. I want you to know that I own the responsibility for the majority of those hard times as I have been growing and changing and making mistakes along the way. One of the most important things I have wanted you to learn is that we are not perfect, and our decisions have consequences and impact on those around us both for good and for bad. No man is really an island.
During this journey of your life, I have been trying, along with the help of your Mom, to give you the tools you need to thrive as a man. Lessons, examples, books, mentors, and stories from my life are just a few of the ways I have done that. I have always said that the experiences of others are the best teachers because you can learn the lesson without personal pain or loss. We have shared victory and defeat on that front, but we have continued to learn and grow – me as a Dad and you as a son.
Two years ago we took some time with some friends and had a celebration of you at the age of 16. Men God has brought into your life shared with you some of their own insights and wisdom as they encouraged you to continue to grow in God and as a man. It was a good time.
That was when I presented you with your shield carrying the family name on it. The shield represented the period of life you were entering where there would be attacks that would come to you as Satan desired to tear you down and destroy your reputation. You would see trials and struggles that would strain relationships, and, unfortunately, see some fall away. The battles would be real, and you would need to learn to defend not only who you are, but what you believe.
Through the last two years, I have seen you grow in your ability to stand strong in trial. You have become more resolute in your faith, and you have served as an example to others as well. I have enjoyed watching you grow and have been very proud of you. You have been tested, and some of those battles have appropriately hardened you – tempered you for bigger challenges to come.
Now you are 18. You will be leaving the house this fall for college, and you will be stepping out into the world as a man. My time for instruction, while not completely finished, is undergoing a change to an advisory role. I will be there when you need me, but the day is coming that I might not be a part of your daily life. This will be a hard adjustment for me, and in some ways for you, too.
For the last 18 years, it has been my responsibility as your Dad to stand and fight for you, to be the one who stood guard over your heart and to fight anything of this world or any other who would dare come for my son. As your Dad, that was my job, and as hard as it was sometimes, it has been one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever had.
Along with that job has been the charge to teach you the things you need to know about life, how to defend yourself against the attacks Satan will be certain to throw against you, and how to fight for those you care about, as well. I have done my best to do so, and in spite of my shortcomings and failures along the way, I believe that you have learned much of what you need to know, and I want to commemorate this moment as well.
So, today, I give you this sword as a picture of my belief in you and the man you have become. It signifies that I believe that you are equipped to do battle against Satan and his influences. The sword means that you are no longer simply one who defends, but now you are carrying the battle with you as you walk with Christ.
You will now step into the lives of those you see struggling and offer aid to them. You will not just endure, but you will overcome. You will be a warrior for Christ in all aspects of your life and give Him the glory in the victories that God gives to you.
Stay in the Word. There is nothing you can do that will give you more than that for the battles you will face. God’s truth will guide you in the hard choices, and will comfort you in your moments of doubt and pain. Stay close to God and allow Him to guide you. He knows your heart and your needs even better than I.
For the last 18 years, you and I have been preparing for this day. I love you as my son, but also as a man of God, and a warrior for His kingdom You have made me proud in so many ways, and I know that God is going to continue to do great things with you and through you as you strive to walk with Him.
I’m always here for you when you need me. I got your back and am always willing to fight at your side.
I love you, Zach!