I remember you on my chest, that first blessed night, sleeping easy just above my grateful, glad heart. Your mom was well—had not nearly died, this time—and we felt such intense relief and joy. God had heard and answered our prayers with a YES, and we rested in the blessing.
I still feel that way when I think of you, when I look at you, everyday when we embrace and say, “I love you.” I hear a YES from our Father, and I feel blessed and grateful and glad.
You are my beloved son, and I’m delighted with you, and in you, and I’m deeply proud of you. I will love you and be for you, no matter what comes. But I have to say that what I see in and from you is a source of so much joy and thankfulness for me. You are a good man.
Hold fast to the good news that Jesus saves and changes sinners like us—makes us more than we could ever be without him. A new creation. Priests and princes and winsome witnesses to Resurrection. Do not walk away from Jesus. Walk with him, behind him—follow him! He has the words of eternal life.
Keep your habit of kindness. Be a man—responsible, resourceful, brave, and protective. But don’t lose the soft skills you have so far demonstrated so faithfully. Keep seeing the small and powerless ones and loving those who can’t give you much in return. I love this about you.
Have fun. Keep laughing, and keep making people laugh. You have a great sense of humor. Maybe do better than I have and bend your wit to be less sarcastic and more warm. But keep laughing.
Keep making. You are a made maker, so keep on creating and shaping. Make and create music and movies and books and whatever your hand finds to do. Do it like a man—mightily.
Let tradition and history have many seats at your internal council table. Like our guy Jack says, read old books. So much of modernity is an attempt to “try something new” that has been tried a bunch of times and (often) failed. Be wary of DIY religion that may seem spontaneous and fresh but is really just some dude’s “hot new” take that will age out and fizzle in a short time.
Be wary of religious-languaged movements that simply sanctify your tribe’s politics and culture. Be deeply suspicious of the Zeitgeist; it is a cruel and capricious god. Don’t fear other gods. Fear God and cultivate humility and joy in him.
Don’t forget whose boy you are. Remember where you come from. This is not a limit to your rising, but a launching pad to lift you up. You are a Smith, a West Virginian, an American. All those have good and bad in them. Grab the gold and take it with you while you leave the dross far behind. Go farther than we went, and take us with you in your heart.
You are always mine, son. And I am always yours.
And happy birthday, my beautiful boy.