My lovely, lovely kids, hello:
I’m writing this for you as I prepare for tomorrow’s sermon and worship (although I’ll probably continue to write it throughout the week too): I can’t wait to worship with you and be with you guys for one last time before I go back to college. I’m incredibly excited to see that movie with you after church 🙂
I don’t even know where to begin this letter or really why I’m writing it: all I know is that I want to write it to you, and I hope you read it.
First, I love you so much. I always tell you this in the annoying weekly emails, but I really do. I would give you the world, I would give you my life if it means you guys get to be happy and flourish. I love making myself look so dumb and making cringe-y jokes just to see you guys laugh.
My boys, my beautiful and amazing men – how much you’ve grown! Maybe you can’t tell, but I really can. There’s something different about you – the way you interact with one another, the way you posture yourselves. I love you dearly – never forget that the mark of true man is not toughness or intellect or the ability to boast: the mark of a true man is humility. Never be ashamed to own up to your mistakes. Never be ashamed to feel and to weep. Serve and love one another with joy, as Christ did for the Church. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” I don’t care how much theology or philosophy or intellect you have – love one another. Empathize and weep with the lost and the hurting. You are never above being kind to anyone. Never. And I know you guys can, I’ve seen it. And no matter what you do or where you go in life, you will always make me so proud.
My girls, my lovely and incredible women – you’ve grown so much too. Never stop dreaming, never stop believing in yourself. The world will tell you that you have to play this role or you have to be like this in order to be loved – screw that. Follow the things God has placed in your heart, follow your passions. You can be anyone and anything just as good as guys can be. Don’t let the world tell you otherwise. Beauty fades away, but what burns inside you lasts. Be strong, be fierce. And above all, love. Love God and love people – nothing else matters. I know you girls can do it. No matter what you do or where you go in life, you will always make me so proud.
I’ve chosen the songs and the passage for Sunday very deliberately: it encapsulates the vision I have for you guys: to love Jesus well and to be loved well by him.
That last song, “Jesus, We Love You,” is profoundly beautiful. I first heard it when my worship leader freshman year picked it out for us to play. I loved it – not just because it was musically beautiful (which it is), but because it was around when I just started to get used to being in college, when I saw God pull me through. It was a really hard time for me, but that song just really clicked and it helped make Wheaton feel like home. That is my hope for you guys – to be filled with the love of Jesus, for it to be your solid rock in any circumstance. I love this line, “All that was lost has now found its place in you.” St. Augustine says, “Our hearts are restless until they find themselves in you.” May you find every burden lifted, every longing satisfied in Jesus, who loves you.
And from that passage, Colossians 3:1-17, this tidbit, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”
You are made holy and dearly loved by his grace – and let that grace motivate you to be one body, bearing each others’ burdens, and loving one another as Christ loved us.
I have just finished reading a small and lovely treatise by Seneca, a Stoic. It’s called, “On the Shortness of Life,” and part of what it addresses the brevity of life. Seneca concludes that it is not that we have so little time, but it is that we wastefully use so much of it on the wrong things. It echoes the Teacher’s sentiment in Ecclesiastes: “Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” We spend our time slaving away at work, at school, to get lots of money and material things, and for what? We eternally recur in an endless human cycle – nothing has been done that is new under the sun. The Teacher in Ecclesiastes muses on this idea of eternal recurrence and he concludes that there is nothing certain in life – therefore, we should live with “the fear of the Lord,” and with an open hand. Kiddos, life is too short to squander it. Life is too short to waste it on just your own success. Don’t live for what passes, but set your eyes on the things above, which last eternally.
Life is for the living – go and explore the wonders and the dreams God has set out for you in this big world. Love him. Love each other.
Never stop loving him, never stop loving each other.
If any of you are hip to social media and follow me on Instagram, you probably know I write songs from time to time. I want to share one with you – there’s one really long song from an upcoming album called “Nostos.” Nostos is the Greek for “homecoming,” but it carries with it literary connotations of “a theme used in Greek literature which includes an epic hero returning home by sea. It is a high level of heroism or greatness. This journey is usually very extensive and includes being shipwrecked in an unknown location and going through certain trials that test the hero.The return isn’t just about returning home physically but also about retaining certain statuses and retaining your identity upon arrival” (Got that definition from Wikipedia shhhh). I thought it was a beautiful analogy for our lives – we are nomads in this world. Sometimes it feels like the voyage is nothing but trials and struggles – but we persevere, setting our eyes on the things of Christ above – and when we sleep for the last time, we can come home to the One who loves us, the One from whom no power of hell, no scheme of man can tear us apart from. We can finally rest and revel in an odyssey well fought, and be satisfied in the One who welcomes us home in Grace.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Just a special thanks, first to the Li family – thank you for your leadership and your hospitality: it is so humbling to see a senior pastor who genuinely loves his congregation and it pushes me to love and pursue Jesus so much more. Thank you, Pastor and Mrs. Li, for welcoming me and the kids into your home for classes on Thursday and for small groups on Saturday.
Second, to the Zhao family – Mr. Zhao, you have shown me endless kindness and support in helping host Thursday classes, helping to manage Saturday small group, and being there with me on Sunday Schools and Sunday services. Thank you for showing me perseverance and faithfulness through your hard work that I long to model after. Thank you Mrs. Zhao too, for always opening up your home to the kids and making it such a welcoming place.
Third, to the Dong family, thank you for helping to host as well and support me when I needed it.
Last, but not least, to the rest of you guys – thank you for inviting me into your church and letting me do life with you guys.
Kiddos, never stop loving Jesus. Never stop loving each other. Work to make our church a haven, a place where the lost and the broken can be healed and come to life in the light of the Gospel. It will only work if you guys work together, and work sincerely.
I love you guys. I believe in you.