Karsten will be 10 next week. As a first-born, as a boy, as a son, he is a treasure to us. As much as Christie and I love kids, adore babies, and intensely love those early years, I am eager to watch Karsten begin tackling some of life’s issues and taking on more of life’s load. I think he’s ready.
He has an immensely thankful and thoughtful heart. He loves his siblings actively. He considers the lilies. He is becoming quite the proficient soccer and chess player. He is an astute student who loves the act of learning.
As we learn to honor and promote ceremony and milestone, Christie and I decided last summer to honor our children on their 10th birthday with an event to remember. I read Raising a Modern Day Knight to help with some ideas. Beyond the back story, Lewis had a lot of good ideas for making much out of the stages of life by acknowledging them and honoring them. We believe that our sons will never become men by accident. We need to purpose to actively and artfully teach them.
One of my favorite lessons learned from the book was the value of adding community to the event. We remember because of ceremony/pomp/surprise/magnitude. The act of enlisting community adds a whole synergism of values, sobriety, and depth. It takes lessons beyond, “that’s just dad talking.” It adds a depth of friendship that the lonely never know. It expands his spiritual and moral resources.
So Christie and I resolved that each of the kids will get a trip away on their tenth birthday, and we will do something else to honor them largely at their 18th birthday, perhaps. The goal of this event isn’t to be a vacation or a release. It’s a sort of initiation trip, not into adulthood or even into teenager-hood, but more of an initiation into higher expectations and capacities.
Karsten is turning 10 on May 4th, and we look forward to a simple party with him then. He doesn’t know the dates but we have tickets to fly to Boston and spend most of one week there together this summer. We arrived on Boston as a destination together over months of discussion (the second runner-up was Denver/the Rockies). We will be able to see a great storehouse of spiritual and historical sites in a small geographical area and will be able to even take in a Tigers/Sox day game at Fenway on Memorial Day! I’ve led tours in that area four times and am eager to show him what is there. He loves the Revolution, has learned much more about it this year in school, and he is eager to see so many of these things firsthand. As an honor and benefit, my dad will be joining us, too. [A super-added bonus is that we have free airfare and housing.]
As a way of adding community to the trip, I have asked Karsten’s uncles, Grandpas, pastor, and a couple of special friends who love Karsten to participate by writing a letter to him. I’ve assigned those twelve men topics to address, such as, A Man Works Hard, A Man Plays Well, A Man Serves, A Man is Pure, A Man Worships, A Man Treasures the Word, and A Man Does Hard Things.
My goal will be to disperse these letters for Karsten to find in NH and MA as we visit the sites. I am pretty sure that I can make it happen for him to find a letter in the steeple we will climb of Old South Presbyterian Church on the banks of the Merrimack River in Newburyport, MA (George Whitfield’s church). I think I can get a pilgrim or two to hand him a letter at Plimoth Plantation, that we can find one hidden in the grate at the monument at Dorchester Heights overlooking Boston from the South, one on his pillow every night when we return to the house and, well….I have lots of ideas and am fearless about enlisting help (I will even try to get the Governor’s Office to help). The surprise of finding them will heighten the effect.
“I want you to understand, then, that there is nothing nobler, stronger, and healthier, and more helpful in life than a good remembrance from our childhood, when we still lived in our parents’ house. You often hear people speak about upbringing and education, but I feel that a beautiful, holy memory preserved from childhood can be the most important single thing in our development. And if a person succeeds, in the course of his life, in collecting many such memories, he will be saved for the rest of his life. And even if we have only one such memory, it is possible that it will be enough to save us some day.”
You and I will insert the Gospel into this and then, I think, agree wholly. Karsten has accepted the truth of the Gospel and is still learning about its power and reality. There is much that we can do together to influence and encourage the man he is becoming and add to his reservoir a history of happy and holy realities, remembrances and encouragements.
When we come home from the trip, Karsten will be presented with an album of the original letters from these men (he will be finding copies along the way). If you, reader, would like to include a letter of advice to a 10 year old, Christie and I would be happy to add it to the album. Karsten is young, but he has a keen understanding. I hope that these letters on the whole will not be over-simplified, but written to Karsten and the man is he becoming, not the boy he now is. If you have no idea what to write, I have a list of topics that you could peruse. The soft deadline for these is May 20th.
Purposeful, Gospel-centered parenting is a hard plowing. Christie and I are still toddlers at it, but we do hope that by doing some planning (and sometimes some saving) we can well lead our four little boys and one little girl gracefully through the stages of life.
The big deal is that our children are not ours. They are God’s. Christie and I look each other in the eye and say this out loud from time to time. We get to oversee them for some time and then give them over to His service. If that time is 16, 18, 21 or whatever, we need to work to have them ready. If Jesus wants them now, we want to be ready for that, too. So we will keep reading, praying, planning and weeping over them, getting to know them better, seeking to hook their hearts to the glorious hope in Christ. The work is laborious [have you met Knox?], rapturous [if your little girl greets you when you get home like my little girl does when I walk in the door each time, you get it], intense, serious and rewarding. We are wholly inadequate and hopeless out of Christ.
So, we get back to it now…back to our counting stars and sand, little feet and little hands…counting joys.