A local pastor reflects on some advice, both given and received:
Several years ago, while pastoring a church in Florida, I remember a conversation I had with our church’s youth minister. Maybe we were talking about youth in general, or maybe I was talking about my own two teenagers. But whatever we were talking about, the youth minister shared the story about something his Dad would regularly say to him throughout his high school years.
He said that when he would leave the house for school in the mornings or when he would head out to a football game with friends on a Friday night or when he would go out on a date with his girlfriend, before he walked out the door his Dad would say, “Now son, remember who you are and remember to whom you belong.”
Here is what he meant by those words: Who you are is that you are a baptized, redeemed, forgiven, loved child of God. Because you are baptized, you bear God’s name. You are a man of God, so son, remember who you are. And consequently, because of who you are, remember that you belong to the one who claimed you as His own, who cleansed you in the waters of baptism, who has called you to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Son, remember who you and remember to whom you belong!
My youth worker said that when he heard those words day after day, night after night as he would leave the house to go various places, the impression those words made on him transformed the way he saw himself.
So, I decided to do the same. I started saying those words about the time my youngest son was beginning high school. To be honest, there were times when I could see him roll his eyes at me or try to finish the sentence before I could, “Yes Dad, I know who I am and to whom I belong. Can I go now?”
As I reflect back on all the advice or parental wisdom I attempted to pass on to my sons as they were growing up, I have to admit that for them to believe who they are in Christ and who they belong to because of Christ, may be the most important thing I could ever give them.
Several years later I came across a verse in Proverbs that gave legitimacy to saying these words. In Proverbs 14:3 we read, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Most of the time we tend to think of the “heart” as the place of our emotions. But in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament the “heart” was not only the place of one’s emotions, but it was also a reference to a person’s inner being – their thoughts, intelligence, character, behavior. In other words, the “heart” is a reference to a person’s whole being. Therefore, when Solomon says, “guard your heart” it is because what you let into your heart (and mind) impacts how you relate to other people and how you see yourself. Therefore, an important part of guarding your heart is remembering who you are and remembering to whom you belong.
As I think about what I passed on to my sons as they were growing up, I have no doubt that there were many things that I missed along the way. But I am extremely thankful for the fine young men they both have turned out to be. Thank you, Thad and Theo, for the privilege of being your Dad!