On Tuesday, July 29, 2014, my daughter, Kate, turned sixteen. The fourth and final one of my children to do so, I was expecting to spend lots of money to make her happy! But in an unusual twist of fate, it's she who's made her mother and I happy by writing this beautiful letter expressing who she is and desires to be, complete with one simple but significant request. Here's what she wrote:
Dear Mom and Dad,
Turning sixteen is a crazy thing, my first step into adulthood: finally taking the wheel and putting my foot on the gas, not only in speaking about a car but about my life. For example, I'll be fulfilling a calling by moving to Spain this fall for a semester of language study and Christian service, something I never thought would happen. And while many young people are living out a YOLO philosophy, I want to live out our family's values: faith, courage, and sacrifice. To me these words describe a life worth living! Let me tell you why.
Having faith in Jesus Christ is something I do not take for granted because faith, for me, is more than a common term. It's a lifestyle to be lived out and pursued. Moving to a foreign country with little knowledge of its culture and language requires faith: faith to believe that God has a plan for me; faith to believe that He will help me handle the time away from you; faith that He will help me overcome my constant fear of death...a fear I've had from a young age. Faith for me is active not passive; as I said, a lifestyle to be lived out and pursued.
One cannot exercise faith, however, without courage because courage is the foundation of faith. Living our lives by faith in Christ and believing in someone we cannot physically see, touch, or hear, is courageous. One could also say that moving to Spain as a sixteen year-old American girl is courageous; and I'd have to agree. It takes a lot of courage to do what I'm about to do! However it takes a lot more courage to pray, "Lord have your way in me." And that's exactly what I prayed at 1:45 A.M. on a recent trip to Mosaic in La Coruna, Spain. I had the courage to pray this prayer then, and I'm willing to take a courageous step now, to go where I know God wants me to go.
As there is no true faith without courage, courage is not found apart from sacrifice. If there's one thing I know about Christianity it's this: it's built on sacrifice. To follow Christ fully we must be willing to sacrifice everything as He did, particularly our own will and desires. Or in my case to sacrifice what some would see as the normal teenage life to live 100% for God. Don't get me wrong: surrendering my will and desires to God is a scary thing to do, as is moving for a semester to Spain. But I'm willing to sacrifice, be courageous, and strive to stand firm in my faith when everything seems to be crumbling around me.
As you can tell I may not fit the typical image of a sixteen year-old on her birthday. I'm not down on my knees begging you for a car, asking for money, or for the freedom to stay out past midnight. Sure, I'd like all these things; who wouldn't?! But eventually they turn to dust and the joy fades away.
The one thing I am begging you for is to be consistently inspired by these three most powerful words - faith, courage, and sacrifice – in order to live the life I promised God I'd live that night in Spain. I want these words on me and with me, forever; encouraging, pushing, and challenging me to let the Lord have His way in me. And when my face is in the palm of my hands, or when I'm in tears, hurt or worn out from all the hell the Devil may put me through in trying so desperately to ruin the strong young woman God has called me to be, may I look down and be reminded of the way forward by reading faith, courage, and sacrifice, on my right wrist.
Sweet Sixteen, indeed.
So for her birthday my daughter's getting a tattoo. How can a father resist?!
Editor's Note: YOLO acronym for "You only live once."