To Elliot, on the Occasion of His 15th Birthday


Dear Elliot,

I hate to procrastinate, but I didn’t get the chance to sit down and start writing this letter until 11:00 PM on the evening before your birthday (and I didn’t get to finish it until a week later!)! Our Spring “Break” has been filled with interactions, activities, and autograph-chasing, and I just feel like I haven’t been able to catch my breath — much less put thoughts into words — until late at night, in the stillness of a borrowed moment at a borrowed desk, and in scattered moments thereafter.

It’s been that kind of week. It’s been that kind of year.


Your transition to high school (together with your mother’s transition into graduate school) has felt chaotic at times. How did we ever manage to keep things together through that frenzied fall of soccer games and marching band performances and Expedition Academy excursions?!? It was crazy-making! I don’t do well with that kind of cacophony and chaos.

You, however, thrive under those conditions.


You seem to grow stronger under siege. You become invigorated by the crush of activities. Your enthusiasm grows through the thousands of conversations with friends (and strangers for that matter!). Your spirit is stirred by action and adventure, not stillness. And as different as your mode of operation may be from my own, I want you to know that I really admire the way you work. I’m proud to call you my son.

There’s a verse in the Bible (Matthew 11:12) which says the kingdom of heaven is advancing forcefully, and forceful men take hold of it. And even though I still sometimes wonder at the meaning of this verse, it’s clear that our world is a tumultuous place. Chaos is far more common than calm — still, God’s Kingdom advances in spite of the challenges, and we play a role in this advance through these tumultuous times. Having seen you in action over the course of the last year — taking the initiative and striking up conversations with people from Boulder to Cleveland to Memphis to Orlando — it really strikes me that you are a man of action, a force of nature, a potentially-key player in these tumultuous times. So I’m praying that God will guide you in the year (and years) to come.

Your forcefulness can be one of your greatest strengths. You’re a natural leader. You won’t just sit idly by, while problems persist; you do something about them. You have a direct approach and boldness that astonishes me — yet people respond remarkably well to that boldness: smiles, high-fives, favors, a shooting sleeve from LeBron James, a signed basketball from Russell Westbrook… Keep up the good work, my son. God wants to use that leadership and boldness for the Kingdom of God (see Matthew 4:18-20) — and as you follow Him, there’s no telling what you may one day accomplish.

At the same time, I just want to remind you that our greatest strengths and our greatest weaknesses are often closely related.

Thus, it’s good for you to realize that your forcefulness can also be one of your greatest weaknesses. As you grow in your leadership and boldness, you will also do well to grow in your consideration for others. Listen well (James 1:19). Cultivate patience and self-control, with the help of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Love whole-heartedly (Matthew 22:37-40). And if you can keep those supplemental skills in mind, going forward: May the force be with you!

I love you, Elliot. More than words could ever convey. I love your creativity, your quirkiness, your intelligence, your spiritual sensitivity, your transparency, your responsibility. And all the intangibles, too. I love you for being you. Your points of distinction from others in your family, or in your classes, or on your sports teams — those differences are delightful! Stay strong in the grace of Christ Jesus, my son (2 Timothy 2:1).

It’s important for you to know that I trust you, too. Even as we get closer to the time when you’re driving cars and going out on dates and getting invited to parties, I genuinely believe you’ll be ready to accept the responsibilities that go along with these privileges, in time. Your mother and I are here for you, as you need us. Still, we’re doing our best to bless you and release you to become the person God has made you to be. We named you after a pioneer, an initiator, a hero… So go! Blaze new trails! Initiate as God leads you! Practice heroism in the big things and small things of everyday life!

Happy Birthday, Elliot. I’m praying that this year will be your best year yet.

Much love and prayer,


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