My teenage son handed me his ipad, inviting me to read. What is it now? No wait... let me guess. Another meme about nagging moms! No, he said. Just read it. I know you will be glad that you read this.
So I took the device and began to read an email sent from a young lady he recently met. They had both attended a Summer program at a Catholic college. A real Catholic college, by the way. And now all the kids are connecting via Facebook and email and making plans to pretty much be friends forever, all the way to the pearly gates and beyond.
I enjoy poking fun a bit at their enthusiastic devotion. But I'm pretty sure they're not joking at all. There's something that happens when you meet like-minded, kindred-spirited people and share an experience together rooted in the love of Jesus. I don't think those teens are silly for finding each other and hanging on... because any true friendship in Christ has the potential to be instantly formed and retained forever.
After the kids returned to their respective homes and began to unpack their experiences, the stories of lives touched and transformed began to appear online and via inboxes. This particular email was written to the entire group and touched a bit on each part of the young lady's experience. She had a wonderful time in general and formed fast friendships with the girls. Then she addressed the boys. With her permission, I'm going to treat you to a portion. I want you to imagine that this is your daughter writing. And I want you to imagine that she's writing about your sons.
…I won’t forget all the guys. You guys completely stunned me! From the first night, I could tell every one of you was something remarkable…I wasn’t completely sure why; I just knew. As the week progressed, I discovered several things…
1) you all love Jesus very much,
2) you truly wanted to learn everything you were taught,
3) you loved having fun,
4) you were true gentlemen to every young woman there…you didn’t pick and choose,
5) you are all leaders…spiritually and physically, and finally
6) you all want to do the will of God in your lives.
You were so solid in your faith and your identity as men that you left absolutely no question in my mind that you were ALL men of God.
During Mass, I was dumbfounded at the level of reverence you had for Jesus in the Eucharist. I have a deep devotion to the Eucharist, and seeing so many young people…men especially…kneeling to receive communion really struck me. On Monday at Mass, when I happened to lift my eyes, I saw two of you kneel to receive communion and lost it completely…I was sobbing out of happiness!
Keep doing what you are doing because it is very powerful! Several of you in particular reminded me a lot of my own father…in a beautiful way! I felt so comfortable and safe around you, and I loved getting to talk with you.
And just as the young lady sobbed out of happiness at Mass, I cried when I read her email. Not the first time I read it, but the second, in the privacy of my own room where I absconded with the boy's ipad before he could take it from me. I dusted off my 17-year old heart in those minutes and exposed it to the light of day. It was still somewhat fragile and cracked and wounded from those early years of misuse. But I read that letter and I felt it heal just a little bit more as the healing hand of Christ reminded me again how He makes all things new.
It is in a girl's feminine nature to love and to serve others and particularly the dashing fellows who capture our affections and sympathies simply because they are adorable. We see God's likeness in them because He made us to see it. He gave us empathy and compassion and created us to nurture and build up and strengthen. When the men we love are poor leaders, we tend to follow them even if it's just to take care of them... but we come close to our own peril when we do. When they are true men of God, we are at our very best in love and immersed in joy.
But where are the virtuous men? They are rare indeed.
This is no time to be raising timid, tepid, faithless boys. When I read that letter, I recalled that I not only have an obligation to mother my own boys well for their own good, but also for the good of those who will follow them. And I will be held accountable for my end of it.
Intercede for your boys, mamas. Raise them differently. Raise them to scorn a culture that objectifies. Raise them to be godly and they will bring peace and joy to the world, starting with their families. Raise them to look a girl in the eyes and see Jesus there. Raise them to be courageous and to refuse to participate in a culture of death that tears down the very fabric of the womanly soul.
If you have girls, raise them with a high standard. These men exist. They really do. And it will be worth the wait.
Girls need people in their lives who treasure them and who will fight to protect all that is beautiful and good about them. They need the support and the freedom to make Jesus their standard and, if they are not called to serve Him wholly through a single or religious vocation, to settle for nothing less than a Godly spouse. As parents, we are responsible for helping our daughters to embrace their own beautiful role in God's plan. And we are charged with raising sons who will do the same for someone else's daughters.
My birds are still in the nest so I can't tell you how my story turns out. But it won't be long before they fly and have to own who they are, apart from my influence. When I look around me in the world, I start to lose hope even for my own children. When I read that email... I felt hope ignite.
To the young lady who wrote it: Thank you for sharing your joy. You have blessed me.