words & images: Jessica Sowards
My Dearest Sons,
You are worlds away from knowing fatherhood, but I’m already praying about the
fathers you will be. I have already contemplated the day you look into the eyes of
your children. I’ve Imagined that moment, when you hold your baby for the first time
and you are suddenly awed at the intricacy of life.
It is a life-changing moment, but it’s the years that follow that really matter. Each time I was told I was having a son, my mind raced far beyond nursery décor and little league. As I have watched each of you grow, I have imagined how you will be as men. Your strengths grow faster than your shoe size, and that’s saying something. I love to see who you are becoming. I love to daydream about you being fathers and husbands, kingdom warriors and world changers.
Jackson, when you came into the world, you took a twenty-year-old kid and turned him into a father. He had no idea what he was doing, except for the fact that he was determined to give you better than he had. He called you “Little Champion” while he shushed you to sleep and when we faced divorce, he swore that we would always parent you and Asher together. A few days ago, I watched you lay your hands on your dad and pray for him. You are nine, Jackson, and you already love so fiercely. You care for people beyond what would ever be expected of you. I pray that when you become a father, you try as hard as your dad tries for you. I pray you freely give forgiveness as you do now. And I pray that you PLAY! You are so serious! Be a dad that plays with his babies. Laugh. Be light hearted. It’s good medicine. And continue craving wisdom. Wise men are made wise by simply seeking wisdom. Just ask God for it. I am so proud of you. Keep praying. Keep seeking Him.
Asher, you are eight, and for years now, whenever asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” you have responded, “A dad.” You are tender, my love. I can just imagine you as a grown man, marveling at the tiny perfection of a baby. You have a special heart, Asher. You know, the moment I fell in love with Jeremiah was because I saw his love for you. He and I had been friends for a while and one summer afternoon, we took you and Jackson swimming at Grandma Jana’s house. You were having a three-year-old tantrum so he took you in the house for a snack. After you didn’t come back out, I went to check on you and I found him in a rocking chair with you asleep on his chest. He had tears running down his face and he said, “I always imagined that Christian would have been like him.” You see, Jeremiah became a dad and had to say goodbye to his son the very next day. And in you, in your sweet laugh and how easily you loved him, he found restoration. I pray that you remember when you are raising children that deep love heals deep wounds. God can do so much with a man who will love people without reserve. Show your sons how real men love. Show your daughters how they deserve to be cared for and adored. You melt my heart. Keep loving.
Tobias, my little firecracker. I have been told a thousand times in the last three years that you are exactly like your daddy was. As you grow, I have enjoyed watching him find himself in you. My brilliant boy. You notice people. I don’t think a person could shed a tear within the same room as you without feeling your hand on their arm and hearing your sweet voice say, “Hey, it’s ok.” You are uniquely compassionate, Toby. One day you will have a little handful of a toddler. I hope he looks just like you. And I hope that your compassion holds. I hope you teach him that he is exactly who he is supposed to be. I pray that you look into his eyes every day and tell him that God has a plan for him. And when he pretends to be a dinosaur, I hope you pretend with him. Be compassionate, honey. Even when it hurts. Your children will be watching. They will know the patience you have had with them and with others around you and they will trust you when they mess up. Be a soft place for them to land. You inspire me to kindness. Keep comforting.
Ezra, my funny boy. You remind me so much of my dad. You are funny and entirely intense in everything you do. You play hard, love hard, cry hard. You are the most helpful child I have ever known. All I have to do is mention needing help with something within earshot of you and there you are, two years old, making a real effort to complete whatever task you overheard my need for. It breaks my heart to see you upset when you are not strong enough, fast enough, or tall enough to help. I hope that as you grow stronger, faster, and taller, that you will learn that there are always tasks beyond our capabilities. Thankfully, we have a source of great strength. Jesus gave up His life for us and left us the Holy Spirit when He went home. He is always enough. Lean into Him when you fall short. I am so thankful for your heart. Keep helping.
Benjamin, baby boy. You have only been with us a few short months. It’s been long enough for you to change our family for the better. But I do not know who you will be. I don’t know if you will be hungry for knowledge like Jackson or a lover like Asher. You may be like Toby, feeling for everyone you come across, or like Ezra, ready to help. Most likely, you will be a man all of your own. And most likely, you will spend the coming years striving to follow your brothers. You may even feel frustrated at the inability to keep up. Baby, I hope you remember that the best leaders are the ones that know what it’s like to follow. Keep your eyes on Jesus, Ben. He will point you down a way that is hard but completely worthwhile. There may be frustration on this path, but there is abounding grace. Carry it into your family. And remember, even when they are leading, true men of God are still following Him. I am cheering you on. Keep following.
I watch your dads and your grandfathers strive to be good men for you. You are fortunate to have these men. Look at their lives. Learn the lessons they teach and learn the lessons their mistakes teach. Forgive them when they fail you. They will fail you. It will break their hearts to do it, but they will do it just the same. Because at the end of the day, all of your earthly fathers are only men. Fallible, breakable sinners. But they are not your ultimate father.
I hope you take the things I speak to heart, but even more than that, I hope you understand how completely and perfectly loved you are by our Daddy God. Because when you find yourself in manhood and you find that you have fallen short, He will still love you. When you have stopped seeking and praying, stopped loving, stopped comforting, stopped helping and stopped following, He will still love you.
He will still be there, waiting to be sought. He will still be there, showing you how to love. He will still be filling you up with His Spirit, the Comforter and Helper. And He will always be willing to stop and reach out a hand so you can get back on track and follow.
My loves, my five sons, I can only imagine the fathers you will be.
I can only pray that we successfully build you up and point you in the right direction.
But I can be sure of one thing.
We all have a good, good Father. And we are so greatly loved by Him.
Teaching you, that is my greatest calling.
With all my love, Mom