I joined the Navy during my senior year of high school. The first Gulf War hadn't started yet but it wound up starting and ending before I graduated, so my friend, who'd also joined the Navy, and I watched the news carefully as events unfolded. Eventually, the war ended, we graduated, and went to boot camp, an all expenses-paid trip to sunny Orlando, Florida!
I remember standing at the train station, getting ready to get on the train that would meander lazily down the tracks from Richmond, Virginia to Orlando. My mom, dad, stepmom, and little brother were there to say good-bye. I said my good-byes, gave hugs and whatnot, and turned to board the train.
And that's when it happened. Three short words that have echoed in my mind to this very minute.
"Make us proud."
My back was turned so my father couldn't see the effect his simple statement had. I turned and nodded, a quick, short nod. I managed to hold it together until I was in my cabin and then I broke down. For one reason or another I'd refrained from crying up to that point but after my father's words all bets were off.
The reality of my situation finally hit me. It wasn't that I was scared of leaving home, of boot camp, or my future. No, what finally broke me was the fact that I was on my own, no longer living with my parents, out in the world to make my way.
Many times over the years I've thought about the words my father spoke on August 11, 1991. I haven't always done things that would have made my father proud. At times, I think I was more of a burden than a blessing to my father and the people around me. I pray that time and my conversion to Christ have changed that, but I'll leave it to others to answer that for me. I've never been good at honest introspection; I'm my own worst critic, I fear.
But I don't write these words to passive-aggressively fish for compliments or validation that I'm not the dirtbag I once feared I'd always be. Nope, if I needed that I'd respect you enough to be plain old aggressive about it!
I'm writing these words because it's quite possible that many of you have a similar experience to the one I shared. Many of you were told to make your parents proud, to honor the family name, or something along those lines. And many of you, like me, have a sketchy track record of making your parents proud.
Additionally, you just might be like me in the sense that you can't consider your life through the long lens of its entirety; you fixate on the individual things, isolating the worst things and viewing yourself only through those things.
Friends, stop and take a breath. While there are some who genuinely have issues and troubles, or never had that parent that encouraged them to do great things, the truth is that for the majority of us, we've achieved great things, if only we'd shift our perspective as to what "great" really is.
My father didn't want me to go out and change the world. He wanted me to give everything I had to whatever task, job, or situation in which I found myself. I didn't always see it that way but I see it now, as I try my best, by God's grace, to raise up my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4, KJV).
I couldn't care less if no one ever knows the names of my children on a global, national, or local level. If they love the Lord, work hard at the tasks to which they are called, and seek to glorify God and enjoy Him forever in everything they do (Westminster Shorter Catechism, answer to Question1: "What is the chief end of man?") then they will have made me proud.