Today you started school. You will learn many things over the next fourteen years–how to conjugate a verb, the capital of Vermont, the quadratic equation. You will read books and write papers. You will dissect animals and learn long division. Some things will be easy. Others will seem impossibly hard. Don’t give up on either. Sometimes you will succeed mightily, and sometimes you will fail miserably. Both are important. What we adults tend to forget is that school may end, but learning never does. Everything in life is an invitation to learn and grow if we look at it with the right perspective. So, when you fail, which you will do, I hope you will wipe the blood and dirt from your knees and get back up. It isn’t failure that kills dreams–it’s fear. I spent the first two-and-a-half decades of my life playing it safe. I never tried anything unless I was almost positive I would succeed. This left me with a pretty resume but a boring life. Ever since God had to pry control from my white-knuckled fingers, I’ve been discovering a new life–a life that risks and a heart that is vulnerable. I hope it doesn’t take you twenty-five years to learn the same.
I want to tell you something, right now, on this first day of school when the pencils are sharp and the backpack brand-new. Your daddy and I do not care if you are the smartest. We do not care if you are the coolest or the fastest or most likely to succeed. We do not care if you are the most athletic or the most popular. We do not care about those things. We care that you love with the biggest kind of love. We care that you love when it hurts. We care that you love when your reputation is at stake. We care that you love with a heart so big that it seems like it might just burst at the seams. We care that you cheer for others when they have something to celebrate, and we care that you walk beside those who are hurting. We care that you notice the people around you, and we care that you look beyond the surface because a shiny facade might be covering a hurting heart. We care that you see past clothes and hairstyles and, later, tattoos and makeup. We care that you see a soul that is deeply loved and fiercely fought for by the same Savior who loves and fights for you.
You may never win an award for this, and maybe no one will even notice, but we will. And we will be so proud. Because you will have learned the greatest lesson of all–the lesson that trumps algebra and physics, English and history. You will have learned that love works.