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Dear Jonathan,

It took me a while, as a five-year-old, to wrap my head around not being the baby of the family once mom’s pregnancy with you was announced. I didn’t know what to expect, except that I would have to share the family’s attention with you. I thought to myself, Well, if we’re going to have another sibling, it better be a girl. Mom said your name would be Esther. So, I thought about Esther.

I thought about her and me, along with our older sister, playing Barbies, sharing clothes, and overpowering our big brothers in arguments. I laughed at the idea of the girls outnumbering the boys in the family. I smiled at the notion of getting to show my little sister the ropes, as my big sister did before me. I prayed for a sister.

But as our patience stretched, not unlike mama’s pregnant tummy, we learned you would be a baby boy. Mom said your name would be Jonathan. So, I thought about Jonathan. I pouted as I thought about the memories we could’ve made as the Three Hanzel Sister Amigas. I thought about the way I could’ve taught you to braid your Barbies’ hair or how to get you to ask dad for things in an irresistible manner… as is the baby girl’s duty.

How could I, at just five years old, have known the memories we would make? How could I have known about the precious hand-holding as you toddled? How could I have known about the stories we would create between your Star Wars action figures and my Polly Pockets? I didn’t even have a clue that you would have my dimples and we would laugh incessantly together. I didn’t foresee you becoming one of my best friends… but you have. I’m grateful the Lord didn’t give me that for which I prayed.

Little brother, as you graduate high school this month, I want you to know a few things:

You are weak. Not what you were expecting to hear? Hang in there. You have weaknesses, fewer than I, but nevertheless, you have weaknesses. Press into those weaknesses, because it is there that you discover God’s strength. J.D. Greear once said, “If dependence is the goal, then weakness is the advantage.” Don’t grow weary from roadblocks or difficulties, because they are all opportunities for you to reflect God’s goodness and strength to others. Depend on Him, little brother, and you will be the strongest man on earth.

You are valuable. When you go to college, people will try to project truths and personas onto you. They’ll tell you that you’re the guy who illustrates exceedingly well, or you’re the guy who has a lot of YouTube followers. They’ll make your interests into your value, and that is simply untrue. Your value is in Christ alone. This is an important truth because your interests will change, but Christ will not. Place your value in that which is unmovable.

You are a gentleman. There are a lot of girls out there, bub (except at the college you picked…). You are not responsible for how they treat people or how they pursue relationships. You are only capable of controlling your own desires and actions. Gentlemen open doors for ladies. Gentlemen treat ladies like ladies… even when they don’t act like ladies. Gentlemen don’t get swept away in inappropriate behavior or speech, but are sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Gentlemen uphold chivalry as a sign of value equality and mutual respect. Gentlemen do not get consumed with pornography, but seek the good of all and the glory of God. Gentlemen accept the forgiveness of God and, in response, don the full armor of God. You are a gentleman, my baby brother.

You go with God and you go with the Hanzel Tribe name as you enter college and this new season of life. Remember who you are, and remember Whose you are.

P.S. I’m glad you were a boy!