Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Changing Times

"It will be gone before you know it. The fingerprints on the wall appear higher and higher. Then, suddenly, they disappear." - Dorothy Euslin

So my wife and I recently experienced a seismic shift. We dropped our first child off at college this week.

We spent Saturday packing and making trips to Walmart for last-minute dorm needs. I looked out at the driveway at lunchtime and fixed on his silver Kia Optima. Suddenly, it dawned on me – next week the car won’t be in the driveway.

At supper on Saturday, I asked the family to bring their Bibles to the table. We looked at Isaiah 41:10“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand” (HCSB). I exhorted my son, that God’s presence will be with him anywhere and everywhere he goes.

Sunday morning, my wife cried off and on all morning. The pastor preached from Deuteronomy 31: [T]he Lord your God himself will cross over ahead of you. . . . So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you. . . . He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you” (3,6,8 NLT).

We spent Sunday night in a hotel in Greenville, South Carolina, where he is going to school. We enjoyed a pleasant, quiet night together enjoying the city. Our family has enjoyed many times in downtown Greenville, so it felt very normal.

The last two weeks, my mind remembered countless memories from the preschool years. Like my wife, our one-year old, and I sitting in our used white Cadillac listening to the cassette The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Several times this week I caught myself singing, “Deep in the hundred acre wood where Christopher Robin played.” Like singing songs together in bed before he drifted off to sleep. And like hearing his footsteps running to the door when I pulled into the driveway after work.

An older friend texted me on Monday, “This day can be a hard one for a father. It will feel like you are not coming to the end of a chapter – but a volume.”
We headed to the university, checked in, unpacked, and helped him get settled. I remembered doing the same thing with my parents twenty-eight years earlier.

I told myself that it is because I love him, have enjoyed him, have made parenting such a priority, and have intentionally invested so much in him - that I grieve now. I always feel sorry for parents who seem to not enjoy their children.

Parents going through this transition sometimes feel as if they are going through a death - at least the death of a season that was extremely precious and can never be repeated.

Michael Gersen captures it so well in his article Saying goodbye to my child, the youngster at The Washington Post.

My wife and I kept reminding ourselves, “This is good. He will get an education to help him make money and support a family. He may meet his wife here. He will broaden his horizons, meet many people, have good influences, and live in one of his favorite cities.”

We stopped in the dorm room, circled and held hands. I prayed for Hendrix, asking God to bless the room, making it a place where he can experience peace, safety, and rest. My wife and I piddled, arranging pictures on tables and looking at the clothes in his closet. Finally, knowing it was time to go, I announced, “OK kids, give your brother a hug.”

We said our goodbyes, gave our hugs, and shared our “I love you’s.”

Then we began the ride home. I wiped tears non-stop for fifteen minutes. The road seemed much longer than any previous time. My wife told our other two children, “We just need you to be quiet for a few minutes.”

I can honestly say that most of the time I made the best attempt at parenting I knew how. And so when I sort through the irrational expectations, I can see that I don't really have deep parenting regrets in the things that matter. I shepherded him spiritually, loved his mother, provided him and his siblings a peaceful, happy home, taught him about manhood, provided, and gave him lots of affection, instruction, and TIME.

Now time seems our enemy.

For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He goes ahead of my son in every new step and venture. And he goes ahead of my wife and me. The driveway may seem more vacant, but God is there.

He will neither fail you nor abandon you. . . . I can trust my son to the Lord. I can trust our present to him. Life may change, but He won’t fail us.

He will be with you. He’s in my son’s dorm room. He’s with him through any loneliness, adjustments, and challenges. He’s with me and my wife as we walk by his bedroom, watch the calendar to check when we see him next, and adjust to a new normal.

Chuck Swindoll shares the advice Corrie ten Boom gave him when he had young children. She took Chuck's hands and said in her broken English, "Chuck, I've learned that we must hold everything loosely, because when I grip it tightly, it hurts when the Father pries my fingers loose and takes it from me!"

Ain't it so!

It dawned on me today – I started this world with only the Lord. And one day, I will leave this world with only the Lord. God’s Presence is the one constant in our lives. We can draw close to Him and trust Him for our yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows.

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