I remember it like it was yesterday. Hands scarred from putting together a second-hand crib and stained nursery blue. It was the neatest room in the house for a while. We would go and stand there, waiting and praying, and the shadows from the nightlight gave just enough light to reveal a perfect room. The young couple thought they were ready.
A doctor's visit on a fall day gave us a false sense that we had some time. But the day of a child's birth should not be predicted well--after all, few of the other days of parenthood will be predictable. Seated in a booth in a Columbus restaurant the young couple enjoyed the last meal they ever had in this world prior to being "Mommy" and "Daddy." Common and supernatural at the same time. The young couple was ready.
Car seats. Trimmed fingernails that draw blood. Discerning the cries that had to be stilled and calmed from the cries that had to be disciplined or ignored. Diapers. Sleepless nights. The first smile. The second smile. The first smile you thought was on purpose. Floppy little necks. Winter pajamas. Listening at the door for breathing in the middle of the night. Making every decision together. Prayer. Drool everywhere. Baths. Cameras. Thinking about parenting every minute of the day. Tiny socks--tiny socks in the laundry. Baby food. Rice cereal. Teeth coming in. Rolling over. Up on all fours. Coffee tables and bruises. The joy of getting baby out of bed, the smell of Desitin. A warm bed. Reading stories. The dreaded first doctor's visit when you had tried everything, but he needed something more. And the relief of knowing and providing what he needed.
I have done a fair bit of reflecting and processing with my wife. Preparing for launch is gut-wrenching, not because we want to hold on forever, but because we have never done this before. So in this moment of high school graduation and college approaching, I remind myself of 3 big truths.
1. God designed families to launch their kids. This world needs Christians to be launched into new areas of influence, thinking and difference-making. Our kids have gifts and perspectives to share with this world that is going to make this world a better place. Whether it's music, math or people, our kids are passionate and gifted. When will they learn that God is sufficient and faithful to supply their every need in Christ? When they must look to him themselves. The spaceship flies high, while the launching pad gets scorched. All necessary. All right. Moses instructed us (even before their was sin in the world) that "for this reason a man will leave father and mother . . ." And all is right in the world.
2. It's gonna hurt more now and less later. The first pulling away feels the worst. Things change--more than you thought, and in ways you had not considered. And at first, I am sure the change will be more than it even needs to be. At first his new found freedoms may feel like being un-considered and maybe even forgotten. But we will forge ahead. My kids will know that I made many mistakes and that Dad and Mom are not perfect. But they will also settle in to a healthy rhythm which will draw them back. Relating as adults will be rewarding. And my wife and I will always be their parents. That will never change.
3. God will supply for our every need. I have a need for connection. I also want to know how we are going to help pay for college, adjust to new relationships and how it will feel on the first Thanksgiving without them. What will it be like when they plan their own spring break or have a summer job in another state, or when we meet the girl they will one day marry? One day the graduations and weddings may give way to hospitals in new cities with waiting rooms and babies crying. There will be friends they share life with that we don't know too well. And hopefully, an amazing church family that is our kids' life-blood, but that we know only through friend suggestions on Facebook.
The young couple thought they were ready. The older couple knows that life is hard, and no longer feels ready. But we are ready for this new and beautiful chapter. New friends. Exciting chapters. Rockets launching and re-entering and splash-landing. God is faithful.
The most rewarding moments in our life happen when we have to trust God to come through or life will simply fall apart. And we find him to be completely faithful. And the news that we have heard all our lives sinks deep into the recesses of our hearts because now our eyes have seen that God really is faithful. And we want our boys to see it for themselves. We want them to see him for themselves. Completely.
Those little fingers are no longer wrapped around my thumb as my sons drift off to sleep in safety. Our prayer is that their fingers are now firmly wrapped around God's fingers, like ours were, as they launch out to make disciples of all nations in Jesus' name.
This older couple is ready. Trusting. Broken. Praying. And all is right in the world.
A father never lets go.