I recently spent the day side-by-side with my youngest son driving 1,069 miles from our home in Scottsdale to his dorm at Baylor University in Waco, TX. He’s transferring from ASU where he completed his freshman year, so this wasn’t our first goodbye. But this time it felt more real. We’re no longer separated by a 20-minute commute.
Not surprisingly, the reality of this farewell sunk in the way our first goodbye did not.
My mind inventoried all the things I wished I’d done with my son.
So much more I should’ve taught him. So many more memories I wish we’d built. I lamented over having not been a better role model while he lived under our roof.
As we rolled into town shortly before midnight, we spent the last hour talking through his trepidation about this transition. Sure, he is excited. But he’s also a pragmatist. While he has so many hopes and dreams…there are no guarantees as to their fulfillment.
We talked and my mind drifted to Proverbs 16:9 which says,
“The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
As my son revealed his heart, I experienced excitement with a twinge of pain. Excitement because my son has a vision for his life—a vision anchored in vibrant community with God-loving people. Pain because there are no guarantees that in our post-Christian world he’ll find the community he envisions.
Our conversation continued amidst the winding and darkening roads. I seized the moment to speak truth over my son about his life, God’s plan for it, and His promises to us all. At one point my son said, “That’s what I’ve been praying for dad.” When my son spoke those words, I realized I didn’t need to worry. Despite all my failings as a father. Despite all the lessons I’d forgotten to teach him. Despite all the blessings I’d forgotten to pray over him…my son had figured out the most important thing. My son had caught a glimpse of God somewhere on the road from birth to Waco.
I’ve grappled with my own feelings about our separation, and Proverbs 3:5-6 has comforted me.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make straight your paths.”
In its original form, “Make straight your paths,” means to be right, pleasant, prosperous, or upright. Ultimately, that’s what my wife and I want for our son. That’s what he wants for himself. We stand in agreement that a prosperous and upright life is a worthy target. Not material success. Rather, a life lived in harmony with God, with His will being done. This is the best path for his journey.
The parenting highlight reel is replete with moments of letting go:
- Taking their first step
- Going to preschool, grade school, then high school
- Allowing the consequences of their decisions, good and bad, to be fully felt
- Not trying to “fix things” when our kids experience heartache and disappointment—knowing God can use it to form their character
My wife and I will miss our baby boy. We’ll fear for his health and welfare. We’ll worry about him meeting the kind of people he’s seeking. Now, to be fair, he’s no longer a baby. He’s 19 years old, 6′ 3″ and weighs nearly 200 pounds. Hardly a baby by any definition of the word. But he’ll always be our “Baby Boy.” And we will forever worry about his physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional well-being.
There’s a strange dichotomy to godly parenting. A dichotomy that has us simultaneously clinging and letting go. This tension brings us to our knees as parents. Although we know God has a perfect plan, we never know precisely what God’s plan is or when He’ll reveal it. In our worry, we sometimes cling too tightly to our kids.
No matter how much we want our kids to chase after God, it’s their decision to make. All we can do is point them to God and hope they accept Him. Regardless of if or when your kid decides to place their faith in God, at some point we must all let go. If you’re a parent standing at the doorstep of a transition, may you have the faith and courage to point your kids at God, loosen your grip, and pray that as you let go, your kids will grab ahold of a God whose love for them is stronger than even yours.
Pastor of Central Ministries