Today my heart hurt. It was a new kind of pain. With a elongated hug and kiss on the cheek, my 19yr boy was off to college, again. I’m not sure why the first goodbye didn’t hurt. Maybe I wasn’t sure what was happening. Maybe I was focused on a decreased grocery bill. This time was different.
We’ve experienced a lot of diapers in our family. A ton of training on first time obedience, about saying, ‘yes mommy’ and the power of the tongue. We’ve been on cruise control perhaps as we aim to fire out these developing arrows in factory procession. One problem however, we’ve never experienced the true nature of the sending, the ‘letting go.’
The nature of love. Is there anything more powerful? To experience it is to embrace vulnerability, inevitable seasons of pain and even ultimate loss. As parents, we pour ourselves into the development of these little lives. We give our time, our energy, our soul. We water these fragile plants daily, watching them wiggle up into shoots and rejoice with each blossoming. We battle to keep the effects of this world from damaging yield. We become motivated to refine our own inconsistencies in order to help them along a good path.
We have no idea how much we love our arrows, until we hold them in the arch with bow bent.
In that moment, when they are truly ready to be shot out, we realize they are no longer our kids. When boys become men and our little girls become ladies, we must let something go. Today I felt this truth, like really felt it. I need to let the boy go. The little boy, the tiny plant, the budding piece of wood God gave me to form one day into an arrow. I need to let that boy go, well, because he’s already gone. The toddler, the memories, the little dude that wants to be held before bedtime – he’s gone, and that’s good – but it still hurts.
As I hugged my son today, with tear filled eye, it hit me. I wasn’t letting go of my boy to travel once again across the ocean to continue his own adventure. I was letting go of my boy, or rather his ‘boyhood.’ The parenting season we embark upon is designed to end, to graduate into something new.
Why is it so hard to let the season change, to let go? Maybe we’re terrified the arrow isn’t ready and will crash hard. We let feelings of regret or dashed expectations hold on like we can somehow turn back time. Whatever the reason, holding on is not love, it can’t be. Love never considers our own feelings first. We know from experience God’s grace is there when we are desperate, humble, and call out to Him. Love is helping our imperfect new adults reach new heights and learn the grace of God for themselves.
To let the arrow fly, in it’s proper time, I think, is to embrace the pain of this loss, for something even greater.
This is love – to lay down your life for someone, for their ultimate good. Every parent does this, when we raise them up and send them out for Jesus Christ.
Deb and I enjoyed the fellowship of an adult this Christmas. The boy returned a man, unrefined, imperfect, but a man. We enjoyed adult conversations, we laughed, we caught a glimpse of what life lies ahead as our little monkeys travel this path – and it’s amazing!
I’m the sentimental one, but even today the steely Deb shed a tear at the airport. We both felt it – it was the first time we truly let an arrow fly, emotionally, or whatever. We’re learning to let go. To say goodbye to the boy is to embrace the man. Such new feelings, and with new comes some trepidation – uncharted waters.
I hope this encourages someone. I’ve been pondering the love of the Father all day. He knows about letting go, He is love. To love is to risk, to sacrifice – without real vulnerability love cannot exist, it’s just a nice concept. Love requires another person, by nature it cannot exist on it’s own. To know the experience of love is to both rejoice and suffer in it’s powerful wake – there would be no rejoicing return without the pain of goodbye.
I will, Lord willing, see my son again sometime this year – but many of you have said goodbye to loved ones on this side of eternity. Love wins, love will re-unite, it must, if it’s born in Christ.
‘Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.’ Psalm 127:4