I’ll cut right to the point.
Jean and I are grieving a little bit this week – not over the death of a loved one or a dire medical diagnosis – but grieving nonetheless.
Our oldest, Trent, left for a nearby college earlier this week.
We couldn’t be happier for him, of course, especially seeing how he’s matured and grown over these last few years. We’ve been impressed with his choice of friends, his attitude and his overall goals and sense of direction.
But we’re grieving because it’s the end of an era, the transition from a family life rhythm that we’ve loved – and that’ll never again be the same.
I knew the day was coming 18 years ago, even the minute the doctor placed Trent in my arms. There’s been over 6,500 days between then and now – but somehow, it’s never enough.
Many of you have walked this road, some many years ago. You unload the car, help setup the dorm room, take the campus tour, maybe even participate in an official orientation process.
But then it’s time to go and your mind wanders back down through the years, to all the goodbyes that seemed significant then but pale in comparison to today. There’s the wave from the school bus window, maybe the first solo bike ride to classes – and then there was the day when you gave him the keys to the car and you heard the sound of the engine fade into the distance.
And you prayed through and after every goodbye. And maybe even shed a few tears.
Eighteen years is a generation, a long time to establish a relationship, impart your values and launch your child into a wide and wonderful world.
College transitions aren’t necessarily the end of a familiar family life, but even when they come back for holidays or a summer, it’s never the same. It can’t be. It shouldn’t be.
But you always wonder … did I do enough? Could I have done more? Did they catch what we were trying to transfer? How are they going to do on their own, away from home and all the security of a loving, faith-filled home?
Trent had only just settled in when he reached out to Jean to let her know that all the other mothers of the three boys with whom he’ll be living we’re at the apartment, just hanging out together. He wondered if she might want to join them. The fact that he called made her feel good – and was a nice reminder that he’s thoughtful and considerate, even aware of Jean’s emotions during this season of change.
Jean happily took off and made the 30-mile trip – stopping along the way for a shower curtain that Trent had forgotten. Moms will be moms, after all.
Troy has joked about taking Trent’s room, but I know he’s going to miss his older brother. Change is hard on everybody, even a sibling who has endured his share of disagreements with the first buddy he ever had.
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven,” wrote the writer of Ecclesiastes. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven … He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (3:1, 11).
He has made everything beautiful in his time: also he has set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God made from the beginning to the end.”
Please join me in praying for all the sons and daughters who are stepping off and into new adventures at schools all across the country. And let’s also remember in prayer the moms and dads who have released them with both joy and maybe a little bit of anxiety.
In the end, I am heartened by the words of the writer C.S. Lewis, who once poignantly observed that for the Christian, “There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”