I’m writing this blog from thirty thousand feet, so forgive any typos or strange ramblngs from my oxygen deprived state. Yesterday was one of the hardest days i have a had in the 7 years I have had as a parent. I knew it was coming, but the foreknowledge did little to alleviate the nervousness I felt as I dropped my firstborn son off for his first sleep away camp. I know, I know, it’s not like I was dropping him off at college or anything, but watching my oldest son wave goodbye as I held back tears and silently prayed for him in my heart was way tougher than I was anticipated.
It’s a new experience, this whole letting them grow up thing. I knew as our children grew older that days would come when we’d have to let go of the reins and let them take their first steps (in leather boots, in this case) away from home. It couldn’t be a safer environment, of course. Teen Missions International is a 40+ year old organization that has been taking kids ages 7-19 on missions trips for decades. After having the opportunity to experience firsthand the phenomenal work they are doing around the world when I was in high school, it was an easy decision to let Noa spend a week with TMI once he was old enough. My head said he was ready, that he’d be fine, and that he was in the safest hands out there. My heart, though, man…..different story.
After dropping him off yesterday in the oppressive Florida heat and helping him get settled in for a week of tent camping, bucket baths, and warm koolaid to drink, I started really thinking about how, even though it’s so hard to do, how vital it is to the development of his manhood to let him have experiences like this one. Here’s the thing, he may be a 48 lb. kid with a missing front tooth today, but in 10 short years, he’s going to be a man. He’s going to look out over this big wide world full of decisions to be made and adventures to be had and I want to be able to release him with confidence that he will be able to navigate the tumultuous seas of young adulthood with a steady rudder. I can’t afford to wait until he’s 13 or 14 and then start the process of showing him how to steer the ship. I want my son, my danger loving, dream chasing, deep thinking child to be prepared to sail uncharted waters that will surely surround him as he grows into the man that God has created him to be.
It’d be an easy thing (and, perhaps, the responsible thing as our culture would dictate) to tamper his wild streak. He’s predictably unpredictable. Prone to toe stubs and skinned knees, this wild child of mine. No one would describe him as sedate or compliant, but I can’t help but believe that God placed those traits in him for a great purpose. How am I going to steward them? I can not afford to wait until he’s a teenager to start the process of teaching him how God can use his divinely gifted personality to serve a hurting world and share the beautiful good news that is the gospel.
Yesterday I dropped my freckled, reckless, absolutely impulsive 7 year old off for a week of missionary training camp that is anything but easy. He will be waking at 6 am every morning to run an obstacle course, eating foods that will probably cause his picky palate to gag, spending hours in the Florida heat learning how to build trusses, and learning how God created him for a mission and how he fits into the grand design of redeeming the nations.
As I lay in bed last night praying that God would send peace and courage to my newly-liberated-from-his-parents little boy, I was reminded that the stakes are high. Our children are assaulted from all angles with the fiery arrows of the enemy who comes to kill, steal, and destroy their faith. As their parents we must step out of our comfort zone and give our sons and daughters the weapons of faith that stand up to the barrage of fear and doubt that Satan will endlessly try to molest them with. We must not allow our fears to prevent our children from reaching their God given potential to change the world for the gospel. It looks different for each child and each family, but for me, for us, it meant sending my little noakea off on his own and it is good.
I don’t know what obstacles or challenges he will face this week. He just learned to tie his shoes, for goodness sakes, so I’m sure he will be faced with some mountains to tackle, but I can’t wait to hear the pride in his voice and see the confidence in his smile when next Sunday comes to a close. My greatest hope and my only prayer for his life and the lives of all my children is that they will love God fiercely. I know that in the end, there is nothing I can do to ensure the ultimate destiny of their lives. It is God alone who will draw them into relationship with Him. As a parent, though, I have been trusted with shepherding and guiding their tender hearts and I want my children to know that the most important thing in their lives is that they follow Christ with complete abandon and that they use their numbered days to make much of Him.