There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, . . . a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance… (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, 4 NIV)
Graduation season is upon us; colleges and universities have had their commencements, now high school seniors take their turn in cap and gown. The celebration of achievement includes a mix of emotions among those involved. For myself as a parent I know that there has been reflection as Sue and I look back and rejoice at God’s grace and goodness to us and to Lesley as she reaches this milestone. There is also anticipation as she moves on to an exciting next step in her life; we look forward in faith to what the Lord will do in and through her this next year as she travels with Life Action Ministries. And the prayers of God’s people are such an important part of that! We also keenly feel the need to seize the moment and celebrate the time we still have with her here for we know those days are numbered.
As we watch the calendar count down those days (they are going too quickly!) Sue and I are especially thankful for two foundational truths of Scripture: the Sovereignty of God and the fact that we are a Sent people.
As we send Lesley out from our home into this wild world we have every confidence in our Heavenly Father to protect and provide for her. The Lord knows (and so does Lesley) that I am not a perfect father. But I know (and I trust Lesley does too) that God is our Perfect Father. He is perfect in His wisdom, and so we can rest in His providences. He will perfectly accomplish all His plans for us. We can know what is best for our children’s lives from God’s Word; but I’m neither omniscient nor all-wise and so often my fallibility and foolishness impact my parenting. God is perfectly good as well as all-powerful; again providing a beautiful compare and contrast opportunity: I may (and hope more and more to) want what is good for my children but be unable to deliver. God calls for us to trust Him in all things because, as the Heidelberg Catechism taught us, “I trust him so much that I do not doubt he will provide whatever I need for body and soul, and he will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends me in this sad world. He is able to do this because he is almighty God; he desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.” (Q&A 26) So we rest in the Sovereignty of God our Creator and Redeemer.
In the uncertainty of our times, do you have this rest? This sure hope that we have, that the Lord is our Shepherd, does not deny the reality of sorrow or suffering. We realize that this world is broken and marred by sin and misery. We remember that Jesus our Savior was “a man of sorrows” and that his way is the way of the cross. But we also rejoice that He calls us by name and promises never to leave us or forsake us” (Hebrews 13:5b). And we know that Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). So we believe and so we live.
The second truth that comforts us as we recognize that a very precious season of our lives has reached a point of metamorphosis is that we are a Sent people. God has called us to Himself and sends us out in His name to be light and to testify to Him. All that the Lord gives us is entrusted to us as part of this. What does this mean as we send Lesley out from our home? Two things have struck me: We have a limited time with our kids and a responsibility to raise them in a godly home while they’re with us; and there comes a time when we send them out.
God has given us this time and these opportunities in order to “train up our children in the way they should go” (Proverbs 22:6 & Ephesians 6:4b). That means training them in the way of the Lord, the way of wisdom and humility, showing them the way of salvation which is by grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone. Part of God’s sending for Sue and I is into our children’s lives, not just to provide for them physically, intellectually, and emotionally, but spiritually as well (not that the last can ever be truly separated from the others!). We have not done it perfectly, but we want to teach them God’s Word, which is Truth; we want to model Christ to them in our words, attitudes, and actions as we are “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). We also want to embrace the Christian community which has planted us in as a help to us in these things! Yes, God’s revealed plan is for children to have both a mother and a father who love them and raise them. But we also have the blessing, in God’s gracious providence, of an extended family: of grandparents and perhaps even great-grandparents, of uncles and aunts as well. If they are believers, they provide a wonderful additional godly influence and multiple prayers to help us on our way. God gives us a special burden for our own flesh and blood. But that’s not all! God is creating a new family, the family of God—maybe we can call it our super-extended family. And these particular people in this particular place are sent by God to assist us in this task. We have had to learn to embrace the community of God’s people and allow them access to our home and lives so that they can walk beside us and help us as we need it. Others may not always parent the way we prefer, but if they are mature believers, then we want them to speak God’s truth into our children’s lives and help disciple them! We thank God for the godly women who have loved Lesley over her life and made an impact for her good and God’s glory.
There is a time to send. There will be tears and there will be smiles. There will be fervent prayers and active trust. And there is the abiding hope that those who are sent know Jesus Christ and will witness to Him throughout the rest of their lives. As a child of God, shine as a light in the world, holding fast to the word of life (see Phil. 2:15-16). As a disciple of Christ know that you are sent but that He will always be with you, even to the end of the age (John. 20:21 & Matthew. 28:20).
We greatly appreciate your prayers for us as we send our oldest daughter out. We will continue to pray for you too as God sends us all out into this world to be His witnesses.