I can't sleep. The reason is that I'm thinking about my kids. I call them "kids," but they are adults now. My eldest turned 29 two days ago and that, I believe, is one reason I can't help thinking about them, missing them, loving them. It might also have something to do with my youngest son landing his first job, getting his drivers license, and preparing for his final year of high school. It hits me: I have to let them go.
It didn't help that I was listening to a song by Andrew Peterson a few minutes ago. It's a song called "For the Love of God," and in the song he sings about driving all night to Pittsburgh with his little boys sleeping in the back seat next to their sister. As I listened to that lyric I thought back to all the trips we took in the family car when the kids were little. Oh, those trips felt so hard and insufferably long at the time! Now they seem like the stuff of heaven itself. Frozen in my mind is that rear-view-mirror-shaped snapshot of them in the "way back" (our term for the rear compartment of our station wagon). Those were the days before parents strapped their kids into car seats and safety belts, so on long trips we'd usually spread out a blanket or a sleeping bag in the rear and let them stretch out for the night. One of the kids would listen to a Kids' Praise tape on her Fisher-Price cassette player; another would read by flashlight; the other two would be fast asleep.
My wife & I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary in a few weeks. All but 11 months of our 30 years have been years of childrearing. We also had two miscarriages, so we will meet two more of our children in heaven. There were times, of course, when we thought our kids would never grow up. Now my heart aches to hear the sound of children playing in the bedroom upstairs.
But, at 52, I am actually in a better place. I am incredibly blessed to be the father of four wonderful, unique, godly people. Each of my children is devoted to Christ and loves the church. Three are married, and I love their spouses. My oldest has two children and one more on the way.
And what is truly amazing is that we all love each other.
My wife & I have the privilege now of walking with our sons and daughters through important and faith-stretching times of change. Rebecca and her husband Scott (pictured with their kids above) will be moving in July to Gulfport, Mississippi, where Scott will be pastoring two Presbyterian churches. Also in July, David and his wife Lindsay (above) will be moving to Tallahassee for law school. Jennifer and her husband Tim (shown at Jenn's graduation from college) will celebrate their 1st anniversary in August and Jenn will start work on her MBA. And Michael will be looking at colleges this year and, Lord willing, heading off about this time next year to who-knows-where.
Phil Keaggy, one of my favorite Christian artists, has a song entitled "Blessed Be the Ties." In that song he talks about the irony of family life: the hard things of marriage and parenting turn out to be the sweetest parts of life. Here are some of the lyrics to that song:
Out of the single life into the family way,
So many scripted lines, so many roles to play;
Ever a pressure pressing, ever an undertow,
Why do the ties you've chosen slowly pull you low?
Over the things we love into the still unknown,
I had a dream last night I was finally left alone;
Nothing to tie me down, no one to kiss goodnight,
Never again to feel your whisper pull me to your side.
And oh, an emotion cries:
Oh, sing blessed be the ties.
Amen, I say...blessed be the ties.