In just a few days, my wife and I will take our youngest child to college and I am already prepared for the flow of copious tears from my wife as we drive away. I am grateful that this one is only an hour away because the last one we dropped off at college the drive was 4 hours and, yes, she cried the entire way!!!
Even though our youngest is close enough to come home every weekend, we are now entering yet another phase of life that is completely new to us … EMPTY NEST!!! Just like when you are expecting your first child and you hear all of the horror stories of childbirth, we have heard stories ranging from it’s the best thing ever to complete misery!
It’s at times like this that you reflect, at least I have been, and wonder if you have done everything to prepare this new adult for what life will throw at them. My wife and I both grew up in the military and then I was in the military myself followed by law enforcement, so you can just guess how my kids were raised! I absolutely believe that we were too hard on them at times. My kids usually weren’t invited to parties for fear that their dad would show up! And … I would have and it would have been ugly!!!
I don’t say this out of arrogance, but we have been told how wonderful our kids are and what great parents we must be. I always reply with the same answer, “I did my best to screw them up, but God had other plans I guess.” One time I was at church talking to a friend and telling him that I was sick of people telling me what a great parent I must be because I know I am not. I told him that the next person to say anything like this to me is getting a throat-punch!!! Well, not two minutes later my pastor joined us …… yep, he said it!!! Although I didn’t throat-punch him, I did tell him about the conversation my friend and I had just had! Thankfully he has a sense of humor and is very forgiving!!! I gotta quit saying things like that!
I would love to tell you that all of my kids were living lives dedicated to Christ and that they love spending time with their parents, but neither one of those would be completely true. In a lot of ways our kids feel we left them unprepared for “the real world” by not letting them go to certain parties or date at a young age. Are there things I would do differently … 100% … and probably more than I could put in a good sized book! What I do know for a fact is that each of our kids have accepted Christ as their savior at some time in their lives and have been baptized. Each of them have been on missions trips and have seen the Lord work in mighty ways. As I write this one of them is in Africa and ministers to women caught in human trafficking.
Throughout the years I have relied heavily on Proverbs 22:6 – “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” I have told our older kids, and will have the same conversation with the youngest at some point between now and the weekend, that I realize I was hard on them and kept them from seeing a lot that “the world” has to offer, but I am not sorry for it. I will say that I believe we have been very honest with them and have given them a foundation based on Christ and The Word, but if they choose to “go buck wild” when they leave home, that is on them and they are accountable to God for their behaviors. And yes … I really use “buck wild”!
I know many times I have violated Colossians 3:21 – “Fathers, do not embitter (or provoke) your children, or they will become discouraged. I hope I asked for their forgiveness as many times!
We taught them by reading and some kid videos we used to have about Ephesians 6:1-3 – “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” One of the kids used to sing the song, “it is the first commandment with a PROBLEM!” Probably that second born!!!
I trust they know that Proverbs 3:11-12 is ABSOLUTELY true: “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, 12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”
And, I pray that I have walked in and given tem an example of integrity! Proverbs 20:7 (NKJV) –7” The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him” And … Deuteronomy 12:28 (NKJV) – 28” Observe and obey all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you and your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the Lord your God.”
Thank you for letting me spill my guts here a little bit. I pray that whatever phase of life you are in that you 1) seek first His Kingdom, 2) cultivate your relationship with your spouse and love her as Christ loves the church, 3) be a Kingdom example for your kids!