From the Pastor: Leaving the Nest, and Learning to Fly

“May the LORD bless you and keep you.
May the LORD’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May the LORD look upon you with kindness and give you peace.”
(Numbers 6:24-26)

Two years have passed since Julie and I sent our oldest child off to college. So week before last, when it came time to send No. 2 down the same path, I expected letting go and saying goodbye would be easier this time around.

But it wasn’t.

As Ryan marked his “lasts” at home in preparation for his “firsts” at college, my eyes welled with tears and my throat lumped with emotion just like they did when big sister Mary packed her bags back. The emotions of an anxious parental heart — anticipation, regret, nostalgia, resolve, and love — were on full display in a fitful mix of excitement, terror, and blind hope.

Ryan was among seven of our congregation’s sons who are college bound this month, so I know that Julie and I aren’t the only ones roaming around nests that feel a little emptier and more eerily quiet. With parental memories of leaving campus — without our sons — forever etched on our hearts, let me share this prayer, which I adapted from one written by Kami Gilmour.

Gracious and healing Lord, loss is loss, for whatever the reason.

So, take away the overwhelming grief that I’m feeling right now and replace it with hope and excitement as you begin writing the next chapter of my son’s life.

Free me from feeling like parenthood is over — even with another son still at home and in high school, and help me to find meaningful ways to stay connected and deepen my relationship with my college-age son in this new season of our lives.

Keep me from feeling heartbroken if I don’t hear from him as often as I’d like. (And help me figure out how better to text, instant message, and Snapchat so I can stay connected with him on social media.)

Rid my mind of worrying about things beyond my control — like him falling off the top bunk; or sleeping through his alarm and missing class; or becoming a victim of fraternity hazing; or contracting meningitis, COVID, or any of the other nasty bugs that lurk and prowl the hallowed hallways and shared bathrooms of higher education.

Remind me that you are guiding and directing his path, especially when he faces the inevitable challenges that’ll surely come his way. Protect him when he refuses to carry an umbrella or wear his winter boots. Keep him safe from natural disaster and cult abduction, and from poor choices that he, like the rest of us, are bound to make.

Release my grip when I hug him one last time and don’t want to let go, and reassure me anew that his mother and I have raised a young man who’s more than ready to leave the nest, spread his wings, and fly solo.

And one last thing, Lord. Hold me tightly in your peace and grace tomorrow, as I release him to you today — even though he’s always been yours from the very beginning.

Amen, and amen!

Be a good friend and a good learner, my son!

Pastor Grant

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