We have one more graduation party to attend today, so I thought I’d share with you the thoughts I posted in my monthly column in Wisconsin Christian News last month:
My oldest son graduates this year and right now, our house is all graduation talk. Photos. Invitations. Parties. Cleaning for our open house. He’s trying to decide what to say in his speech. I’m trying to decide if we should have punch or lemonade. It’s a big event in his life and also my own. In each of his firsts, I’ve experienced my own first. Now, for the first time, I’m about to send one of my offspring out on his own.
At graduation, the speeches are directed towards the graduates, as they should be. However, as I face this first, I’d love to hear a veteran parent give an address to those of us who have a little anxiety about sending our kids out into the world. Something like this…
Parents of the graduating class of 2011, your work is never done, but this phase is. As you enter this transition, your new job is helping your graduate learn how to live as an adult. I know, some of you have counted down to this day, and have already hired a contractor to draw up plans for making Johnny’s bedroom into a home spa. In contrast, others of you would pack yourselves into Suzy’s suitcase when she leaves for college in the fall if you could. But somewhere, in your hearts all of you are probably wondering if you’ve raised a son or a daughter who is ready to face real life. You wonder if you did your job right.
Some of you just want a pat on the back that says well done. But others may hunger for a little more encouragement, something that eases your insecurity. High school hasn’t been a smooth ride for every teen. Kids don’t always behave the way we’d like them to, and some of you grieve over children who have rebelled against nearly every godly lesson you taught them. Some of you wish you could go back and re-do your parenting. You blame yourselves and harbor unwarranted guilt. Yes, as parents, we say and do things we regret. And we make decisions we later lament. However, no one has ever been a perfect parent. We all just do the best that we can with what we have learned.
If parenting a teen has been a challenge for you, I want you to have hope in knowing that God can redeem regret and even years wasted in rebellion.
God gives you an example of such redemption in the book of Joel. The people of Israel had lived in rebellion and experienced vast devastation by locusts because of their actions. But in Joel 2:25 God promised to restore the years the locusts ate, the energy wasted in backsliding and sin, and in his grace he would fully restore them. Soon, they would forget the heartache and rejoice, praising God for what he had done. Never underestimate the power of God to turn a life around and make you forget the pain of the past.
It’s okay to cry today, although, it isn’t pretty to blubber too much. Remember, there are cameras everywhere. You have reason to smile too, because you’ve worked hard to get your child to this point. If you had your own mortarboard, I’d beg you to throw it in celebration.
But what about that anxiety you have? Consider the promise in Isaiah 41:10 and imagine it had your son or daughter’s name filled in. “So do not fear, for I am with Sam; do not be dismayed, for I am Sam’s God. I will strengthen him and help him; I will uphold him with my righteous right hand.” Even though your son or daughter is likely leaving home soon, God is fully capable of upholding him or her in his hand.
Parents, your graduate will always need you. Continue to be a good example of active faith for your children. Show unconditional love, even if she changes college majors 4 times. Practice tough love when he begs to move home after he drops out one semester before college graduation and refuses to look for a job. Demonstrate grace when your child messes up and be straightforward about your own shortcomings.
God brought you to this moment, so give him all the glory he is due and thank him for all he has done and will do. Then, let’s eat cake.
Along with humor and engaging audiences, it's a challenge to offer a diverse audience a message that will resonate and leave them with gifts for their journey ahead.
Here's an example of a storied approach to this challenge. A collage of stories is used to offer students three gifts for their journey (judgment, compassion, and mercy).