Our month of celebrations concluded on Monday at approximately 6:45PM when our daughter, Rebekah, walked across the stage of the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion and received her Boston Latin School High School diploma. Exactly a month earlier we were attending the Baccalaureate service for our son, Jonathan, as he prepared to graduate from Gordon College. The following day was Jonny’s commencement. Between these two graduations we, as a family, experienced, at times vicariously, the final day of classes, Senior Prom, a combined graduation party, “senior sign-out day”, and an awards celebration. This month has included some of the most wonderful days and some of the most wearying days I have experienced as a parent.
The past weeks have been wonderful. My wife and I beamed with pride as we heard our child’s name declared and watched them receive their diplomas, gratified in knowing that his and her hard work have been recognized and rewarded. We all rejoiced as they were surrounded by family and friends celebrating their accomplishments. While we, as parents, had little to do with their success, we are proud of what our kids have become.
The past weeks have also been wearying. As I watched them taking steps across their respective daises, I was overcome with dread as I contemplated their next steps. Will, and where will, Jonathan find a permanent job? Is Rebekah ready to head off to Washington and engage a collegiate culture? Have I sufficiently prepared my ‘adult’ children for what comes next in their lives? While I, as a parent, now have no control of the course of their lives, I am apprehensive about what my kids will become.
My problem is that I want to micromanage my children, despite the fact that I am ill prepared to do so. Jonathan and Rebekah will have to manage their own lives. My only hope is that they will remember what they have heard in their formative years. I hope that they can dwell in the very center of God’s will.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)
If I could offer one final word of pastoral and parental wisdom for all those who are concluding one chapter of life and beginning to write another: trust the pattern of Romans 12. Offer yourself (wholly and completely) to God, allow the Spirit to shape you instead of adopting the prevailing culture, and then, after doing this, trust that you will be able to discern God’s good, pleasing and perfect will for your life. So many want to know God’s will for the future before they surrender their present to the Lord; that knowledge seems to be reserved for those who are first willing to follow God wherever He leads. Know that He will lead you where you need to go.
I am so proud of all my children, those that have graduated and those who will remain under our roof for a few more years.
Photo courtesy of the Boston Globe, June 13, 2016 https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/06/13/walsh-commends-boston-latin-graduates-for-fostering-dialogue-race/ACvuJolyaLLGOcmZoV2ZdO/story.html
As I stood with my wife in a stranger’s backyard last Friday, I was gripped with a troubling question: when did my little girl grow up? There she was, beautifully adorned in her formal dress with a group of ever-so-slightly less beautifully adorned classmates, taking pictures and getting ready to head off for their Junior Prom. How did we get here? A few days ago, she was born. It seems like it was only yesterday that she learned to walk and then to run. It couldn’t have been all that long ago that she started school, but now, as I stand watching her laugh and pose with her friends, I realize that this is but the first in a list of events that will take place over the next year. Then she’ll be gone.
Unfortunately, I’m not ready for this. Maybe it is because she is our only girl or maybe it is because she is so fiercely independent; all I know is that many tears (some of joy and some of sadness) will roll down her mother’s and my cheeks throughout the intervening months. Despite the fact that Rebekah is 17 years old and 64 inches tall, I still see her as a two foot tall ray of sunshine with a missing front tooth, a fashionable purse and crooked bangs.
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:3–4 (NIV)
No matter what happens to her mother and me, Rebekah will be fine. As her aunt commented on Facebook© when she saw the pictures of Beck in her prom dress, she is a ‘beautiful girl…inside and out!’ We must have done something right, or more precisely God must have enabled us to do something right, for she has a beautiful soul. In the days that led up to the dance, Bekah’s ‘invisible” qualities radiated – from her willingness to alter a hand-me-down dress to her joy in doing her own hair and makeup. She invested her resources in the treasures that last long after the memories of a night at the Copley fade.
In a world where hemlines are creeping higher and necklines are plunging ever deeper, I am proud of many of the fashion decisions my teenage daughter has made (don’t take this to mean that I agree with all her choices – I don’t). I appreciate that she tries to maintain a balance in modesty and modern fashion. I am even prouder of the choices she has made deepening her inner beauty. She invests some of her energies on looking good and some of her energies on being good. I am glad I have had a chance to witness all of that.
I am glad that she has taught me a thing or two, too, along the way. Teenagers are not the only ones who are tempted to value outward appearances over inner beauty. Sometimes I am guilty of judging a book by its cover and missing the depth of character within.