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
My, how time flies. It seems like just yesterday that I was posting on this page that we were taking our eldest to college. It is unfathomable to me that it has actually been nearly four years. Tomorrow, my wife and I will watch him walk across a stage to receive his bachelor’s degree from Gordon College. All the papers and tests, projects and presentations have been made; all the notes and classes have been taken. Jonathan is no longer a kid who has gone off to school. There is little doubt now – my son is now an adult.
I thought about writing an open letter to my son, telling him all the things that he still needs to know in order to be successful in the world of the working – there are no small jobs, just small people; those you crush on your way up the ladder to success will also be those unwilling to prevent you from falling back down; if you do your best every time, you will sleep better at night – but I realized that I do not have many pearls of wisdom to offer. As the diploma he’ll receive tomorrow signifies, the days of formal lessons are over and the days of application awaits.
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)
My hope is that what he learned at the Kenny, the Murphy, Boston Latin School and Gordon – and especially what he learned at home – has been sufficient for him to know the importance of being a good and kind person and not simply successful. My hope is that it does not take him too long to understand that it is not the facts that he gained that provide education with its value; it is the ability to process those facts for the improvement of those around him that counts. He was a smart kid when he began school 17 years ago; I pray that he is a wise young man now.
I asked my wife the other day, “How old will Jonathan be in your mind when we watch him graduate?” For me, I have a feeling that the images will fluctuate. I will see that week-old NICU patient, the six-year old soccer dynamo, the 10-year old baseball player. It will be the kid I ate pancakes with after an emergency room visit, the boy his mother witnessed being struck by a car as he made his way to the school bus and the young man who drove off to camp for the summer. I will see all the birthday parties and Christmases, all the awards and arguments and all the frustrations and fun that has brought him to this point. I hope I can see it all.
Congratulations, Jonathan. I am so proud of you, son, for staying the course, even when the way was difficult and the days were filled with doubts. May the Lord bless your next adventure as wonderfully as He has your last.