One hundred sixty-one weeks ago, my firstborn, my son, turned twenty-one. At the time, a full three years and 30 days ago, I wrote a blog urging his responsible alcohol use. Earlier this week a similar thing happened again: my daughter, my only daughter, turned twenty-one. This time, however, her alcohol consumption was not my primary concern. I am worried and afraid of so much more. Perhaps these fears are attributable to their differing temperaments or their differing experiences. Whatever the reason, I am more concerned, more melancholic, about Rebekah becoming a full-fledged adult than I did about Jonathan.
As I write this, I am left wondering why. It is not as if I have ever ascribed to a double-standard; I would never say apologetically that ‘boys will be boys’, nor that ‘a woman’s place is in the home’. Yet, in light of all that is swirling around in the world (not the least of which is the #metoo movement), I am worried about the world we have created and the environment we have fostered for the women we love. I want my adult daughter – no, all our adult daughters – to be valued for her character and nothing else.
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. Philippians 2:14-16
My hope for my adult daughter, who, with every passing birthday, moves further away from the little girl I remember, is that she will shine like a star in this warped generation. I pray that she will be light in the darkness. As she steps ever closer into the spheres of grown-upness, I trust that she will not let anyone but God alone define her, let no one on earth demean her and allow no man to destroy her by refusing to take no for an answer.
You have been made in the very image of God. You are His workmanship, created to accomplish the work He wants you to do. You are, therefore, perfectly quirky, perfectly suited to do what you do. If anyone tells you otherwise, they are a liar.
You are a child of God. You have a royal inheritance. You are somebody. Again, if anyone tells you otherwise, they are a liar.
You are precious in His sight. You, just being you, have an inestimable value to God. You need not do anything to prove you are worthy of love or to prove you are capable of loving. And again, if anyone tells you otherwise…you know…liar.
I wish the world were a different place, but then again, I wish I had the riches to buy you a pony when you were eight. The world is full of broken hurting people, some of whom are happiest making more broken hurting people: do not become one of them. Run from those who seek you harm. Refuse to entertain ungodly advances. Remember that you are here to shine. Remain as wonderful as we all know you are.
Tomorrow morning at 9AM Jeanine and I will be dropping off at college our only daughter, Rebekah. At that time, she will begin orientation week at American University in Washington, DC (which is 447 miles from our new apartment in Dorchester). This is not the first time we’ve driven a child to college and waved as we drove away; we were in a similar situation four years as we hugged our son in front of a dorm at Gordon College (a mere 33 miles from our current apartment in Dorchester). I can say in my mind that this is the same thing, but my heart tells me that this is going to be different.
As Rebekah begins her collegiate career, I feel the need, as I did for her brother before her, to pass on a few words of wisdom from my own experiences:
- First, I would want to tell her to allow this experience to enhance her beautiful qualities instead of changing them. She will meet a variety of people from a variety of backgrounds whom she will want to emulate; I’d want her to know that she is able to resist that temptation and remain true to herself. I hope she makes friends with people from other cultures, countries and capabilities and she is better for these interactions while keeping within her what makes her unique;
- Next, I would want to tell her to focus on the important and not just the interesting. I’d want her to remember why she is where she is – to gain the skills and special training she needs to improve her chances at accomplishing her goals. I’d tell her that going to class and preparing for exams are essentials disciplines that will reap rich rewards. However, there are important things beyond the classroom as well: I’d want her to look for those lifelong friendships and life-shaping experiences that can be found in unexpected places;
- Then, I would remind her that God has directed her to our nation’s capital for a purpose. I would encourage her to take advantage to all that her campus and community allows. Go to the Smithsonian and absorb great art and artifacts, read the words inscribed on the monuments and memorials, and witness the pageantry of diplomatic motorcades and an inauguration; attend worship in some of the great churches in our nation, serve the needs of the poor and underprivileged, and take a skull along the Potomac.
“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.” Philippians 2:14-16 (NIV)
Honey, I want you to shine so brightly that in the dark moments we can still see you 447 miles away. Your mother and I are so proud of you and all that you’ve become. We cannot wait to see the great things God will continue to do through you!
For all those leaving for college for the first time this week, and for their families who love them, I pray God’s richest blessing and watch care as you pursue your dreams.
For those wanting to read my thoughts four years ago, read https://calvaryboston.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/a-parents-hope-for-freshmen/