Pulling Away, Looking Back

Dear Nest-Emptiers:

During our prayer time in worship yesterday we were asked to pray for students who were heading off to college, especially the freshmen, many of whom were leaving home for the first time. The prayer request was followed by an ancillary request for us to remember empty-nesters negotiating suddenly quieted households. These requests triggered my own memories of my first days in college, my parents walking out of my new dorm room, my mom crying, my dad wishing me well. My looking down at the parking lot from my ninth-floor window and seeing their car pull away. At the time my seventeen-year-old self could not comprehend the complexity of their emotions, but in hindsight it wasn’t all about me. I was the youngest of five, the caboose, the last nestling flying from home. For me it was the beginning of a new chapter; for them it was the conclusion of a book in a multi-volume series.

Flashing on these memories yesterday in preparation for prayer, it occurred to me how appropriate it was to speak of them in the Sanctuary. For many of our parents, the church sanctuary has been the place where life transitions have been recorded. Like the little pencil hash marks on that wall where we tracked our children’s growth, the events of life are marked in that room. Scholarship Sunday, graduate recognition, Youth Sundays, Christmas Eves, children’s choirs, VBS programs, Times for Children, all telescoping back to Baptism, where a mom and a dad confessed they were ‘winging it’ and really needed the help of God and the congregation to pull off this amazing responsibility called parenting.

In Baptism we confess that children are a gift, and from the beginning to the end, their lives are not really ours; they are God’s. I believe all parents, even bad ones, want to feel they are doing their best by their kids, but truly great parents are always aware of their insufficiencies. There’s sometimes a huge space between what we want for our children and what we provide. They are their own beings capable of choice, capable of mistakes, and there are moments when we realize that control is, in the end, an illusion. Their successes we celebrate as expressions of independent wisdom; their failures we internalize as the proof of our inadequacy.

As we pull away, we do not know when they will sink and when they will swim. Our watchful eye and supportive hand will no longer be there in the splashing of their days and nights. But as the vast ocean opens between our influence and their location, there is peace in knowing the sea between us is nothing less than the Baptismal Font.

Remembering that our children are God’s children, I remain,

With Love,
Jonathan Krogh
Your Pastor