Letting Go

Last week we had all four kids at home with us, for one night.  They live busy lives and it’s hard to coordinate their plans so that they are all here at the same time. There was plenty of laughs and banter – the kind of raucous you’d expect for the Somervell household.  I got them all to sit on the couch so I could take a picture, which was a bit of a mission because they wouldn’t keep still (hence the slightly blurred effect). “They haven’t changed much,” I thought to myself.  How did we manage to raise such an unruly lot? I can’t even take a picture without some level of chaos!”  

But as I stood there with the camera, watching them horsing around, a deep sense of fondness and affection for them welled up within me.  Despite all the pain, heartache and loss of sleep they have caused over the years, I really did love each of them deeply.  It’s not that I ever doubted this.  But something happens when your kids grow up into adults.  The relationship changes.  You are still their parent, but it’s in a different sense.  They are no longer living in your shadow.  They are their own individuals.  They now make their own choices in life – for better or for worse.  Some of those choices you are happy with; others you are not so happy with.  But you still love them all the same.

You may have heard of a phrase parents often use called “letting go.”  Well, it’s a lot easier said than done (in my experience).  And it’s not just a one-time deal.  I find myself having to continually “let go.”  After all, when you consider my wife and I have invested 23 of our 25 years of marriage raising, nurturing, teaching, training and caring for each of these precious individuals, you can understand why letting them go is a daunting task.  They are not ordinary people.  They are very special.  They are part of us.  They are a product of our love and commitment to each other and to God.

I can’t speak for my wife, but the most difficult part of the “letting go” has been with my two sons.  That might surprise you.  You’d think it would be with my daughters.  Fathers can be very protective of their daughters and find it hard when they leave home.  I have no problem with my daughters leaving home.  I know whose hands they are in.  They are both strong believers in Jesus and have surrendered their lives to his Lordship and loving care.  Whatever choices they make will be, for the most part, wise ones.

My sons however have not chosen to follow Jesus.  They made that decision in their late teens.  They both have their own reasons for that, which I respect.  But I personally find it very difficult.  In fact, rarely is there an hour in the day when I’m not thinking about it (and praying for them).  And it’s not because I’m a controlling father (at least, I hope not).  Nor is it because I’m disappointed that my own sons are not following in my footsteps.  It’s because heaven and hell are serious realities for me.  The Bible isn’t a collection of fairy stories and fables.  It is divine truth, which affects the eternal destiny of every human being, including my four children.

No loving, responsible parent, who holds these beliefs can overlook that.  It’s just not possible.  So yes, I’m still having a heck of a time letting my sons go (in the spiritual sense).  In fact, until they come to Jesus I don’t think I ever will.  I will continue to wrestle for their souls before my Heavenly Father, begging that He will reveal Himself to them in such a clear and profound way that they believe.

In the meantime, I will work on loving each one of them equally, without showing favouritism, supporting them in where I can and praying for them daily.  This is my God-given duty, privilege and joy.

 

 

 

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For Dads

barbershopI love going to watch my kids perform.  What proud parent wouldn’t?  On Friday I went to see my two daughters compete at the regionals for secondary school Barbershop choir.  Wow, did those girls sing well.  The crowd went mad!

I’m now realizing with the passing of time that I only have a small window of opportunity left for this.  My two sons have already left school, my eldest daughter has only one year left which leaves the youngest, and she’ll be also gone before I know it.  Then the house will be empty and there’ll be no more school productions, no prize-givings, no sports events and no excited teenagers coming up to me and saying, “Dad, do you want to come and see me sing?”

Of course there are a hundred-and-one excuses I could come up with not to go –

“Sorry honey, I’d love to, but I have a really busy day that day”
“You know what – that clashes with something in my schedule, how about next time?”
“I’d love to but…”

Your kids will only take so many of those.  Like I’ve said to other dads – your relationship with your kids (or your wife) is like a bank.  You put things in and you take things out.  If you stop putting deposits in sooner or later there’s nothing to draw from.  I’ve found that to be so true in life.  When I work on getting to these events regularly, there’s absolutely no problem on the day I have to say, “Sorry honey, it’s just not going to work this time.”  They simply smile and say, “That’s OK dad, not a worry.”

Think about it dads, how hard is it to pitch to one of your kids events – I mean really?  What is it going to cost you?  A couple of hours out of your day?  So it’s a work day, and you don’t have the liberty to take time off work.  I understand that.  But every once in a while ask your boss if you can go see your son or daughter perform – tell him you’ll make up for the time.  I bet he won’t say no.  That kid will never forget it.

When my two daughters rolled up on stage on Friday  and saw me sitting there on the front row, they caught my eye and beamed.   I melted in my seat.  I wouldn’t miss that experience for the world.

So go on dads – turn up to something for your kids and make their day.

BTW: Macleans College Macapella won the day are through to the Nationals in Wellington in August.  But that might be a little too far to drive…

 

Grace for weary parents

Yesterday my wife were blessed to watch utube video by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson, authors of Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus.  They both spoke at the 2012 LIBERATE conference at the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale. If you’ve never heard of Elyse Fitzpatrick, you ought to get hold of one of her books.  She is real, down-t0-earth and gospel centered.  And she understands real grace.  Jessica is her daughter who now has 3 children of her own.

In this team-talk, they share very candidly about Jessica’s upbringing and the mistakes that Elyse and her husband made, trying to be perfect parents producing the perfect kids. But their parenting was devoid of the gospel and grace.  Francelle and I sat stunned as we listened, realizing that they were rehearsing our own story.  In raising our 4 children we made the same mistake.  Now they are teens and we are back-peddling as fast as we can.

Not that we did everything wrong. We trained them as best as we knew how. But all too often, without our realising it, we kept focusing on their outward behaviour.  Yes, we knew they needed Jesus but it was all about being a good Christian, not about being dazzled by the love of Jesus and what He did for them. It was about doing the right thing, not coming to realise that they could never live up to God’s standard and then turning to Him for grace and mercy.  My wife and I understand the gospel. We love Jesus. We know we are fully forgiven and everything depends on His perfect record for us. So why didn’t this translate into our parenting?  This is what this talk is all about.

If you are a parent trying to raise good Christian children, this is a must see.