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.