I have no idea how this happened, but somehow our first grandchild grew up and is now headed to college. Dennis and I drove to Conway and met him for lunch on Tuesday last week. We’ve never had this much time with just him…ever!
We talked about his dorm, his roommate he has not yet met, what he’s most looking forward to in college and more as we ate chips and queso. After our lunch arrived he told us a story about a prank he and his friend played and what he’s packed to take on the plane to his college in California. Samuel is a minimalist. He’s also very smart, logical and naïve, and he knows this is true.
As we finished our lunch Dennis and I pulled out our prepared notes of advice. And we called Aunt Laura and Uncle Josh who had words of wisdom to add.
Here are my three pieces of advice, wisdom I’ve learned over decades that Samuel will heed sooner than I did.
Forgive your parents, Samuel. Beginning in college and continuing into the decade of your 20s is a season of questioning your assumptions about everything: God, family, friendships, faith, truth, work, ministry, mission, and more; and then solidifying your conclusions as beliefs of your own. This is all healthy and good.
The 20s are also a decade of discovering all the mistakes your parents made (and you had really good parents), especially when you get married and start your own family. All parents are flawed, have blind spots, and make lots of mistakes of omission. What they intend as loving doesn’t always come across that way. So, your job is to forgive your parents every time you realize you are missing something other kids got or you were harmed in some way by their decisions. It’s the way of honor, peace and a long life as promised in the fifth commandment. (And we have a book on that we will give you some day when you are ready!)
Don’t be afraid of God’s disruptions. Welcome them. God’s work in us is to show us all the ways we try to do life on our own and try to substitute other people, things and activities for a real relationship with Him. You, like most everyone your age, have a pattern or a formula for how you relate to God, even if you are unaware of it.
Samuel, you are like me, a first born, and first borns love to get everything ordered and under control. God loves you and wants you to know Him in a personal relationship because He is a Person, so He will pursue you, disrupt your formulas and controls, and knock down false ideas you carry around that you are not even aware of right now. It won’t be pleasant, and at times it will be frustrating or frightening, but if you surrender your heart to Him in every uncomfortable circumstance He will be pleased and will make Himself known to you in time.
Last but not least, be the person who apologizes first. You will unintentionally offend people in the next four years and beyond. Even someone who is as eager to please as you are will make mistakes in relationships. You have blind spots as do your parents and grandparents. So when you realize you have offended, even if you are clueless as to what you’ve done, bravely enter into resolution. Ask what you’ve done, learn to listen and then be the one to apologize first. Genuine humility is the key to healthy deep relationships in all of life.
With love and prayers,
I would share Dennis’s challenges but he wrote almost 3 pages! And he had an insider line or two that would leave you with furrowed foreheads. Maybe another time.
Surprisingly Samuel asked us both a few questions which we weren’t expecting. We thought he’d want to bolt after our little mini sermons! He asked, “I hear a lot about surrendering to Jesus, but tell me practically what does that look like, and, how do I discern what to do when some day in the future I’m presented with situations I don’t know how to deal with?”
He’s a smart teenager!
I have lots of friends who are sending off their first or last child this month. It’s a major milestone, a passage full of potential and even fears. For parents and grandparents it’s good to be in a place where all we can do is pray. We ache to do more, far more than just pray. But God is with these kids and our Samuel. He loves them more than we do, delights to redeem and His specialty is working all things together for good.