He packed into a duffle bag, this boy of mine. Simple items: shorts, socks, jeans, a belt. Into ziplock bags went soap, shampoo, sunscreen. He took a separate bag for snacks and a pillow with two pillowcases. And then, in the early morning dark, my husband and I drove him to the church and he climbed into a van full of teens. With the sun barely rising, they drove off.
My son was gone on his first mission trip and I was left in the parking lot, watching the tail lights.
I am surprised sometimes by all the lessons I must learn. Being a parent is no simple task, and the work that is needed changes as we go along. When my son was born, I stood over him and protected him and taught him and nursed him and rocked him and made very sure that no one and nothing would hurt my boy. My job was simply to hold him close and raise him well. I worked hard at this and tried to make my decisions based in knowledge and not in fear.
That was easier then. Though I had no idea.
Now, he is older. His shoulders are broad, his voice is low and he is closer to becoming the man he will be than he is to the child he once was. And I spend a lot of time reminding myself that this work of loving him and raising him is still best done thoughtfully and not fearfully.
Except now there is more to fear. When he was small, we worried about physical safety--broken bones, stitches, scrapes and bruises. Now the things we can fear are more serious than what a doctor can mend.
And yet, I refuse to let those things rule my ability to choose. Fear cannot guide our choosing. That is best done with wisdom and prayer.
So, even though he would spend a week in the inner city, even though there is much in that location to raise worry in my momma-heart, we packed his duffle and sent him off to do what God asked him to do. Because that is what I need to do now.
It is new and it is hard but the truth is that it is time for my son to go out in the world and use what we have taught him so far. It is time for him to grow his faith with other teens who are trying to do the same. It is time for him to step away from home when he can still come back again. And it is time for me to let him. Time for me to watch him go. Time for me to bow my head and continue this dialogue of prayer that has flowed without ceasing for more than 15 years.
And what I am learning now is that when my son goes off on his first mission trip, he is not the only one God will teach. This is an act of faith for him and this is an act of faith for me. And I am reminded again that this sweet boy that I get to share my life with does not, in any way, belong to me. It is a gift to be his momma, but this boy belongs to God. And when I face the reality of releasing him, this becomes abundantly clear. Clinging to him and holding him tight is not what I am called to do.
Seven days later, my boy came home. We unpacked that duffle and washed his clothes. Then we listened. We listened to stories he told and learned of people he met. We watched our boy, beaming with confidence as he unpacked his trip. God had his fingerprints on the whole of it, and we would see none of it if we had chosen from a place of fear.
There are a lot of lessons we all must learn as we seek to parent our kids. Being captivated by the tales my child can tell makes even the hardest lessons worth the work. Choosing carefully is an act of faith that changes both his life, and mine.