It’s only fitting that I should follow my last blog on children with one about the young adults those same children will become one day. After all, they can’t be little forever. I’m not a parent, but I know many Christian parents who have told me how much they pour into their kids from the moment they are born until they are ready to leave the nest.
They watch them grow from innocent toddlers soaking up their parents’ guidance and nurturing to becoming their own person. They grow past imitating their parents (see last blog) to developing their own will and ability to make their own decisions. To say that each development in their lives has its own challenges is probably an understatement. All the while, we hope that they will become godly men and women.
I think it’s a good time to reflect on this, as I see many of my friends and family’s own kids graduate and move on to college or the workplace at this time of the year. I’ve gone to several graduation ceremonies in the last few years, and it seems like they follow the same blueprint: the speakers make this big to-do about how everyone is counting on them to carry the future on their capable shoulders. They tell them to ‘lead the way’, and how they have so much before them…and so forth and so on. Of course, I am being a bit dramatic, but basically it is the same old “go ye forth” commissioning of the troops.
Yet Graduation is hopeful. It is a fresh start, a new day. The young graduate’s inexperience seems to be eclipsed only by their eagerness, and if they know the Lord, that inexperience is not a liability, but just another opportunity to trust God. They stand on the bookmark before the next big chapter of life.
Trouble is, don’t you just want to keep the bookmark there? Don’t you just want to pause and close the book, because if you read any more of those pages, you may find some not so joyful or certain times. Fast forward to the next several years to the job loss, the scary high mortgage, and the mean people they face. Stumble upon the next chapter and you may cringe at the insults to their values and assaults on their faith, or cry as they discover the “real world”, complete with the demanding boss and shattered confidence. Suddenly, the cocoon of their childhood church and encouragement seems to be forgotten. They find a world where their accolades and their hard-earned degree seem irrelevant.
They may question themselves. Worse yet, they may question and doubt God.
Parents: How do you watch someone’s spirit deflate without it breaking your heart?
You don’t want to see anyone grow jaded and cynical, but I realized that I was asking these questions because I have seen that happen in myself. I admit that I am not giving the “Christianize” answer when I say that I don’t have the same sense of hopefulness in life as I did the day I graduated…at least not in an idealized sense.. I don’t want to see their spirit or hopes crushed because I myself have seen those disappointments. To see the contrast between my weather-beaten world and theirs has been an eye opening experience.
Yes, I have lived “reality” and lived to tell about it. Yet, it took 24 years of hindsight and hard knocks – to get me to grasp God’s message to me through this. He did so by planting a few questions in my mind:
1) Is a hopeful outlook somewhat naïve? If it is, does it have to be that way for the Christian?
2) What would happen if we did not lose our confidence…not in ourselves, but in God?
3) Aren’t there things we should be skeptical about anyway?
4) Where is the line between naivity and legitimate hope?
5) What does the Bible say about confidence?
Who would have ever thought the Lord would use such a simple, yet distinct milestone to teach not the newly graduated, but the calloused veteran in her seat? I didn’t, but I’m grateful that He did. I’m also grateful that we don’t have to “read” the narrative of our lives or anyone else’s’ without consulting the only book that really matters anyway — God’s word, the book that holds the answers. I’m going to be studying this as I contemplate the questions. In the meantime, I would love to hear any thoughts and insights from my fellow Christians.