Hello GRC –
The first time the tears came, we had just started the worship service. It was about 2 months ago, and our family of five happened to all be sitting together. No one was running slides or volunteering in the nursery that morning. It occurred to me that soon, there would only be four. And the thought of real change to something so foundational to the Wang family – worshipping together – was enough to push me over the edge.
Many of you have asked how it’s been to drop off our firstborn at college. Move-in day was relatively easy for me. Yes, tears were shed when it was time to hit the road, but the tougher time happened two days before. (Note: about a week ago I saw a link to a Gospel Coalition article written by a dad, with the same theme. I had this Voice of Grace article in mind, so I didn’t read it, lest it affect my raw processing of this family event).
It was the last day of my study leave, and I was home trying to finish reading a couple of books. But my mind was really on looking for an opportunity to share my heart with Matt. In between the last haircut, another run to Target, and saying goodbye to friends, it was tough to find quality time. But he was home and so was I. “Hey Matt, join me in here on the couch.” I asked whether he was nervous at all, what he was excited about, and what he’d miss. Then the real tears came (now again, as I recollect). It’s been a week, but here’s what I shared in our hour-long conversation:
- I shared with him that our (Cedar’s and my) greatest longing for him is not for academic success to launch him into a lucrative career. Sure, we want him to earn a degree, do well, find a job to pay the bills. But our highest desire is for him to thrive spiritually: to grow in Christ; to stand upon the foundation of the Gospel; to resist the impact of a secular university’s values; and to mature into Christ-likeness. “[It’s for those reasons that] I’ll ask you if you’ve found a church, if you’ve connected with a Christian group on campus, not because I’m trying to look over your shoulder.”
- I told my boy (who’s been taller than me since 6th grade): “I am SO proud of you. I am proud of the man God has made you to be. I want you to know that. (If you could graph the tear flow-rate, we’re almost at the peak). Over the years, I’ve been tough on you, too tough at times, and I’m sorry for that. But I love you.”
- Why am I crying again now, wondering if staff are going to notice and organize an intervention? In the moment I was (and still am) very much thinking of my failures as a parent. Have you ever thought, as I have often, “I wish I could have a do-over!” By the time I’ve figured some things out, especially about my sinful heart, it feels too late to undo the impact of my sin upon my children. And that has grieved me in this season of family-transition. And I told him:
- “One of the reasons I’m so emotional is because sending you off as an adult makes me think about the ways I’ve failed as a parent. I didn’t shepherd you as well as I should have. I missed opportunities to point you to Jesus. Too often, I let other people process life with you, through a biblical worldview. By God’s grace, I think our relationship – and yours with mom – has become even healthier, and I’m hopeful that you’ll continue to share life with us, come to us with concerns, let us support you and pray for you and counsel you.” Much more was shared, but that’s enough of a snapshot.
So, how am I doing?
- I pray for my children more than ever. It’s been a lesson that they (and Cedar, GRC, and everything) belong to the Lord. The unknown could easily cause anxiety: Did he make it home? Is he drinking, or wasting time, or absorbing false beliefs? All I can do is pray and rest in the Lord.
- I’ve discharged much of my parental responsibility in raising Matt. Despite my failings, I’m able to sleep at night because I worship a God who makes whole the broken, and can even raise the dead. God’s Grace is what Matt has always needed, not perfect parenting. My sin is real, but there’s a solution for that: repentance, then claiming forgiveness through faith in the Savior, Jesus. It is finished (sin, not my fatherly presence and influence).
- I’m excited for my son! He’s ready for the next chapter of life. He’s mature, he’s got a good head on his shoulders. And he’ll blaze a fresh trail that, we pray, will glorify his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
- When I’m feeling totally lazy and selfish, my prayer is that I won’t miss as many moments to love and serve my two younger kids; that I won’t prefer the TV or an article to a rich conversation which sometimes happens during yet another drive to a game/party/rehearsal.
- If I have anything to share with fellow parents, it’s divine wisdom discovered in my folly; it’s God’s strength unearthed in the midst of my weakness. Talk to me/Cedar, and if you benefit, God will receive all the glory.
Grace be with you,
Peter Wang is our Senior Pastor.