The final conversation
This past May, my wife, Laura, and I graduated our second son, Ben, from high school. In the months leading up to graduation, as the date grew closer, I began to have this overwhelming desire to have one final conversation with Ben before he left for college to make sure we had not forgotten anything important to tell him. Of course, I also knew deep down that is not how it works. Whether we knew it or not, that conversation had taken place over the years, here and there, as we walked with him through happy times and difficult times, wonderful victories and heartbreaking defeats, successes and disappointments. Wherever and however Ben arrived at this moment was not an accident, but a culmination of all the lessons learned over those 18 years… wrapped in God’s grace and fully enveloped in his mercy. Any mistakes were ours alone, and the successes were God’s alone.
If you are reading this and have a graduate or future graduate of your own, you are no doubt filtering what you read here through your own experience. As you do so, keep this in mind: though you certainly will fail your child in some way, God never will. And remember the good news; God has written his own “final conversation” to your child. That conversation is the Bible, complete and without error, telling us the story of redemption through his Son, Jesus.
Instructions from God
In his word, God also gives us some instruction as parents on how to approach these 18 years we have with our children at home. Those instructions are right there in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 as Moses makes his farewell address to God’s people:
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
That scripture reminds me of a quote by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks that reads:
“To defend a land, you need an army, but to defend freedom, you need education. You need parents, families, homes, and schools, and a constant conversation between the generations to see that your ideas are passed on to the next generation and never lost… you achieve immortality not by building pyramids or statues – but by engraving your values on the hearts of your children, and they on theirs, so that our ancestors live on in us, and we in our children, and so on until the end of time.”
In reading those verses from Deuteronomy and the quote from Sacks, we are reminded that teaching our children is not a “sometimes” thing; it is an “all-the-time” thing, indeed a “constant conversation.” Your children will not be perfect, but the goal is not perfection. The goal is to “train them up in the way of the Lord.” So, let’s begin with the end in mind and encourage one another as we do.