Lord, it is time: we pray for our children. Not only for them in their infancy, when disease or accident alone might harm them; not only for them in childhood, when their dreams begin and school is hard and our own discipline’s the hardest thing they must endure; not only for them in adolescence, when their bodies inflame and engorge and grow clumsy and embarrass them; it is not that time — for still then we parents can do for our children, can physically and financially and wisely help them. No, it is at their entrance into actual adulthood that we pray. Because at adulthood we are (and we must be) done. We must let go. To do more than this is to cripple a kid. But when we let go, what else can we do but pray? — Walter Wangerin, Jr. in Little Lamb, Who Made Thee: A Book About Children and Parents
I find myself reflecting upon our teens. Because we will celebrate the Rite of Confirmation in a few days. Fourteen young men and women will be confirmed into adult membership, with one more to come in the weeks ahead. It is always one of my favorite days of the year, as we challenge a group of 9th grade youth to take their Christianity by the horns and begin to carve out what life and faith will look like for them in the coming years. It is a great age to teach, because there is nothing more energizing than having the opportunity to look at the world through the eyes of a young adult.
Wangerin’s words are obviously geared towards kids that are at the end of their high school years, and not at the beginning. But as I think about confirmation, some of the issues he raises are appropriate at this stage in their faith journey. For this is also a time when parents must turn their kids loose just a bit. As our kids grow up, we typically insist on our kids attending church, and participating in some activity or activities of choice — choir, youth group, acolyting, etc. When confirmation arrives, many parents ease up on their “requirements” and allow their teens a little more leeway in terms of the decisions they make about church involvement. It is a difficult step to take, because many times our kids’ choices aren’t what our choices would be. But Wangerin’s words are as true for parenting in general, as they are for spiritual parenting. Without the opportunity to make their choices and live with the consequences, our kids will never develop the necessary skills to learn from those mistakes and grow beyond them.
So as you pray this week, consider that difficult task of letting go of things in our lives — especially those things which are deeply important to you. Ponder the need at times to allow some things to pass through your fingers, without exerting the control over them you might like to exert. It happens in so many situations — the grieving spouse who cannot seem to let go of the earthly life of their beloved — the laid-off employee, who cannot seem to let go of the anger related to their job loss — the letting go of some physical activities which a change in health no longer allows you to gracefully engage. It is grief that we are facing in all of these situations … grief over the change of circumstances and the loss of our direct oversight of these things. But it is also freedom. The freedom you grant to those things you lose to become something new. The freedom to pursue a new opportunity for yourself.