My eyes brimmed with tears as the elders of my church laid their hands on my daughter in a sending ceremony before she left for Russia. What I dreaded most happened. As the minister’s wife, I didn’t want to cry in front of my husband’s congregation, yet as her mother, my full heart overflowed, leaking between my eyelids.
Yes, I was anxious about her leaving. Recent terrorist attacks in Moscow pushed my faith in God against a wall, interrogating me for days with one question—did I believe in God’s ability to keep her safe or didn’t I? I would miss her terribly. We are a close family, in contact with each other most every day. Yet, as I explained to her in whispered assurances before the commissioning, my potential tears didn’t mean I didn’t want her to leave. It was the expression of every mother, agonizing over the necessity of letting our children go.
She had wanted to be a missionary ever since the age of ten. For years, she had persistantly talked about the desire to travel overseas. As loving supportive parents, we wisely kept our concerns to ourselves of how this shy, thoughtful child could ever manage leaving home. Time and again she surprised us, going on a short term mission trip to inner city St. Louis, showing no fear in bungee jumping at the Cleveland science museum, and adapting with a quiet finesse to the huge Ohio State University campus. She showed an affinity for language by completing four years of Spanish and four years of French in her high school studies. Wanting a challenge, she decided to minor in Russian. When I first went on a mission trip to serve Eastern European church workers, her eyes glowed with interest, absorbing every detail of my trip.
I was deeply moved at the scene before me. It was as if I stood on holy ground before the Lord. My tears were of joy, of humble thanksgiving for what God had done with her life, with my older daughter’s life as well. Graduating with honors, she had moved only the week previously to another city to prepare to enter optometry school, a dream she also had long cherished. The moment had come for which my husband and I had labored for over twenty years. Like a mama eagle, we had nurtured them, taught them the art of flying, stirred the nest and pushed them out. Now we stood as if on a craggy cliff, watching our offspring soar to new heights. I knew in my heart that this summer was only a stepping stone to even greater possibilities that God had in store for them.
In children's ministry we’re in the business of teaching children to fly. We encourage them to look inside the deep recesses of their beings to discover their dreams, to put their small hands in the hand of the Dream-maker, then to have the faith to step away from the nest and fly. With equal faith, we let them go, knowing that if we cling too tightly to their hands, they won’t be as free to catch the hand of God.
In learning to let my children go, I soar to new heights as well. I discover that I am more of a worrier than I thought, and that I am less in control than I hoped. The words of Philippians 4:6,7, “Do not be anxious about anything but by prayer and supplication, let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” seem fresh and meaningful, as if the apostle Paul was looking over the shoulder of every fretful parent.
I hope I wear bare spots in my carpet this summer. I also hope I experience inside the classroom of my prayer closet a deeper appreciation for God’s brand of peace. Like my children, I hope to soar to new heights in my relationship with my God and in my ability to trust Him with every detail of my life. Perhaps then, I will be even better equipped to teach other children how to fly.