I suppose this post will be full of clichés, but I don’t think I can help myself. I’ll explain.
This morning, my wife and I said goodbye to Megan, our youngest, who is headed, of all places, to Hawaii to start a new job. I mean, I don’t get it. Hawaii (Kauai Island), what do they have that Michigan doesn’t have?! Though Megan has told me, on the “Big Island” they even have some snow-peaked mountains! We are grateful, excited, and prayerful for her. Those of you who have watched your “nest” empty over time, you know the emotions my wife and I are feeling as our last “bird” has flown away – via United Airlines if I recall correctly! So, bear with me as I clobber you with my clichés and more than a bit of unfocused rambling. My hope though, is that what I share will help you to ponder a bit today, of the beauty, fragility, and pain of life, all of which are part of what it means to love and be loved. Megan, while this post is for you, I can already see it will include some wistful thinking on my part, reflecting on where did all the time go, and, how I wish I would have better consistently invested it. Well, here goes!
– Show and Tell your loved ones they are loved. When I was in kindergarten, one of my favorite things was the “show and tell time”. This was when you brought something from home that you loved, and you shared it with your class and told your class why you loved this thing so much. I can honestly say, despite my many failings (real or imagined!) as a Dad, I did my best to love you kids. Still, I wish I had some more time to show and tell you, of how much we love you. Of course, Lord-willing, we will have more times together to do just that! Megan, you are loved. You are worthy of love. If someone is not loving you, that’s on them. There’s nothing wrong with you. Well, that’s not quite true! There’s something “wrong” with all of us. We all have a tendency, because of what the Bible calls our “flesh” (our tendency to live life independently of God), to focus too much on ourselves and not other people. So, while all of us may have “wrong” things, fallen things, broken things about us, we are still incredibly loved, most of all by God. Let me remind you to stop trying to earn or deserve His love and simply accept it. This will give you tremendous emotional freedom and energy. When you kids were babies, the only thing you “did” for your parents was cry, poop, make messes, and yes, gave us all your cuteness. The point is, you didn’t do anything to “earn” our love. We loved you the moment you were born, even before you were born. If we can love you like this, how much more does God! We simply let Him love us. This takes trust. TRUST that He loves you, despite whatever flaws you might have. TRUST that His love for you is so much better than any love that was imperfectly modelled by your parents. Your Mom, though, was so much better and consistent at loving you than I was. Still, as good as a Mom or Dad’s love might be, it pales in comparison to the love God has for you. So, learn to love along the way. Show and tell your love. Doing so will require that you open your heart to the love of God, and, you will be changed as you do so.
– Don’t live too much in the past. It robs you of the ability, energy, and focus you need to love well in the present. FORGIVENESS is key in this area. First, you need to forgive yourself. You cannot change the past. Learn to be kind to yourself. Don’t be too hard on yourself. And second, you hope and pray (though you have no control over this) that those around you are learning to forgive you as well. If you have sought to make amends to those you have hurt or disappointed, for real or imagined shortcomings and pain you may have caused, that’s all you can do. Hopefully, those around you are also experiencing the joy of not dwelling on the past, so they too, can love you well in the present. Often, the lack of our willingness to forgive is a reflection of the wounds we have received in our relationships. That’s part of life, of love. One of my favorite writers, C.S. Lewis said it this way:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. IF you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change it will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. the alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell.” – Lewis: The Four Loves.
Megan, both loving and the willingness to receive love, can help you to not dwell so much in the past, to not worry so much about the future, and to empower you to live for today, as you forgive both yourself and those around you.
– Find solace in prayer. We all, I believe, live under the illusion that we can control things. We say we don’t do this, but I believe our need to “control” the circumstances of life are often a human-being response of trying to alleviate the pain and the fears that so often assail us. Life is a complex and often bewildering mixture of both joy and sorrow, of laughter and loss, of hardships and happiness. We, of course, like the “good” parts and do our best to keep the tough times away. We tell ourselves to eat right, get enough sleep, exercise, be kind to others, nurture your spirituality and commitment (if you’re a follower of Jesus) to the church, and read your Bible. I could go on. These are all good things to do, right? And, I suppose we “should” pursue these things, but being “good at the shoulds” in no way will protect us. Proficiency and even enjoyment of all these things, in no way protects us from the losses of life. So, I’m talking here about prayer. What’s prayer got to do with our need to control? While there are many aspects to what we call prayer, for my purposes here, I’d like to suggest prayer is our “declaration of dependence” upon God. We need Him, not just to make life “work” the way we think it should (!), but most of all to enjoy Him, to rest in Him, to remember HE IS IN CONTROL of our lives. Our TRUST then, is needed in order to pray well. Prayer, too, is not just talking to Him, but involves perhaps, listening to Him even more. After all, we have one mouth and two ears. Maybe that’s a hint from God about how prayer should work! And, if we are learning to trust Him in our lives, then prayer becomes, among many other things, our way of saying to Him, “You are God. I am not”. Megan, as you were growing up, I wish I would have prayed more. Prayed better. What I mean by that, is perhaps if I did, I would have been a bit more relaxed and not so concerned about controlling who and what you were becoming as a young lady. By praying, I would have been trusting you to God. For the record, I am so pleased with how you have turned out! And, I think that prayer had a lot to do with it! You had and still have, many people praying for you.
– Take time to smell the flowers. Wow. THAT is cliché, but yet so needed. For you Megan, it would be, take time to smell the Hawaiian “leis” or whatever other flowers they have in Hawaii. The Shorter Catechism (a Q.& A. teaching tool) of the Westminster Assembly asks, “What is the chief end of man?’ The Answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” I think as I get a bit older (aka “chronologically gifted”!), I am learning to smell more flowers. I don’t take myself as seriously as I once did. And, I don’t care so much about what others think about me either. Megan, one of my favorite Scriptures has always been John 10:10. Jesus says there,
“The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full.”
Just think of it. Fullness of life! A full life, a lively life, most of all, is one th`at is glorifying and enjoying God. THIS is what you were made for. God has given each of us so many gifts. Good food. A beautiful creation, sights, smells, friends, music, artistic expression, and, His Image in each of us. We are to love ourselves. Love those around us, and, by doing so, not allow our enemy to steal, kill, and destroy us by neglecting our enjoyment of God. Let Him love you. We love you Megan and we had the incredible joy and privilege of shaping you for 23 years. You are in God’s hands now. You always have been, but now, as you are so far away, we are released once again, to remember this and to practice this letting go, even more. We are blessed. My heart is full. God is with you my dear daughter. May you know this always.