Our daughter Alyssa graduated from High School yesterday (one down, three to go). It was a wonderfully meaningful day for me as we recognized our graduates during Sunday morning worship. At 2:00 p.m. we attended graduation where I had the high honor of giving the commencement address. Following graduation was a party at our home, in open house fashion, where we were blessed with the presence of many people, both family members and friends.
These last few weeks have been a time of deep reflection for me as Carol and I prepare to send our daughter off to college some eight hours away (driving time) in North Carolina. Please permit me to share some of my thoughts with you.
1. Don't fret about time passing so quickly. It does go fast and it will not slow down by worrying over it. The seemingly quick passage of time is a sure sign that life is being enjoyed. "Time flies when you're having fun," is the old saying. How true it is. It seems like yesterday that Alyssa was toddling around the house, playing with dolls and dressing up. Now she is a beautiful young woman getting ready for higher education. The fact that the time has slipped away so quickly is a reminder to me of what a joy it has been to be her dad.
2. Make it a daily habit of saying to your children, "I love you." Saying it should be routine because loving our children should be part of the daily routine. Some things perhaps can be said too often, but not those three words. St. Augustine says that love is what binds the godhead in unity. It should be the bond of unity in the family as well. Saying "I love you" on a daily basis is also a reminder that only in showing love do our words carry any meaning.
3. Enjoy every stage of life. Look back on the past with joy, but do not long to go back. I miss holding Alyssa's tiny hand when she was little as we crossed the street or walked in a parking lot, but I now enjoy walking with her as she puts her hand in my arm while talking about matters of faith and the many important things in life. I miss sitting at Alyssa's little table in her playroom while she served me dinner consisting of shredded tissue in a plastic frying pan, but I now enjoy sitting at the table with her talking about college, politics, and the Bible. I miss watching Alyssa play dress-up, putting on play clothes and pretending that she is going to the "fancy ball," but I now enjoy seeing her dressed up in her gown looking absolutely gorgeous as she leaves for the prom. I miss helping Alyssa with little kid problems like fixing the toy that broke, but I now enjoy assisting her as she thinks through the big problems of life. Look back on the past with joy, enjoy the present moments, and anticipate the future.
4. Always remember that life is a precious gift filled with many additional gifts. In my forty-four years of living, I have been so blessed, I have experienced so much of life, that if it were to end tomorrow, I have no complaints. Not one of us deserves life, not one of us deserves our blessings. Life and its blessings are a reminder that our God is a God of grace and that God gets a "big kick" out of giving us good things. In the midst of life's blessings we must also remember that if we are truly thankful for our blessings, we will use what we have to bless others in return. Such is the way of God.
5. Open life's greatest moments to as many people as possible. I must confess that I have never quite understood why some people want to limit life's great pleasures just to "immediate family." Yesterday, at Alyssa's party we had family, church members (current and from former congregations), teachers and other friends, all who came to share the celebration with us. At times our garage and the tent in front of it were packed with people. The festivities would have been severely diminished without them. Their presence throughout the years has made our joy complete. What we have given to them in the sharing of our lives cannot come close to what they have given to us over the years. There is no one who has been blessed by the presence of others more than I.
6. On the occasions of those special accomplishments, do not forget to tell your children how proud you are of them. They need to hear it and you need to say it. It is quite an emotional thing to reflect on the years when your daughter goes from a little girl asking questions like, "Dad, who made God?" to reading the Bible, praying, sticking Scripture on the mirror in her room and in the rear view mirror of her car in order to remind herself of what she is about as a follower of Jesus.
7. Thank God for allowing you the privilege of being a parent. From the time they were little, Carol and I have told our children that ultimately they do not belong to us, but to God; we have just been given the task of raising them in his ways. We will not be there for them forever, but God will. It is quite a responsibility and a blessing when God loans his children to us.
Alyssa, your mom and I are extremely proud of you. It has been such a joy for us to watch you grow into a fine Christian woman; and do not forget that as you continue life's journey we are there to support you and help you in any way we can. We will always cheer you on in everything you do. More than that, please remember that as you journey throughout the years, Jesus walks beside you. Put your hand in his arm as you travel along the way.