It is always the 3rd weekend in May. And it is always Northern Indiana.
The first one was the 3rd weekend of May, 2012, and we were attending my niece's graduation from Taylor University in Northern Indiana. My son, Logan, had just completed a very hard year at a state school in Illinois. He hated everything about that school year. I could make a list of all that he hated but it is easier to say he hated everything. As I watched my niece walk into her graduation I was overwhelmed at the stark difference I witnessed. Her professors hugged her and congratulated her and smiled and called her by name. They knew her. She had not become lost in union contracts and wages, and I was certain that they knew her name was Rachel and cared about her. She had not just been a number at this school; she had been a person whom they invested in for the last 4 years. This was the first time I realized that a college experience could be something other than what we had gone through in the last 9 months.
The second one was the 3rd weekend of May, 2013. I found myself driving to Northern Indiana to pick Logan up after completing his junior year of college at Huntington University. What a difference one year makes! He'd had a great year and had found a real friend in his roommate, Alec. The professors at Huntington had invested in Logan; they had invited him to their home and invited him into their lives. They had taught him in the classroom and discipled him in life. Logan had taken a mission trip to Haiti during Spring Break that left him changed. And he began asking me to pray about a girl he really liked and hoped to date. I actually came home that evening with only Logan's stuff because Logan was staying an extra night. One of the university staff members was taking some of the students on an end-of-the-year float trip. Even as I recall these things 2 years later, I finally myself amazed at what a difference one year makes.
The third one was last year and it was indeed the 3rd weekend of May. My daughter, Maddie, and I had driven to Northern Indiana to pick Logan up from another great year at Huntington. This trip was a little different though because we went up earlier that day so we could attend the Nurse Pinning Ceremony for Logan's girlfriend, Essie. They had started dated in October and we had already grown to love her. She was graduating that weekend from Huntington with a 4 year degree in Nursing. Maddie and I were able to meet Essie's parents for the first time and became instant friends. Before we left that day, Essie's Mom and I giggled privately about our hopes of where this relationship might lead. Oh what a difference one year makes.
And the fourth May in Northern Indiana is this weekend. It is again the 3rd weekend of the month and again Maddie and I made the drive up Highway 69. Logan no longer lives there; he has been in California since last August. This time our trip was for the purpose of attending Essie's bridal shower! We enjoyed meeting more of her family and friends and celebrating the beautiful union that God has orchestrated. In just 3 weeks Logan and Essie will be married in Northern Indiana. I am once again filled with sweet amazement at what a difference one year makes.
And really I am just filled with sweet amazement at what a difference God can make in time and in life and in plans. He is simply perfect.
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Many of us have known the feeling of sending our children to their first day of kindergarten. We have a groundswell of emotions that all take place in a short span of time. We feel anxiety – will the teacher be attentive to her runny nose? Fear – will the other children be kind or will there be a bully to push him around at recess? Apprehension – will she actually stay in her seat if I leave the room? Is she going to come running out of the room, crying after me, begging me to stay? And grief as our hearts are broken, knowing that time has passed, the toddler days are over and life will never be the same.
And so, with our stomach churning, tears brimming our eyes, and a lump in our throat, we send our sweet little children off into the world. Our emotions come because we know what waits for them. We know the teacher won’t be as attentive as we are to the runny nose, and we know that no one will be as loving and kind as we are, and we know there will be bullies on the playground, and we know that our baby is growing up and no longer needs us like he once did.
For many of us, sending our child to kindergarten is the first time we grieve for our children, but it certainly is not the last. We grieve when they graduate elementary school and head into the awkward stage of junior high. We grieve when they move the tassel from one side to the other on Graduation Day. We grieve as we drive away from their dorm, leaving our baby behind for the world to have its way with her. We grieve as we watch our children walk down the aisle, ready to begin their new married life.
We grieve because we lose something at each rite of passage that our children experience. We lose their dependence on us as they gain their independence. We lose their presence in our home as they gain a new life with a home of their own. We grieve for innocence lost. We grieve because change comes. We want them to stay little, cuddle them in our laps, and rock them to sleep each night.
Think about all of those emotions for a second. Think of how your heart aches, literally, as you release your children to the world. Think about how fresh the wound is at each stage of letting go.
Now imagine the grief that heaven might have known when the Father released Jesus to the earth. The saints and angels had enjoyed the company of Jesus. They knew what it was to be in His glorious presence. And worst of all, heaven knew what it was that Jesus was being released to.
Heaven knew that Jesus was coming here for one sole purpose. He left the beautiful sites of heaven just to die the ugliest death. He didn’t come here for an education, or a good job, or a social life, or to get married and have a family. He came here to die.
Heaven must have grieved painfully on that night that Jesus entered this world in a humble animal trough. He left heaven as royalty and arrived on earth in near poverty. The Father’s heart must surely have been breaking.
But despite the pain that it caused the Father, He still sent Jesus to us. He released his only child to us, to this earth. And the reason why is quite simple. He loves us. He loves me. He loves you. God loves us so deeply, with such intensity, that He sent His only son here to die so each one of us could one day enjoy the beauty of heaven for all eternity. The pain that God felt as a Father releasing Jesus to the world was immeasurably magnified compared to what we feel as we release our own children to the very same world.
As you enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of Christmas over the next 24 hours, please remember that the night Jesus was born wasn’t exactly joyous for everyone. Heaven likely grieved its loss as the earth received its Savior. We have cause to celebrate, but our celebration comes at a great price. Take time to thank your heavenly Father for releasing Jesus to the world as the most precious gift we will ever know.