FRIENDS OF MINE hosted a high school graduation party at their home last weekend for their only child, a daughter.
Sweet, intelligent, sensitive soul.
I’ve watched her grow up over the past several years. I’ve watched her parents, too. They’re in my Bible study group. This is one tight-knit trio, not counting their dogs.
I was talking with the mom on Sunday about the day they drop their daughter off at college this summer.
“You know you’re gonna cry, right?”
“She’s not going to be too far away.”
Two hours west.
“You know you’re gonna cry, right?”
“Yes, a lot.”
When my first child graduated from high school, my wife built her a scrapbook of memories.
Pictures, mostly. And letters. From family, friends, and teachers.
Some years during graduation season when friends of mine are getting ready to send a child off to college, I reread the letter I wrote my daughter.
It reminds me of feelings I don’t want to forget.
Wasn’t it only a minute ago that your mom and I drove you to kindergarten, while you bubbled with excitement in the back seat and Mom cried in the front seat? Seems like it.
Your mother and I would like to thank you for something, Rebecca. We’d like to thank you for the music and the joy you brought into our lives. Since you were a little girl, you’ve been singing, dancing, and playing the piano for us. Many times I’ve stood behind a nearby doorway or on the stairs, secretly listening to you sing—the way Nanny used to do with me back when I wrote songs and played the guitar.
You’ve been a good daughter to us. I hope you feel that we’ve been good parents to you. I confess, I’ve been wondering lately if we’ve taught you enough—about life, about love, about God. There are things we’ve missed, I fear. Like teaching you to change a car tire. Do you still remember how? Maybe you’ll have time for a refresher course this summer.
More importantly, though, I hope you’ve learned from us to trust in God and to accept his forgiveness when you make mistakes. I know you’ve seen us make mistakes. And I hope you’ve figured out that the reason we still claim our faith isn’t because we’re hypocrites who only pretend to follow Jesus. It’s because he forgives us when he knows we’re doing the best we can to follow his example. So our Christian faith isn’t based on the fact that we’re good. It’s based on the fact that he’s good. When that lesson sinks in, it protects you from a lot of needless pressure and destructive guilt.
There’s one piece of advice your mom and I have for you. If you learn only one thing from us, learn this: love God, and treat other people the way you want them to treat you. I know it’s a cliché. But the older I get, the more I understand how important this Golden Rule really is. So build your life on love—love of God and love of others. And stay close to those who love you most and who need you to love them without conditions. Your family. Your friends.
And Sweetie, don’t ever lose track of your brother Bradley. He has been a part of your daily life for as long as you can remember. But that precious time is almost over now. When Mom and I are off the planet, you two need to be there for each other. So keep nourishing your relationship by talking often and spending time together. Honor your mother and me by loving each other—no matter what.
As you go off to college, you’ll have to make a lot of important decisions that will affect you for the rest of your life. You’ll face unwholesome pressures and desires. You’ll be tempted by sex, money, and pride. Bec, you’ll make some mistakes. Maybe some big ones. But through it all, God will love you. And your mom and I will love you. And Brad will love you. It’s not only in the family job description, it’s programmed by God into our very spirit. Love comes naturally.
Try not to do anything dumb. But if you do, you can come home.
Wherever Mom and I live, this is your home whenever you want it or need it. You know how comfortable I feel at Nanny’s home, where I grew up. It’s almost as though it’s still my home. I want you to feel that way about our home here—or wherever we find ourselves in the years ahead.
Rebecca, we’re so glad God loaned you to us for these almost 18 years—it seems like 18 seconds. God in Heaven, it has gone too fast.
When Mom and I dedicated you, we symbolically placed you in God’s hands, though you were still in our care. Now we face the real thing. Today, we again place you in God’s hands, because too soon you will be out of our reach.
You are a kind soul, a hard-worker, a quick study, and a child of God. We are so proud of you. What a bright future you have, Rebecca.
Go now, and shine.
Dad and Mom
“I will never leave you. I will never forsake you.”
—God (Hebrews 13:5)