Today I am going to take my baby to camp. For four days and three nights. It seems like such a long time. Isn’t that how long the Israelites wandered in the desert?
I think I’m going to feel a bit lost without him here. He’s such a part of our day. The constant ideas, arguing, laughter, banter, questions, romping, energy….wholly exhaust and energize me. He is life and beauty and he represents to me the unexplored wilderness of parenting. We are trailblazing together, being that he is our first born. He was first to walk, first to pee on me, first to speak, ask about where heaven is, start school, and get his feelings hurt by a friend. He was the first on whose behalf we had to endure the gut-wrenching anxiety of the parent-teacher conference, only to find out his teachers love him and understand him almost as much as we do. And now, he will be the first to stay away for an extended amount of time….
Last night as he was packing and reviewing his checklist, again, I began to remember back to my camp days. I remember that it was there that I had an encounter with God when I was an adolescent that I count as a distinct marker in my faith journey. I started to get excited about what God might have in store for Nolan while he is away. I’m starting to expect something on his behalf. He is anticipating the fun he will have, but my heart is stirred in anticipation of what God may do while he’s there!
I just have to let him go….
As I said, I spent time at church camp when I was a child. Those were wonderful experiences for me. I was an anxious child and I needed the opportunity to grow in that area. My mom and my aunt used to trade kids back and forth in the summers. We lived in Indiana and my cousins lived in North Carolina, so swapping kids must have been quite a chore. When I was 2, my mom put me on an airplane with her sister and let me spend 2 weeks with my grandparents.
I spent time away from my mom.
I remember one time when I was probably 5 or 6 laying on my grandmother’s couch, head in her lap, and she was twirling my hair in her fingers. I was homesick. I told her ‘I miss my mommy.’ She replied to me so tenderly,
‘but I’m your mommy’s mommy.’
What a comfort.
Nolan has already given me some advice about how to not be childsick the next few days. ‘Mom, if you miss me you can just look at this picture of me..or that one…or you can just think about me.’
My mom was so good at allowing us to spread our wings. She encouraged us to venture out. Even when she couldn’t be with us, and maybe especially when she couldn’t be with us, she allowed us space to stretch out our wings. To take trial lift offs. To glide briefly through the air and land safely and gently back to her loving arms.
She expected on God for great things for us as well. When we were yet wayward, in our late teen/early twenties, she began to pray over our family the prayer of Jabez.
‘Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.’ I Chronicles 4:10
Now, when my mother prayed this prayer, it was not to be given more land or financial relief. It was a much deeper request than that. She prayed that God would extend the territory of ministry for our family. As a mother, she wanted only for God to be glorified through our lives.
It was within a matter of a few years that we all surrendered our hearts fully back to God. The summer that Jonathan was teaching in Australia, Jeremy was preaching in Africa, and I was living in Indiana (and she in North Carolina) she wondered if she should have prayed that prayer at all! Talk about enlarging the territory! And although my brothers are still further away geographically, we’ve never been closer than now, as we embrace our holy heritage.
Parenting is about releasing. It’s about allowing space to test what he’s been taught. To trust the One who entrusted him to you in the first place. I don’t know where you are in your parenting. Maybe you’ve released him to school. Or her to childcare. Or him to the agony of middle school. Or her to college. Or maybe you’ve had to endure the unparalleled grief of releasing your child to the arms of our Heavenly Father long before his time…
Nolan’s camp is only 30 minutes away. I count the camp director a personal friend. I have her cell number stored in my phone. I’ll try not to call. I’ll try not to happen by the camp on the ‘way’ to the grocery store. I’ll try to believe that he’ll remember sunscreen and brushing his teeth and changing his underwear. I’ll try to just pray when I have the inkling to check on him.
I’ll try to give him space to fly.
Because only if I allow him the space to fly, will he ever be able to soar. My greatest hope for my children is that they come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and they trust Him daily as their guide, and glorify Him with their lives….
Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:30-31
Here goes nothin’.