It’s been an exhausting week or so since my eldest son started going to a “big” school (big meaning a class of almost 40 students, multiplied by 13 sections–a big leap from his former preschool class of 14, although the 83-hectare property might also contribute). Gone are the days of allotting just 30 minutes for the trip to and from school. Now it’s all about an hour for travel plus parking time, another 30 minutes waiting in line to get to his classroom and walking back to the car, and surprisingly, as I discovered today, another 45 minutes just to drive out of campus.
All for the love of our children.
I tried my best to get past the arduous traffic, the draining heat and the unpredictably scattered rain showers to be able to reflect on the significance of the occasion. As I let go of his hand and watched him enter the gate, I said to myself, “This is it!”–the moment I trust and entrust my son to a single school system for the next 12 or so years of his life, not just for his education, but for the formation of Christian and Filipino values, for the environment in which he will find and form his circle of friends, where he will grow and mature into the intelligent, upright, holy man God created him to be. With teachers I don’t know, kids I don’t know, whose parents I don’t know.
On second thought, son, get back in the car.
A lot of parents describe the moment of seeing their child’s face for the very first time as a roller coaster ride of emotions–that is, they fly from one feeling to another all within the span of 2-3 minutes. At first they’re overwhelmed with joy and love for this tiny miracle they played a part in creating. Then, fear grips their hearts–will I be a good father/mother? (then again, maybe the mother goes through these feelings some time later; all we’re thinking of after labor is ‘thank God it’s over!’). After listing all the “will I’s” and “could I’s” they can think of, they are left with a strong resolve to be all that they can be for their little treasure (cue music: “Nothing’s gonna harm you, no sir, not while I’m around…”).
But “letting go moments” such as big school entry sting because we are forced to face the reality that ultimately, we don’t have the kind of power to keep them from harm 24/7. We can choose the best school, we can employ various measures for their safety (physically, emotionally, virtually and whatever other realm exists nowadays), we can hold them by the hand for as long as they’ll let us (and maybe even for a few more years after that), but a time will come when they will have to face something on their own. And without us there to shield them, we can only hope that the little we’ve taught them, the things we’ve shown them by example, is enough to guide them on what to do and how to react.
About a month ago, our Bible reflection group went through the passage about Abraham sacrificing Isaac. We were all parents there, so the discussion was bound to get emotional. None of us could imagine ourselves doing what Abraham did, obeying (as he always has) to the point of letting go of his long-awaited son. It is a passage that any reader will find difficult to understand (Why would God ever do such a thing?!), and I think we have to consider that Abraham himself did not, could not understand why this had to be done (which is probably why there was no mention of Abraham telling Sarah about where he was taking Isaac that day; he probably wouldn’t have made it to Moriah had she been privy to his plans).
I will not try to decipher God’s purpose for asking that of Abraham, as I won’t exhaust myself trying to explain why this parent tragically lost their child. His thoughts are above my thoughts, I get that. So I instead turned my focus on Abraham–how did he do it? Why did he do it?
By not confusing the means with the end.
Having a child changes you–you wouldn’t be human if it didn’t. It changes the way you plan your day (duh, it changes the way you plan your life), it overhauls your priorities, it pretty much eats up all your time and attention (and energy, especially those with toddlers). But, overwhelming as being a parent is, we must not let it keep us from seeing the complete picture–that our children do not belong to us. They belong to God.
And we have to trust that God has a bigger plan in store. For us and for our children.
So, can I ever be like Abraham–obedient unto death (of his son)? I don’t know. But I will trust and love and serve Him who gave me these 3 beautiful souls to take care of. I will do everything in my power so that they may grow to trust and love and serve Him as well.
And should the time come that they will have to leave me to do that, well…we will still all belong to Christ.
See? BIG PICTURE.