The week school started my Facebook feed was flooded with new beginnings…first day of kindergarten, first day of second grade, first day of senior year, first day of 10th grade, and so on. Many proud parents were marking milestones in their family’s lives. On August 16, we experienced our own first, delivering our oldest to college at Ouachita Baptist University. This experience has been, to say the least, bittersweet. We are so proud of Hannah’s academic achievements that have gotten her to this place, and netted scholarships to help with private school tuition! [Side note parents of young kids: put as much as you can into a college savings account now. It won’t be enough.] More importantly, we are proud of the godly young woman she has become. And while she did not choose my alma mater, I could not be happier with her choice to attend a small private Christian college. I can root for Tigers and Red Wolves. Each time we visit the campus, talk to a faculty member or an administrator, or receive an email, our initial positive reaction to her choice is only confirmed. Where else would the formal introduction ceremony end with a prayer for each and every incoming freshman? The invitation to the ceremony was entitled “New Beginnings.” To mom and dad, it felt like the end of an era.
After hours of carrying an inordinate amount of provisions into the small third floor dorm room, putting together IKEA furniture, attaching custom-made headboards, two trips to Wal-Mart, and otherwise making this small space home for our oldest child and only daughter, we said a tearful goodbye. On the drive home all I could think about was whether we had prepared her for this big new beginning. After all, she reminded me the day before that I had not taught her to change a flat tire. I told her to read the owner’s manual, and that if she did have a flat she would be somewhere between 1 and 59 minutes from home and I would gladly come change it for her. But, did we prepare her? We saw to it that she got a good education, that she learned to study and give maximum effort. After 16 hours of advanced placement classes in high school, I have no doubt she is ready for the academic rigors of college. But, did we prepare her for this new beginning? We bought her more stuff than her dorm room could hold. I checked the oil in her car and grandpa bought new tires, but did we prepare her for her big new beginning?
Did we prepare her for what really matters? I think we did. Though far from perfect, (or always consistent) we prayed with her and for her often. We made sure that she understood that she had to get the first new beginning right before anything else matters. That is, she had to know and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as her personal savior and guide. Thankfully, she did that at an early age and has matured to a young woman who owns her faith. We involved her in the life of Immanuel Baptist Church from birth to 18, and let her watch our active participation in building His kingdom. We taught her to consider others before herself. She has been on numerous mission trips in the United States and on three international mission trips. For fear of being accused of bragging, I will not list all the other ways in which she has demonstrated a level of spiritual maturity that humbles me in my own walk.
Mom and dad will be fine…eventually. (Did I mention Mom has been to Arkadelphia two more times in the five days since we moved her in?) Hannah will excel and thrive in an environment that seems to be made for her personality and her heart. As we rest in the knowledge that she is prepared for this new beginning, we reflect on the only new beginning that carries with it eternal significance.Matthew 6:33 says get your relationship right with Jesus and the rest will take care of itself. Both the Old and New Testaments tell us to disciple our children. (Deuteronomy 6:7, Deuteronomy 4:9 & Ephesians 6:4) If we are faithful, they will be prepared for whatever new beginning follows. (Proverbs 22:6)