My baby daughter is leaving home. She is going to live in the suburbs of a university town, about seven and a half hours away, including a two-hour ferry ride. This is the day I have both dreamed of and dreaded, and I can’t even imagine how emotional she and I will be when we part at the front door of her new, temporary home. But the Lord is with us in this journey, and I want to mark each place where I see his presence.
The Journey to College Begins
The first leg will take four and a half hours and will end at a friend’s house half an hour from the ferry. Then, we have two hours to chill out and watch out for whales. Then, it’s just 30 minutes to her new home. What an adventure!
We’re driving my Volkswagen Golf, the size of which has determined the volume of stuff she can bring with her.
Part of the process for her has been downsizing; deciding which books she wants to keep at home for her return, or when I come to visit; getting rid of clothes she never wears; cleaning up garbage; determining the items of sentimental value she cannot be parted with.
This is all an important part of adulting and developing one’s faith: figuring out what your treasures are. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
My girl’s absence will create a gap but moving on is good. She should explore her options, go to university, and follow the direction God has sent her in. I must not cling to my child as though she is an idol. Christ is the center of her life and of mine.
Talking with a Teenager on the Verge of Adulthood
Along the way, we will talk about everything: faith; friends she has lost; and new friends she might want to make. Mostly, her hope is to befriend her landlady’s dog. My daughter loves pups. She has had a hard time with people letting her down — I don’t blame her for being wary of people.
She was bullied for most of the 13 years she spent at school. Her best friend for seven years simply “dumped” her. Leaving town actually makes a lot of sense and gives her the opportunity to start fresh.
Maybe a bit of distance, being around individuals who naturally share her passion for art, and who have no preconceived ideas, will encourage this fine young woman to consider forming friendships again. “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). She will need people, and she also has much to offer.
I really pray, Lord, that you bring people into my daughter’s life. Bring people whom she can trust. Bring her opportunities for truthful, real fellowship, which glorifies you and helps her to grow. Foster relationships, Father, where my girl can also demonstrate the depth of empathy and emotional maturity, which is such a treasure to those who need such a friend.
Communication with a Teenager
What an insightful and tender individual. I love our opportunities to talk deeply, and distance will perhaps deepen our communication even further. We often fall into moody silence at some point during a long journey as I fail to see her point of view or offend her somehow (can any mothers out there relate?) But as she gets older, the moods have softened.
We can disagree safely. I am less concerned about religion and more about her heart. She and I are both being refined. I don’t immediately storm in with Scripture, zealous with an urge to force the gospel into every conversation. She is less defensive and more quickly sees that I’m not trying to hurt her; I’m encouraging her to see a subject from multiple angles. Jesus is in us both, softening our hearts.
Isn’t this exciting! The Lord uses our children to sharpen us. Parenting certainly tests and grows us at the same time it grows our kids. But, in a new way, “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17) because my girl is a maturing Christian disciple who has things to teach me.
I am glad to see that her Bible has not been left behind in the big pack-and-purge, but numerous stuffed animals have. Did I mention that my daughter is a 5’8” 18-year-old who towers over me? Yes, she loves stuffies, although I don’t blame her. They have been her comfort, and I might accumulate one or two stuffies myself in her absence. After all, she is the daughter who cuddles. My other daughter rarely even gives hugs.
The Fall of Changes
I also did not mention that I move the day before my daughter moves. One of the hardest seasons of life is coming, where I will live alone. But the Lord has been gracious in easing me into this season. I cannot rely on my daughters to stay with me forever. They are not my saviors. I have one Savior, only he can fulfill that role.
When the cold weather comes and I snuggle up in my blankets watching The Chosen on my computer, my cuddly girl will not be there to share gummies with me. Not that she ever watched The Chosen (British Comedy is more her style), but still.
I’m going to fantasize, like a Jew on the other side of the Red Sea, about how much better Egypt was. It wasn’t. I always did a lot of things without my kids.
God has provided me with good friends. I can see more clearly than ever the importance of not giving all of myself to a mere person. A sinner. Someone who will die, or go to university, or become engrossed with work or another relationship, or whatever. There are countless possible scenarios. I’m a single woman, so I know that people let you down. I’m also a flawed person. I have let people down.
But Christ “will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8). And when a huge truth like this impacts your life and frees you, it’s possible to peek up out of the doldrums of a cold, grey autumn day and say, “I have assurance of God’s presence and love for my daughters’ sakes, not only my own. I don’t have to fear for them.”
Assurance of Closeness
I can also be sure that since the Lord works in my girls’ hearts without requiring my help he will be pleased to make this fact real to them in his own time for their own good and his glory. I learned that lesson recently — that God is enough.
This autumn, no matter how strong my faith is (or how weak), nothing will change the truth. He is close and personal for all three of us. This truth is going to comfort me for my girls’ sakes as my baby girl starts to feel homesick, as the two sisters miss each other, and as every challenge causes them to wonder if they have what it takes to get through.
Unlike a lot of moms out there, I hope that my girls always come to this conclusion: they are not enough, but Christ is. We are not enough for each other, or for ourselves. Christ alone is our sufficiency, he is real, he is powerful, and he is with us. “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
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Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.
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