As you read this, your children (whether five or 15) are already off to a new school year. Well, so are mine. This year, however, I’m sending one off to college. Her school-age years are finished. I thought it would certainly be easier the second time around, having launched her sister two years ago. But, each is different, and every memory that comes flooding back to me now plays a different note, a different chord on my heartstrings.
Remembering the First Day of School
I remember that first day we tested her for junior kindergarten, watching her come out of the testing room with the precious teacher who would teach her the first words she would learn to read, and how to hide God’s Word in her heart; wearing her little blue and white striped dress and yellow patent leather boots, announcing that someday she would be a cheerleader for the “Dace Toogers” (for all you who never had kids who transposed letters, that’s “Grace Cougars”). Even then, the girl was determined. On her first day of school, I stood outside the two-way glass looking in and cried like a baby, knowing her infancy and toddler days were over, and, projecting toward this “then-distant” day, I wanted to grab her and run away somewhere she’d never have to grow up. But, God stayed my hand, reminding me she was not ours, but His, and lovingly preparing us for this day, even then prying just one of our pinky fingers from her life. He reminded us we were only stewarding her, shepherding her spirit and her heart as an act of worshipping Him.
I suppose everyone who has more than one child has “that kid.” You know, if something is going to happen, it’s going to happen to that one? Well, over the years we learned this was “that kid.” She finally did achieve her dream of becoming a cheerleader for the “Dace Toogers,” but wrist problems resulted in three surgeries. She had a bout with mononucleosis her sophomore year that took her out of school for most of January to June. She has this thing with fainting, and hitting her head while going down resulted in multiple concussions. And, she had a weird condition her senior year that resembled a three-month stomach virus. All this, in addition to the regular “friend issues” and other threads that weave the fabric of life for every adolescent girl, meant her schooling years were not smooth sailing.
God is Good and Gracious
As head of our school, one would think I had the power to manipulate results for my children. God used this child to remind me how absolutely helpless I really am, and that all I can do, all any of us can do, is fall to our knees and ask the God who loves our children so much more than we even have capacity to love to watch over them, molding and shaping and growing them, even through (especially through) the pain. With three girls at home, none of whom are immune to a sense of entitlement, one of our favorite (paraphrased) movie lines ever comes from Princess Bride: “Life is pain, princess.” I am truly grateful my girls learned this vital lesson in the context of a Christian school, surrounded by a community of supporting and loving teachers who taught them that life is pain, but God is good and gracious and delivers us through trials with profound meaning and joy through His Son’s precious blood.
Oh, Lord, we’ve made so many mistakes, and we’ll make so many more, because parenting is for life. Yet, as I draw back this beautiful, sometimes sassy, brilliant arrow, ready to release, all I feel is grateful: grateful for the times You told me to sit down and shut up, to get out of the way, to let You be Lord of her life; grateful that You surrounded us with a Christian school community that loved and supported her, taught her to view all life and learning through Your eyes, mentored her in how to live those truths, and loved her into making her faith her own; and, grateful most of all that the prayer I have prayed every night by her bedside—“no matter what it takes, please, please, let her be passionate for You”—has been granted in ways I could never have imagined.
About the Author
Jay Ferguson, JD, PhD is the headmaster of Grace Community School, Tyler, Texas. He practiced law for 10 years and, in 2002, joined Grace as development director before assuming the headmaster role in 2003. He’s written extensively on Christian education and training children, including his weekly blog, The Head and the Heart. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.