by Mark Einspahr
My oldest daughter went away to college this year, the University of Nevada at Reno to be exact. UNR is Division I. It is big, not huge, mind you, but big. We had to spend a whole weekend there recently just to learn about the place and what our child will be learning and living and doing. Guess what, college has changed since my wife and I were students.
On top of this, we both went to Concordia, Portland. More than 20 years ago for both of us. So the change in college life is even more remarkable from our perspective. Among other things, I am pretty sure there are more places to eat at UNR than there are places to eat in the town in which we live. Also, I suspect there are more people in my daughter’s first-year math class than there were in the combined graduating classes of my high school and college.
I came home from UNR thinking there is so much more to deal with now in college than when we went to school. When we went to Concordia, there really weren’t the temptations and distractions that our daughter will have. (However, even there I managed to get into my share of trouble.)
As parents, we all have the same questions: Will our child make the right choices? Will she be strong enough to say no? Will her Christian training be enough to guide her? Will she apply those things she has learned at home, at Lutheran schools, and at church to her new life on her own? People can quote to me the trainup-your-child verse all day, and, for me, it does not answer those questions.
Why doesn’t it answer those questions? It doesn’t help because deep down it is not them we are worried about; it is us. We parents are questioning ourselves, not our children. Have we taught her correctly? Have I not done my job as Luther describes it in the Catechism? Have I, as the head of my household, taught the pillars of our faith? Have we modeled a life for her so that she has seen what she should do? Have we done what God wanted us to do for her when He gave her to us as a gift? Our worst fear as parents is that we have failed in some way and that failure will cost our children down the road.
It is really I myself I am questioning. Parents tend to measure themselves by the success of their children. God does not do this. (If He did, He would pass. His Son was perfect, after all.) God knows parents are human and make mistakes. He knows our children—yes, even my daughter—are sinful. He loves us all anyway. More important for us as parents: He protects us and them anyway. He will watch over them.
They will have ups and downs. He has plans for them, plans that may not go easy for them. We parents have done as well as our sinful human nature will allow us. Where we have failed, God has, and will, forgive us. He won’t hold it against our children. We must trust God to love and watch over our children when they go off to school. We must know that He loves and forgives us in how we raised them. So I leave you, my precious daughter, with this, my prayer, for you:
Lord, please be with her
Night and day while she is gone.
May what she has learned as she
has been at home,
Together with Your love and grace,
Keep her safe and her decisions
That no harm may befall her.