Child, not my child

Your children are not your children

They are the sons and the daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you, but they are not from you

and though they are with you they belong not to you.

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet, “On Children” (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1923)

This graduation season is the first one for a child of mine. The newborn I brought home over eighteen years ago will eat, sleep, study, pray, wonder, worry, and laugh on a campus just a few miles outside of Philadelphia. On August 24th, my husband and I will take our two sons and a trunk full of college necessities to Haverford. We will unload the car and have lunch just up the street at El Limon. Good-byes will be exchanged, holiday plans briefly mentioned. With a wave, three of us will drive away and my older son will begin his college years.

For the last couple of months, people have been asking me if I’m ready for this next phase of life. Many tell me how awful it was when their own left the house. More than a few said they’d turn back the years if they could, bringing their adult children back into childhood to fill up the rooms that still seem empty without them. Others ask if I’m worried that something awful will happen to him; after all, the world is big and isn’t safe.

I’ll miss my son, and I’m sure tears will come on the drive home or soon after. I have loved his every age and stage, from the first time he opened his eyes through his whole childhood. I love the man he’s become – kind and thoughtful with a dry sense of humor and an artist’s eye. But he’s a child of God, not a personal possession to keep in a safe place. He isn’t on this earth to be my second chance or a means to my own ends: he is here to be a delight to God. He has his own life adventure just as I have mine. I wouldn’t trade the years of his childhood, but I don’t want to repeat them. There’s a whole world of adventure ahead for him that I can’t begin to imagine – his part of the sacred story of all God’s beloved children. What a blessing to be a part of it.

 

On Children, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Selections 1976-1988, disc 1 (Cambridge, MA, Rounder Records Corp., 1997)

Published by

Johnna

I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

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