Cedar and I have been parents for over 24 years, counting from the moment we saw those lines on the home-test. The following months and years followed a similar pattern to most families: figuring out “what to expect when you’re expecting”; getting ready for sleepless nights; delighting in holding a baby (OUR baby!) and then doing our best, flaws/warts/sin-patterns and all, to raise our children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” as our baptismal service mentions.
Fast forward, and we’re dealing with adolescence and puberty, while continuing to disciple, instruct, shepherd. They’re then driving (!) and filling out college applications. And then they’re away, not just for 8 hours of a weekday, but for months at a time.
This year, Cedar and I blinked, and our oldest two children are suddenly living somewhere else permanently. Each got engaged in December. One wedding in June, the other less than 2 weeks ago. Neither ‘kid’ coming home for the summer or for school breaks anymore. No one prepared us for this unique parenting stage. No books or any summer BBQ conversations out on the deck. Looking way back, each of us had been oblivious to the impact on our own families when we didn’t come home for the first time (Cedar, not yet 19 years old, spent her entire summer after freshman year of college working down in Florida with a friend). Now we realize the stark reality that ordinary ‘givens’ will never be present again: just the 5 of us eating dinner together, talking about school, church, friends; having family worship; praying for each one, every night; sitting side-by-side in the 2nd row center on Sunday mornings. Those losses/changes still bring regular tears, especially when we consider the impact on our youngest who has only ever known a busy house with older siblings.
But our loss of two children in the home, is their gain. They’ve each married someone who loves Jesus (which was our only great desire, should our children get married). And as God intends for those who do marry, “A man shall leave his father and his mother and be united to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). We love their spouses who are now connected to us for a lifetime. And if babies start coming!…
In the midst of this reflection, the Lord provided me with this encouragement: I’m about to finish re-reading John Piper’s Desiring God – a book that I first read 19 years ago (ironically, months after we arrived here in NJ to help replant GRC!). In applying the book’s theme to marriage, he writes, “Love is the pursuit of our joy in the holy joy of the beloved… Selfishness seeks its own private happiness at the expense of others. Love seeks its happiness in the happiness of the beloved.” Let me paraphrase and apply: Loving another naturally involves desiring their greatest joy… which returns joy to us! Cedar and I are actually better able to experience joy and richer love, through the happiness of those we love. Loss (of two adult children) is actually gain! Living in what we’d prefer (everyone still at home) is selfishness, and leads to no one’s true joy.
When a husband loves his wife through self-sacrifice (the way Christ loves the church), he doesn’t suffer loss as the world would insist: “You missed the big game because you spent the evening talking with your wife?! You’re skipping the guys’ outing because church is your priority?!” None of that is loss. That man experiences great gain and higher joy, in the marital satisfaction that God intends; in the Father’s delight at the trust of His child; in tasting pure love that he’ll one day fully experience in the presence of his Creator!
Our great joy is in Matthew and Kaylyn’s delight. In their fresh exploration of their one-flesh union with Caroline and John, respectively. In their persevering by grace through new challenges. In our continued prayer for our children. And above all we pray, in their growing rest upon and delight in Jesus as Savior and King and Friend!
Leaning on Gospel Grace,
Peter Wang serves as the Senior Pastor at GRC.