My heart is breaking. Even as I write these words, our son is 10,000 miles away, and has just said his good-byes to his dad, who is there to take him to college. The time difference is fourteen hours, and across the International Dateline. It seems like it might as well be fourteen days. I’m preparing to eat my breakfast; he should be eating dinner, perhaps alone, in an unfamiliar cafeteria. It will be his first night in a dorm, in a strange room, with two other young men who will seem even stranger.
As I sob, I’m glad I am alone, because I wonder if I am being too emotional about our capable, intelligent and loveable son. But my mother’s heart cannot help it. I can hardly sit still because of the urge to want to rescue him from whatever my mind has imagined could threaten him.
This is my second encounter with separation trauma. Four years ago I was the one to take our first-born daughter to the same distant corner of the globe for college, and leave her there to begin her independence. And my heart broke then too. And I know the pain will ease, because it did before. But right now it is unrelenting.
Why does it hurt so much, I ask myself. Perhaps there is the threat of inadequacy. Have we done a sufficient job in preparing him for this moment? Will he stay true to following Christ in his secular dorm with roommates who probably don’t have a Christian upbringing? Will he face the challenges of school and life with maturity and courage? Will he seek God for strength and peace and wisdom? Will he crave to know God, as we have prayed for him? Will he keep his ways pure as Psalm ll9 directs? As I read that Psalm this morning I adapted it in prayer for him – “Lord, I know how our son, David, can keep his way pure, by living according to your word. Let him seek you with all his heart. Don’t let him stray from your commands. Let him hide your word in his heart so that he won’t not sin against you. Praise you, Lord. Teach him your ways.” (Psalm ll9:9-12).
So our little island boy, raised on a Pacific island since age 3, and now a young man of 19, has left this tropical home he loves so much, and the people who love him. I know it is time for him to find his own way. I know it! I know it in my head, but it will take longer for my heart to accept it.
And so I find this to be one of the hardest lots in life as a global worker: to bear what is for us a literal ocean of separation from the children God has given us to love and care for, to stay here in this remote location until He directs us differently. Our children have played such a vital role in our ability to make relationships with these warm, island people. They have been partners with us in God’s work here. To release them feels initially like we are cutting off part of ourselves. But it isn’t until we let them go that we can really see who they will become. And we will never stop praying for them and loving them, and looking forward to the next time we will see them!
God, help us to be faithful and obedient through the change of seasons in life. And thank you, thank you that you love us and promise never to leave us or our children who know you, no matter where we all are.