What a Parent Wants to Say Before a Child Leaves

Dear Son — who is called to climb a thousand walls,

You have to know how your unfolding from me was a miracle.

That’s the miraculous thing about miracles – they really do happen.


How is it in this crazy, holy world does a girl-woman bear a boy-child?

How does she raise a squalling boy-child into a man? I’ve never been one of those.

And this the thing: there’s only so much time to go from point A to point B.

How did I waste so many days? How do I make you know everything you need to know before you go?

How to love a woman and when to say yes and when to wear black socks instead of white and when to ask for directions and when to say no.

That you’ll be radical about grace and relentless about truth and resolute about holiness and vows and the real hills worth dying on.

That you know how to make a bed and how to make a child laugh and how to write a letter home.


Did you know, right when they laid you wrinkled in my arms, you had this curl of hair, this swirl of hair on your forehead?

You got it from me. That turning, swirling cowlick that I got from my Dad. Who got it from his mother.

This is how these things go, this turning around and passing torches on.

I turn around — and you’re 16.

And you’re leaving for a jet plane at 3:30 am.


When the first time you ever get on a plane, you fly for the jungles of Indonesia, the farthest away from us on this spinning blue marble, your father says this farm won’t be big enough to keep you anymore.

When he says it, he says it a bit like something hurts inside.

He’s made his life about showing you what real leadership is: not climbing higher towards power and status, but bending down in prayer and service. He’s been dead to all ladders and that’s what made him so alivereaching down, to the lonely, the lost, and the least.

I roll all your shirts and stack them, one upon the other, like all the years, and know that this is just the beginning of the leavings. I bite my lip hard and try to be brave, like the day you were born.

How could my mothering take so many u-turns and still get here so fast?

I remember when you were small enough to hold in my arms, warm against me, this sun bathed stone, us engraved into rock here. I hadn’t known how fast the wings would come and that you would fly into the dark, into the sun, and so soon.

That when you became a man, I’d feel so empty – and so very fulfilled. I wish we had read even more books.

And I had said yes to every game of Scrabble.


The Bible’s true, son. Every infallible, sword-sharp, breathing word of it. Don’t let anyone ever rationalize one beautiful iota of it away. Love it because it’s your Life.

And the only life living is the scandalous one: scandalous love, offensive mercy, foolish faith. Kiss babies. Always have one friend that feels on the fringe, that you have to pray to love, that makes the neighbors scratch their heads.

Stubbornly pray for your enemies till you see enemies are illusions and everyone is a friend and somehow grace. Believe in every woman’s God-sized dreams. And rub her feet at the end of the day.

Be the kind of person who apologizes first because that’s the only way happiness can last.

And never forget that happiness is when His Word and your walk are in harmony. Never stop keeping company with Christ– and all the sinners, tax-collectors and cast-offs.

Be an evangelist and use your words with your hands because your part of a Body and never stop loving God with all your heart, mind and soul, and loving others as yourself. Make that your creed.

It’s true, son: Be different and know everything you do matters. It’s what the Christ followers know: One man with God can change a culture. God didn’t put people in your path mostly for your convenience; He put you there for theirs. Loving the poor will make you rich, I promise.

Only when you offer yourself as bread, broken and given, to a hungry world, will you ever be satisfied.

The only life worth living is the one lost.

And no matter how loud and crazy and broken the world is, child? Let joy live loud in your soul.

And believe that you are His beloved – it’s only when you trust He loves you that you really begin to live. Really, count a thousand blessings more, never stop. Why wouldn’t you want joy? Sing to no one and everyone on the front porch in the rain and laugh so much they question your sanity. Pet the dog long.

Because really, none of us knows how long we have. Remember that a pail with a pinhole loses as much as the pail pushed right over. A whole life can be lost in minutes wasted… in the small moments missed. None of this is forever grace. That’s why it’s amazing grace.

Do it often: grab a lifeline by stepping offline. You’ll see your true self when you look for your reflection in the eyes of souls not the glare of screens.

This is what you always need to know: You have nothing to prove to anyone – if you’re in Him, you are already approved.

Be okay with not being liked: life’s about altars not applause.

And be okay with not being seen or heard. It’ll let you hear and see better.


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