Shereen and I watched our sons walk across the stage for their high school diplomas last weekend. A proud and bittersweet moment in any parent’s heart, but maybe it’s especially poignant when it’s your first. Whatever the case, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about letting go. For what is parenting, really, other than a long series of “letting go”?
When I mentioned this to my husband, he reminded me that our initiation into the practice of letting go began long before we were even parents. He’s right. During our nine year struggle with infertility, we did a lot of letting go—of dreams . . . of expectations . . . of control. But my first truly memorable lesson in letting go of our son came a few weeks into his life.
I can clearly remember the day we took him home from the hospital. We had strapped him into his car seat and stood there marveling that after all those years of waiting and praying, we had a real, live baby boy in the back seat of our car. I remember Kurt looking at me and saying, “Should we just get in the car and drive as far away as we possibly can?”
I laughed but knew exactly what he was feeling— so many of our adoption dreams had fallen through before. Instead, we did the responsible thing and drove to the lawyer’s office to begin the process of making him legally ours. A few weeks later we got a call from that lawyer telling us she had found the baby’s birth father. This news was potentially good since it would mean we could tie up all loose ends, but also fraught with fear because the birth father could easily choose differently than the birth mother and decide to parent our baby himself.
I say “our” baby because by then that’s exactly how I felt. My relationship with this boy had been, on my side at least, one of love at first sight. It was as if God had looked into my heart at my most secret hopes and dreams for a baby and delivered them to me in this little guy. As far as I was concerned he was mine, and I wanted to hold onto him with all the white-knuckled intensity I could muster.
After a second call from the lawyer to tell us they’d extended the birth father’s court date by two weeks, I remember sitting on the floor next to my son’s crib, watching his precious face while he slept and arguing with God. How could He possible expect me to let this baby go? No one could love this child like I did. How would they know the special way he liked to sleep, how to comfort him when he cried, the way he liked to swing when he was fussy and the many other special things I knew about him? What if they didn’t love him the way I did? What if it wasn’t safe? How could I let my child go somewhere that wasn’t safe?
God’s answer was clear: “Trust Me,” he said.” I loved this child long before you ever did. He is my child too. I know my plans for him and whether they include you in his life or not, trust me they will be for his best.” I held my baby on an open palm that day, my Isaac, choosing like Abraham to believe God’s promises.
Little did I know that moment was merely a training ground for the many parenting moments that lay ahead.
Letting go of his chubby fingers for his first shaky steps across the living room floor.
Letting go of the bicycle seat for that first wobbly ride down the drive way.
Letting go of that small hand for those first tentative steps into the school bus.
Letting go of the car keys for that first solo drive to school.
In a few short months, we’ll be letting go again as he takes off for college. I find myself falling back into the mire of the “what ifs.” What if he’s not ready? What if he makes poor choices? What if it’s not safe? The answer remains the same: Trust Me.
And I know now from experience—lots of experience—that I can let go, knowing I’m releasing him into the hand of the One who has proven Himself trustworthy. The One who by his sacrifice on the cross demonstrated a love that never lets us go.