This spring both of our children will graduate, Josh from the College at Southeastern, Hannah from Wake Forest=Rolesville High School. We did not actually plan it that way, but it works out well.
I have had the honor of writing a lot of books, some which actually have helped people. I have traveled the world, and am heading back to Africa this summer. I have preached in some of the greatest churches and at some of the most wonderful conferences, not to mention all sorts of college campuses one could imagine. I have enjoyed a lot of opportunities, not the least of which is teaching at the most amazing seminary on earth.
But none of these compare to being a husband and a father. Michelle and I will celebrate 30 years of marriage this fall. This week we will celebrate the graduation from college of our firstborn, and then that of our daughter. No joy I have experienced this side of knowing Jesus compares with the joy that Michelle and I have children who love Him.
Our children are not perfect. How could they be with imperfect parents? They like all of us are depraved and were without hope until Christ changed them. Michelle and I led Josh to Christ. He later led Hannah to Christ. The gospel has always been at the heart of our home, and God has honored that with children who are committed to the cause of gospel advance.
Rites of passages matter in the rearing of children I believe. We have ceremonies in our culture, like graduation, that mark high points. Certainly baptism following conversion serves as a fundamental rite of passage for the believer. As I wrote in a chapter on rites of passages in my book Raising the Bar, I do not believe the Bible spells out a list of specific rites of passage at certain ages along the road to maturity. But I believe intersecting biblical teaching at the point of vital life stages in memorable ways can help to show children the vital way that faith meets life.
In our family we celebrated certain milestones, and did so in differing ways for a boy and a girl. At 12, a vital age in Scripture, we did something important for each child. In Josh’s case I took him to Chicago for a father-son getaway. We did some ministry with Armitage Baptist Church, and we took in a Cubs game at Wrigley. I talked to him about beginning the journey toward manhood. He has had a passion for great cities ever since. We did not make a big deal about age 13 with our children as “teenager” is a modern term, but age 12 made sense.
In Hannah’s case, the Christmas of her 12th year we got her a ring. A nice ring from Kay Jewelers. I took her out on a date and talked to her about purity, about how much we loved her, and about how the next really nice ring to go on that finger after the one we gave her would be an engagement ring, when she was about 40 haha. She has cherished that ring as a very precious gift.
At 16 children get a drivers license, which is a big step of responsibility. We had a dinner for Josh with a group of men who had meant a lot to him, from young men his age to older men of God. Each spoke to Josh about what it meant to be a man of God. For Hannah we had some special ladies in her life write her letters of encouragement. I also took Hannah to Times Square for our time of dad-daughter bonding. The carriage ride around Central Park will always be a special memory of mine.
At 18 comes high school graduation and stepping fully into the adult world. Josh got to go on a senior trip across Europe and I was able to accompany his class to London, Paris, Florence and Rome. Hannah will be going to Cape Town, South Africa this July. Seeing the great big world God has given us has been a vital part of our parenting. I believe every child should get out of the country on mission before they start college. Josh had been on a mission trip to Central America and has been on several to great cities in the U.S. Hannah has been to Asia and Europe and now will go to Africa.
College graduation marks the final key time other than marriage of ceremony and significance. Our son has finished well, including the reception of the evangelism award this year at Southeastern. He is preparing for the next step God has for him with anticipation. Hannah is ready for college and all God has for her.
Side note: Hannah has to have surgery this Thursday, not something she expected right at graduation. We would appreciate your prayers. Josh also will have his wisdom teeth removed next week, oral surgery he did not plan to have either. So I guess this spring we will have graduation, surgery, and only the Lord knows what else!
God gives good gifts to His children. We have failed often, but Michelle and I have sought to honor the Lord Jesus in the way we have raised our children. After all, they are ultimately His more than they are ours.
Proverbs 20:7 is a verse I think of often” A righteous man walks in his integrity, and his children are blessed after him. God has been faithful. Glory to God.