Beyond Responsibility

One of the treasured memories of my role as a pastor is that I've officiated the weddings of all three of my children. Each was special in ways that are as unique as who they are as people. The biggest difference this time was that it was our last child and only daughter. I'll always remember escorting Liz and giving her to Logan. There is something surreal in a father giving away the daughter you've protected her entire life to another man. In a matter of a few moments my responsibility for Liz's life was transferred to Logan. 

Liz's wedding symbolized something else for me. As parents, we are always thinking about, worrying about, praying for and working toward the next threshold in our children's lives. Learning to talk and walk. Potty training. Beginning school. Knowing Jesus. Driving. Dating. First car. High school graduation. College. And marriage. Each reflects our responsibility as parents. We provide instruction, protection, direction, discipline, guidance, perspective - and of course we provide for them financially. It struck me that with Liz's wedding our season of responsibility as parents was finished. Of course, we'll still be involved in our kid's lives - supporting them, enjoying them, encouraging them, standing with them and praying for them. But we're no longer responsible for them. It's taken Verna and me some time to navigate the necessary adjustments with Tim and Jonathan and their wives. There's an interesting learning curve in knowing how, when and even if - to offer our opinion and advice. Hopefully, Liz will enjoy the benefit of all the years and the ways we've learned to let go of being responsible.

As we move beyond our season of responsibility, it's slowly being replaced with something much better -  respect. We're watching our adult kids write their own stories in their unique ways. We're watching them love their spouses and children. We're watching them pursue their dreams and live out their values.  We're watching them learn from their mistakes and failures - past and present. We're watching them figure out what walking with God looks like to them. And we're all learning what it means to be family in this new season. I respect who my kids are becoming. Here's what I'm discovering in this new season - relationships rooted in respect are a lot lighter than those burdened by a sense of responsibility. There's more room to breathe and grow - more space for God's presence to flourish.

I think a lot about my role during this new season of parenting. While a lot has changed the most important things remain the same. Keep loving our kids - no matter what. Keep loving the things and people they love. Keep enjoying them. Keep forgiving them. Keep pursuing them. Keep learning with them and from them. Keep trusting them. Keep trusting God's role in their story. And keep modeling that we can all trust God's steadfast love and faithfulness - no matter what. 

These days our church family is talking about fighting for the spiritual well-being of the people in our lives. It's good to remember that we're not responsible for the spiritual lives of others. Yes we have spiritual hopes and dreams for the people we care about. That's a good thing. But if we step into people's lives feeling responsible for particular outcomes (beliefs or behaviors) it's likely our best intentions will bring pressure into the friendship that is rarely helpful to God's purposes. We are responsible to love. Loving people well is rooted in our respect for them as people and our respect for God's pursuit of them. What does respect look like? We keep loving them, pursuing them, taking an interest in them, enjoying them, forgiving them, learning from them, having honest conversations with them and trusting God's role in their story - no matter what.

Fighting for your heart,

Gary