Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

Heartache and Hope

Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it. Proverbs 22:6

Nineteen years has gone by quickly.

This last weekend, we packed up my oldest son and took him to his college dorm. When he was born, it seemed like this day was a lifetime away. Now, it seems like it was just yesterday I was bringing him home from the hospital.

Our lives have been so busy and chaotic, I haven’t really thought too much about him not living with me any longer. He’s been busy this summer, traveling with friends and visiting family. Seems like he’s been gone more than he’s been home. I thought I was used to him being gone and it wouldn’t be any different than having him away on a trip.

Boy was I wrong.

Moving him to college was WAY more emotional than I thought it would be! I realized it was going to be tough before we pulled out of the driveway. Blake jumped out of the car and ran across the yard to give his Grandpa a hug…and the tears began to well up in my eyes. Here’s this man-child (who is still a little boy in my eyes) towering over his grandfather while embracing him. It was more than I could handle.

And then we had the girls…

Blake’s little sister and her best friend went along with us. These kids are incredibly close to one another, and there were spontaneous tears throughout the day. Unprovoked tears. Uncontrollable tears. And watching the kids cry? Ummm… yeah. It destroys me.

One of the most touching moments was when all of the families gathered on the lawn in front of Raley Chapel. As we gathered as individual families, we prayed over our children as we left them for this next chapter of life. (Honestly, Roy prayed for Blake’s next chapter because the girls and I were sobbing uncontrollably!) After we had time to pray as individual families, we gathered as the OBU family to pray over our children. What a blessing to know my son is in a school where the faculty prays together for us and with us!

And then, it was time to go our separate ways, to watch our son walk away on his own.

I know he’s only an hour away. I know he’s in a great environment, one where I know he is surrounded by Godly influences. I know he’s ready for this next chapter, ready to spread his wings and fly. I know I’ve done my best to train him up in the way he should go so that he will not depart from it.

But there’s an ache deep in my heart, a sadness that my days with my kids under my roof are drawing to a close.

Moving to college means our family will never be the same. Blake moving to college is significant in that it represents the first of many changes coming in the next years. My three kids and I have weathered many storms together. We’ve only had a year to enjoy the redemption God has given us, a year to savor the sweetness of having a loving husband and father in our home. And we will never again all live together in that same home.

I know I will get to see him frequently. I know he will come home for occasional weekends and holidays and breaks from school. But I also know those breaks will be temporary.

Moving to college represents a change in our relationship. I’ve always been mom. I’ve always had the authority to direct him, to expect him to let me know where he is and what he’s doing. I’ve always had authority to guide him in making the decisions I thought were correct.

While I know he still loves me and respects my opinion, I sense him trying to make his own decisions…maybe even decisions opposite of what I want or expect. I know he’s trying to be an adult, to live his life. I support him fully, but it’s hard to let go of that position of authority and let him make his decisions.

I know it will be fun having an adult, a friend who loves and respects me. But it’s hard to step back and let your child take the reins of his own life.

Moving to college means I don’t know where he is or what he is doing at all times. I’ve always required my kids to let me know where they are, what they are doing, who they are with. They’ve always told me when they get home at night. I’ve always known they were safely tucked in bed at night.

Letting go of that knowledge of where they are is not coming easily. Blake had to drive to Dallas for a surgical follow-up. I can only assume he made it back to school. It’s tough to let go of that protective mode, of allowing him to live without Mom constantly watching over him.

But for all of the changes that are hard to swallow, I am so excited for Blake. I have an overwhelming sense these next few years are going to be life-changing.

I believe God is going to solidify his faith. Blake has had a few unanswered prayers over the last few years. I know in reality they weren’t unanswered; God simply chose a different path from the one Blake wanted. I know God has a plan, that he was doing something we can’t yet see.

God has placed Blake in the perfect place to grow his faith. There’s something about OBU. When you step on campus, you feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. You see the influence of scriptures. You hear the beauty of God wafting from the Chapel. The faculty integrates God’s word into every aspect of the education.

And the students. Can I just say that I have friends around the globe faithfully serving God, friends that I met at OBU years ago? It neve ceases to amaze me as I flip through my Facebook feed and see how God is using the OBU alumni. I know it’s a place where God meets us, teaches us, guides us, transforms us.

And that is my prayer for Blake in these formative years.

I believe God is going to prepare him for a future he can’t even begin to imagine. God has promised us that He has begun a good work in us and He will be faithful to complete it. God has promised us He can and will do more than anything we could ever ask, hope, or imagine. God has promised that He has good plans for us.

Blake has ideas for his future. He has plans for big things. But I don’t think He has any idea what God has in store for him! I don’t know where God will call him, what God will do in him. But I can’t wait to see how He changes Blake and leads him to his future.

I believe God is going to bring complete redemption. Blake has experienced a lot of loss in his life. He struggles with the impact the pain has had on him. He has healing that still needs to take place.

God has brought us redemption in so many ways, but I know there’s more for Blake. I know all things have not yet been made good. I know he still doesn’t fully see the beauty that comes from the ashes of our pain, so I know God is not finished yet.

We are fighting to adjust, fighting to keep the emotions at bay as we miss the consistency of having all of us together under one roof. But in the midst of the sadness, there’s great joy. God has led Blake to the perfect place, a place where he gets the freedom he longs for with godly counselors to continue to guide him.

As my baby boy steps out on his own, I pray God will hold him close when I can’t. I am thankful God knows where he is at all times, that he’s always there watching over and protecting Blake. I’m thankful for the work God has begun in Blake, for the work He will carry out to completion. And I’m thankful God holds me close as my heart aches to have my little boy close.