May 20th is Confirmation Sunday when a number of our kids will receive the church’s blessing for their emergent faith journey. I well remember when my children received this blessing more than 20 years ago. And I remember their questions about what it all meant. Melissa and I answered them as best we could, and then proceeded to share their adventures into adulthood, the details of which we could not have anticipated at the time of their confirmation. We were loaded with expectations for them, of course, but we learned that much of the work of parenting required our holding those expectations lightly. As Kahlil Gibran aptly put it in his famous poem about children:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams…
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
That’s a beautiful sentiment. And I mostly subscribe to it. On the other hand, it also bends towards the sentimental. As seasoned adults well know, life doesn’t always allow for flying swift and far, let alone bending in the archer’s hand for gladness. The bow can sometimes crack when bent and the arrow does not always fly straight. Tears and triumphs define the parenting terrain.
One of my enduring prayers for my kids over the years included a petition for protection—that God would hold them close and help them to remember that no matter what trouble found them, they would not lose heart or lose the conviction that they were loved. My belief was that if they could see that conviction at work in their parents’ lives, as best we could live it, they would be well served for whatever life dished up for them. And when, for whatever reason, we couldn’t do that very well, they would remember that God was present still—always had been, always would be. God was their fortress and their rock.
They likely have different words for describing something similar today, but in the main, this wisdom has proven true—and endures.