By The Rev. Jeremy Myers
We are entering a new, exciting and extremely bittersweet chapter in the story of the Myers family. We just took our firstborn child to college.
For the first time in her life, she will for long periods of time not live under our roof or be under our direct supervision and guidance. She will take the next steps of becoming her own person and pursuing her own life. It is a natural part of the parent/child relationship (though one I’m not enjoying).
We have had the amazing privilege of raising her and guiding her to this point, but from this point on, more and more of the steps she takes into the future will be her own. At this juncture, the bulk of our work in raising a good, productive and hopefully, a godly, Jesus-loving woman is nearing completion.
All we can do is support and love her as best we can as she boldly steps into the future, praying and trusting God will continue to guide her as she moves into the life he has for her. Come what may, that’s my baby and I am proud to be her parent.
While this is my first biological child to leave the proverbial nest, this is not the first time I’ve had to deal with the strange and bittersweet feelings of watching a kid I love and have cared for head off into the world.
As a youth pastor, I was confronted every fall with the reality that young men and women in whom I had invested my life would be heading off to college or careers without me. It never got any easier. Even with kids who were extremely difficult, I very rarely was glad to see them go. I always found myself wishing I had just one more year to walk with them, to teach them and to prepare them for the realities of life in the world.
But over time, I learned there is the potential for greater joy as your “kids” go out and make their way in the world.
There is a group of three former students who graduated out of my youth ministry in West Virginia with whom I keep in very close contact that come to mind immediately. It’s rare that a week goes by that I don’t communicate with one or more of them. All three took different paths after they moved away.
One played the prodigal son and went full-out feral. He touched rock bottom before he came to his senses and got back on the straight and narrow. He now serves as a part-time middle school pastor.
Another went off to college and studied to be a music pastor. Throughout his middle school and high school days, he grew from a quiet, reserved kid who floated on the fringes to a key leader in our youth ministry. He’s now serving as a music minister.
The youngest of the three went off to study religion and theology. He was always bold and brash, bordering on the obnoxious. He still has a bit of an edge to him, which is not a bad thing, and he just started serving as a full-time youth pastor as he continues pursuing further education.
These three men were once some of “my boys.” Honestly, they are still my boys, even after all of these years and with all of the distance between us.
As we texted back and forth the other day, I felt a rush of joy come over me. I was proud of the good people they had each become, the good things they were doing and the faithfulness they were displaying in their walk with Jesus. I found myself echoing the words of the Apostle John in 3 John 1:4. He writes, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
As Mikayla heads off to Grace College and into this exciting and new phase of life, I hope she does so with boldness and grace. I hope she experiences all of the goodness and happiness life has to offer. I hope she continues to grow into an amazingly kind, compassionate and good person. I hope she achieves all of the hopes and dreams in her heart.
I want that for her, her brother, J.J., and for all of the many “kids” God has allowed me to walk with throughout the years. Most of all, though, I want Mikayla, J.J. and my other “kids” to grow to know, love and faithfully follow Jesus with all they are. Nothing would give me greater joy and allow me to say with pride, “That’s my kid.”