I am blessed to have one of those ministries in which people allow me to see into their lives. Christians really are a part of one another.
“…speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16)
Well, in our ministry people allow me to see what is happening in their lives. It is quite an honor.
In May of every year I have seen something happen that I was praying about yesterday and out of that prayer came this article.
At the end of every school year there are some people I know that experience one of their children graduating from high school. That last year of high school is a busy and hectic time for the student but it can also be stressful for the parents of that graduating senior – especially the moms but sometimes the dads too.
What I’ve noticed is that it seems to take a heavier toll on the parents that really engage with their kids than it does on absentee parents or parents that don’t seem to care much for their children.
For the parents that were there for all the ball practices and games, band activities, and school programs, that helped with homework and projects AND for those who wanted to do those things but GRIEVED because they had to work and couldn’t be there – for these it seems to be especially difficult to watch their high school seniors graduate.
This is one of the costs of doing things right.
When someone in our culture realizes they are going to be a parent and they decide that they will sacrifice so that their child will flourish they have made a decision that will strongly affect them for a season that lasts roughly 18 years.
Why do I say 18 years?
I say this because in our culture a person becomes an adult at the age of 18.
From the birth of a child until the child becomes 18 the parent is in a process of preparing that child to emerge as a responsible adult who is capable of not only surviving on his own but also to contribute positively to society and the lives of others.
Since most people graduate from high school when they are 18 that graduation ceremony and everything that leads up to it in their senior year represents the end of a season in their lives…..AND in the lives of their parents who were all in as much as they could be all those years.
High school graduation is a BIG DEAL and it is a very emotional time for all involved.
For the student it means stepping from one season and into another in which they are more responsible for their own lives than ever before. It means a job or college or marriage or a combination of these things.
Likewise, for the parent, this signifies the movement from one season of their lives (concerning that child) and into another. It means they are to do something that is difficult for everyone: release a disciple into their own destiny.
It also means that they must adjust their approach to being a parent, lest they retard their child’s development as a young adult. They must shift from being primary caregiver who expects to be obeyed 100% of the time to someone who is always available to share input and wisdom with their adult child when called upon to do so.
This is a VERY uncomfortable place to be for a parent.
As one who has for many years functioned as a first century style Christian pastor I have noticed a dynamic that I refer to as a “grace hangover.” I just don’t know what else to call it.
I believe in something that I call “specific grace.”
“According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it.” (1 Corinthians 3:10)
Now, grace is a supply given by God to us to accomplish what He would have us to accomplish. God gives us specific grace to accomplish specific works.
As one who gives pastoral care I have observed that the grace given to me by our Lord for each person I have watched over has always been more than abundant (1 Timothy 1:14) than I have needed as a pastor for that person.
I believe the same is true for parents.
At times, my season for pastoring someone has come to a close and every time I have experienced something VERY uncomfortable.
This is that “grace hangover” I mentioned earlier.
There suddenly seems to be an “empty” where there was once a “full”. I had some sort of responsibility for another person and then I did not and God is SO GRACIOUS that all the time I was in the former season with that person God supplied me abundant grace for him or her.
Then that grace was no longer needed.
Because God, in His love for us and for those we watch over on HIS behalf, ALWAYS supplies more grace than we will ever need for them, we will always have leftover grace when those seasons come to a close.
My experience is that it hurts.
This is not my favorite aspect of being in spiritual authority in someone else’s life.
It is, however, well worth it to feel this because it is a signal that we mostly likely did a good job.
I often think about the Apostle Paul and his relationship with Timothy when I think about this as a pastoral presence in the life of another and when I think about parents at this time of the year.
Timothy was a spiritual son to Paul.
“For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord….” (1 Corinthians 4:17a)
“To Timothy, a true son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Timothy 1:2)
“This charge I commit to you, son Timothy….” (1Timothy 1:18)
“To Timothy, a beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” (2 Timothy 1:2)
Timothy was under Paul’s direct care for a season.
I wonder if Paul was aware of that the entire time they were in that season.
Or, as I have experienced as a pastor and like what parents experience as their children graduate high school, did Paul suddenly realize one day in prayer that this season with Timothy was coming to an end and a new season was coming in which he would have to release his spiritual son to his own destiny in the Lord.
Either way, I am sure it was an uncomfortable time for both Paul and Timothy BUT it was a good discomfort because it meant Paul had done a good job.
It is my hope that this article has given clarity to what can be a confusing and emotional time in the lives of many people.
I also hope that, seeing the bigger picture, we can commit to doing the best job we can in any role God calls us to in which we have the unspeakably awesome privilege of being trusted by the Lord to oversee and equip another person.
This is a HUGE spiritual privilege and God supplies the grace for that.
Concerning that “grace hangover” – it evaporates in time and is replaced by a different kind of grace. Should the person remain in our lives in this new capacity (children almost always do) this new “specific grace” equips us to be flexible and available for the person as they adjust to and operate in this new season of their lives.
Solomon said this:
“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven…“ (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
May we rightly discern the seasons in our lives and the seasons in the lives of those under our care and harvest the grace God supplies for us appropriately!
May we ride out the short periods of season change with grace and wisdom.
May we sense God’s presence through it all!
There is a cost to doing things right but it is worth the cost.
May the Lord comfort all those currently experiencing that cost as they release their children into adulthood.
I humbly submit these thoughts in the name of Jesus.