At the outset of this writing project, I determined to write my story live, with the notion of sharing it for the benefit of others who might one day walk down a similar path. I’ve committed to leaving my entries as intact as possible along the way, avoiding the temptation to smooth out the rough edges or omit the parts that I wouldn’t necessarily choose to include today. There is one part of my story, however, that I have decided is best left unshared.
(Note: This post is part of an ongoing series called The View From Here. Please follow this link and start reading at the oldest post, Fear and Trembling.)
In late August of 2018, I experienced a significant falling out with a long-time friend and member of our Staff team. What happened on the night Melissa and I met together with him and his wife at their home was incredibly personal—even more so than much of what I’ve shared to date—and while everything I’ve written in this blog has quite obviously been from my perspective, in this case, I believe that sharing my perspective might not be the best thing to do. As Frederick Buechner writes, “To tell the truth in love means to tell it with concern not only for the truth that is being told but with concern also for the people it is being told to.”
While I do feel it’s important for me to at least acknowledge this particular part of my story, six months after the late-summer conversation that led to a break in our relationship—both professional and personal—Melissa and I had an opportunity to get together with our friends to talk openly and honestly about what happened that night and the events that both preceded and followed. While things between us will never quite be the same as they were before that night, we have chosen to extend grace to one another and make an effort to move forward in a healthy way. Two years after the fact, this intentional omission of the details of what happened between us is part of my ongoing attempt to acknowledge just how difficult the situation was for everyone involved.
August 25, 2018. Time is a funny thing. Later this morning we will be moving our oldest child into residence at McMaster University in Hamilton, about an hour away from home. How is it possible that enough years have passed for this to be happening? How can I possibly be at the stage of life where it’s not I who am gearing up for frosh week activities, but my son? It’s hard to wrap my head around.
Last week, I got together with a friend and he said something about how Melissa and I had obviously done a good job raising our son if he feels ready to take this leap and begin this next stage of his life away from home. His boys are much younger, just beginning their academic journeys, and my friend said he doesn’t even know if they’ll ever get to that point in life. Ah, the fatigue of parenting young children!
I haven’t really given much consideration to the idea that my son may actually be ready for this. From the beginning, I’ve been rolling my internal eyes at what I’d call ‘overconfidence’ in his ability to make this transition at the age of seventeen. But over the past week, I’ve been imagining a different story: one in which he is actually as ready as a seventeen year old can be to move away from home and begin the semblance of an independent, grown up life. Maybe it’s sad that I needed a friend to point this out to me, but then that’s kind of the thing that friends are for.
Melissa and I will move our son in today, but this also happens to be the final weekend of the baseball season for two of our children, with tournaments taking place in different cities, so this morning’s move in will actually be a ‘soft’ move, for lack of a better word. We’ll get his dorm room set-up, then we will hit the road again so he can play in his next game and he’ll spend one final night at home before this next stage of his life (and ours) officially begins. Tomorrow morning, we will drive him back to University, say our farewells, and the rest of our family will drive four hours north to spend the last week of summer at a cottage that a family from our church has graciously made available to us.
I expect those four hours of driving will feature more than a few tears, primarily courtesy of my wife, who is having an even more difficult time wrapping her head around the idea of our child moving out than I am. But who am I kidding—these days, my emotional margins are so thin that I’m sure I’ll contribute my share as well. And the tears will have mixed origins, as I feel they usually do. Will I be crying because my firstborn child is starting University in another city, or because I am experiencing yet another loss after so much loss in recent months? Will they be tears of joy for the adventure he is about to begin, or sorrow for the countless opportunities I’ve missed along the way? Ah, here they come already as I’m typing this!
So that’s what will bring me to my parental knees: the realization that you only get one shot to raise your child, leaving my mind swirling with what-ifs this morning. I think life would be much easier to accept if we could somehow turn back the clock and live certain seasons over again, avoiding the mistakes we’ve made along the way and taking advantage of the countless opportunities we’ve missed. I feel sad for my son, that his childhood is ending, and that whatever his experience has been is all that he’ll ever have. Whatever cracks may have been left by my shortcomings will have to be filled in as he creates the best childhood he can and becomes the best father he can be for his own children one day, God willing.
Ah, life. And so I will turn the page on this season and get ready for the next. Honestly, I am looking forward to it in many ways. The people in my life who have young adult children tell me about how much they love this stage of life; about how the relationships they have with their children are deeper and richer; that on the other side of the leaving is a returning, which is rewarding in its own right.
And as I turn the page on this season of parental life, I am also preparing to turn the page in the life of our church. I need to find a way to do this—we all need to find a way to do this. As I’ve said many times over the past few months, this issue of same-sex attraction does not define who we are as a church, but it sure has felt like it does. So there needs to be a letting go, a willingness to take the risk of moving on, come what may. I’m looking forward to discovering a new normal and walking into the freedom that comes from accepting our circumstances for what they are and making the most of the many years we still have ahead of us.