Eighteen years old. A graduate! Old enough to join the Army and shoot people. Old enough for Mom and Dad to send out into the world so that they can get on with their own lives. Old, I say!
Wrong. Who, at eighteen, knows how to handle the adult world with skill and wisdom? What child, at eighteen, isn’t in as much need of prayer and guidance as ever?
Don’t be in a rush to push that child out of the nest. Make the nest more welcoming and comfortable than ever. Be sure your child knows, in spite of all the world’s voices, that you are perfectly fine with God’s timing, be it leaving at eighteen or twenty-eight.
Dr. James Dobson calls eighteen to twenty-eight the “critical decade” — that time of decisions and choices which shape the rest of life. I, for one, made some really dumb mistakes at eighteen years young, and could have used some uncompromising guidance, some Holy Spirit-inspired wisdom and timing. And the world I faced was much friendlier and less threatening and dark than what today’s kids face.
Shall we get off the world’s (and the Military’s) timetable, and have a little rhythm and grace? Our son, Benjamin, always knew he wanted to join the Army, but he waited a bit, leaving home at 19, and turning 20 before he was in Basic Training. During his final months at home he got in shape physically, and grew mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. There is a lot of maturing between eighteen and twenty, and we believe it’s made all the difference for him.
Be prepared to ignore other people’s nosy questions and opinions. My daughter Hannah (www.thewarmjournal.com) hasn’t yet decided where or when or if she’s going to college. The hardest part, she says, is ignoring the judgement and disapproval of other people. A good life lesson right there: Other people’s opinions don’t matter. What matters is what Hannah is seeking: God’s opinion. “Until I know where God wants me to go, I’m not going anywhere,” she says.
And then, amazingly, she wanted to know if I and her dad were OK with her “sticking around a little while.” Was she serious? “Your dad is fine if you never leave, but I think you should leave in the next decade or so,” I answered. She liked that answer.
A warm and cozy nest is the best kind to leave. We want our children to set out in God’s timing, all flags flying high. Eighteen or twenty-eight, or whenever they’re ready.
We can either properly launch our children, all systems go, into an outer space life adventure, or we can push them out of the nest prematurely, and watch in agony as they falter and crash, often with severely damaged wings.
Remember, it’s 18 years young, not 18 years old.
P.S. If you’re grieving because this has already happened to your child, turn up the prayer! God is the God of restoration. I have long claimed the scripture, Joel 2:25, and called on God to restore what the locust has eaten in the lives of my loved ones, and myself. Again and again, I have seen Him bring healing and restoration.