Friday, August 19, 2011
The sight of a pair of U.S Army Airborne Wings never fails to bring a smile to my face and a sense of pride and joy at the rich heritage into which I was born as the son of a career Untied States Army Paratrooper! As I grew up, the line from the “Ballad of the Green Berets” sung by Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler that was especially stirring to me was this one: “Put Silver Wings on my son’s chest. Make him one of America’s best!” Truly, the continuous and sacrificial service of the courageous people who have earned those wings throughout U.S. history symbolize what is great and admirable about America and Americans!
As meaningful as those wings are to me, today my wife and I are bestowing a pair of wings on our number three daughter that cannot be pinned, worn or seen with the natural eye. I have been anticipating this “Wing Ceremony” with a bit of fear and dread, for weeks but now that its time has arrived, I find myself full of joy and expectation. Context can be a wonderful comforter, and helping Joana – our Bu – to prepare practically for her launching into college life has provided some wonderful context for us. We are blessed by the fact that though she will be away, there will be plenty of opportunities for her to come home and visit, and on some occasions visit for a significant period of time! We are blessed with the knowledge that she is attending a great school with a mission we fully support and a philosophy of life that we totally endorse. We are also blessed by her excitement and that extra “pep” in her step that let’s us know that this adventure is hers and the beginning of a new journey of discovery that will help shape the course of her life and the impact she will have on the world. Ultimately, we are comforted by knowing the God we serve doesn’t require our presence to bless her, protect her and guide her. As she takes flight, He is ever-present to guide, empower, comfort and protect just as He always has been for all who have clung to Him throughout human history.
That understanding of God’s ever-present love for her has freed our minds enough to enable us to take comfort in one important realization about our role as parents: Our role is not ending, it is merely changing. A great blessing we are still growing to understand through our two already adult children is the realization that parents are still needed after graduations. Though we will no longer be providing the same amount of “lift” for the flight, it is important for us to maintain contact with our newly launched “pilot”. She has now entered a more advanced phase of training. As she gains more skill and confidence, we need to remain engaged and available for encouragement, advice, counsel and help as her mission becomes clearer and her flight gains altitude. Her “flight plan” will be unique for her, but we must endeavor to do our best to make sure that though she may be flying “solo”, she needs a support team and should never feel abandoned. Our supporting roles of mentorship and coaching are critical and provide just the context we need to excite us in the midst of our fears and comfort us in the depths of our pain that Bu still needs us to be engaged and available as she takes flight into the future. Trials and challenges will come and as long as the Lord allows us to live, we must be part of the team that stands ready to support her as needed and encourage her at every opportunity. Our roles have been adjusted but are not diminished in their importance in the proper context.
All of that is a bit unsettling to consider to be sure. Nevertheless, remembering in Whose hands her future really lies, we happily give our Bu her “Wings” knowing that it is not an end to life as we know it with her, but the birth of a new and wonderful era in all of our lives that will enrich her, our family and all the others with whom she comes in contact. Use those wings well Bu and let the journey begin! Until next time…