My 12 year old son Michael began middle school today. It was a big day for him, and for Jill and me, his parents. By all accounts Michael had an awesome and carefree summer: little league baseball with his friends, sleeping until 9:00 AM, catching northern pike to his heart’s content. It was the vacation of dreams. But alas, school begins… And for Michael that now means entering the puberty infested world of junior-high-dom.
We’ve been through it all before with our three older children, but the strange reluctance I feel every “first day of school” still haunts me. As he strapped on his backpack this morning, took a deep breath, hopped out of the car and headed toward his new classroom I was struck by the limited power I have over his life. I really control so little!
Sure, he goes to a fine school, and his teacher is good, and most the kids in his class are respectable. But the fact is, school is out of my grasp. I’ve delegated influence, and I can’t control his experience there. When he’s home Jill and I can monitor his choices, to some extent. But “out there” in the “real world” of middle school Michael is much more on his own.
We know full well the dangers they face: bullying, ideas that run against our family values, the undeniable fact that schools can be Petri-dishes for strange viruses (H1N1), and acts of violence. And most of it no one can stop.
My first reaction today was to let fear chill my blood. Then I caught myself. A quiet Voice whispered a simple charge: “Pray! Pray for him.” I took it to be God’s prompting. “You can’t control his life, and you shouldn’t try. But I can. Pray, and I’ll give Michael my very best.”
I did. It wasn’t anything long or profound or grand or sacred. I simply spoke my insecurities and asked God for favor,
“God, protect and bless Michael today in his new school.
Give him all he needs. Be with him.”
Jill and I bought him new shoes, pants and a shirt. He has a new insulated lunch box, and a fresh haircut. But none of that is really enough for his first day. What he really needs is God, and God’s favor. For that, the very best we can do is pray.
Here’s a challenge: for the month of September I’ll be writing about prayers for our children. As they begin school, it’s a fitting topic I think. So if you have children, grandchildren, godchildren, nieces and nephews or young friends, dive into this discussion. Let’s pool our wisdom and experience and pray together for the children in our lives and let’s talk about what happens as a result.