The Language of Letting Go

by Andy Wood on June 19, 2008

in Five LV Laws, Life Currency, Love, Principle of Legacy

CCJ 3Not once did the thought occur to me.  Not once.

We knew at 10 weeks we were having twins, courtesy of those dandy new ultrasound machines.  And we were excited.  Fresh out of school, still using wedding dishes, living in our own home, and picking out not one, but two sets of names. 

Two boys?  Joel Andrew and Jeremy Adam. 

Boy and a girl?  Joel Andrew and Jessica Leigh.

I was pretty quiet as we headed home from that latest ultrasound.  The images were beginning to form in my mind for the first time.

Two girls?

Cosmic shifts started taking place in my little brain.  And they all culminated in a wedding.

Since I was old enough to understand what fathers were, I wanted to be one.  I was blessed to have a dad who loves being a dad, to this day.  In whatever ways I have failed to live up to his example, I caught the whole load on that one.  And in doing so, three deep convictions emerged:

  • I would be the first representation of the nature and character of God to my children.
  • We were called to raise adults, not children.
  • Mommies build nests, but for daddies, children are arrows in their hands, and my job was to launch them.

CCJ 2From the day I carried Cassie to the nursery (Carrie had already been whisked off), I expected this day to come.  This day of sending forth.  This day of letting go. 

I can’t begin to describe the feeling of inadequacy at various stages.  I had no clue just how completely selfish I could be until I had kids.  Nature of God?  Ha!  Adults?  What if I was as childish as they were?  And how can I lead them to prosper in a world that beats my brains out regularly?

There was no way to anticipate where life and God and growth and sin and ministry would take us.  But we buckled in for the ride. 

Three kids before we were married three years?  No problem.  We can handle it. 

Four different ministry jobs in that same period of time?  Piece of cake. 

Having your family shredded apart and nobody to blame but yourself?  Hmmm.  Time to sober up. 

Watching God restore what the locusts had eaten?  Breathtaking and humbling. 

Having three kids who had every reason in the world to hate me, hate God, and hate the ministry, all in love with Jesus and in ministry today?  I think you know the answer to that one.

Today we stand at one of those profound seasons of change that every family goes through.  And on this day, I am reminded of what it costs the bow to launch the arrow.  It must be stretched within an inch of its capacity.  It has to aim as precisely as possible.  It must channel all its energy beneath the arrow.

And it has to let go.  And trust God with the results.

For 24 years I have watched my three kids learn to love kids and teenagers themselves.   The girls were a hot commodity as babysitters.  Then when our church started, Carrie worked as a preschool volunteer.  Then an intern, and ultimately full-time as our Children’s Ministry Coordinator.  But another set of callings have stirred in her for a long time.  A calling to be a wife and mother.  A calling to take the gospel to the world through missions. In a matter of eight weeks, she has given birth to our first granddaughter, resigned her position, and will move with Kyle to the Metroplex to work with a missions organization.  Hello and head out.  We miss Laura Kate already; they’ve been house-hunting this week.

Joel married Ashley in March and graduated from college in May.  He, too, has a calling to take the gospel to the world, either as a pastor or a missionary.  For this season, he’s in student ministry, and he’s really making a difference as he’s being stretched and growing himself.  But finding his place and making his own mark necessarily means leaving mine.  That’s a good thing, but I do feel stretched.

Cassie and CurtisAnd this weekend Cassie will marry the man she has waited for, prayed for, and loved before she even knew his name.  And as she prepares to be an adolescent counselor, she’s marrying a youth pastor.  And so it goes.

The only thing that makes me feel more inadequate than holding a newborn baby for the first time is anticipating walking that same kid down the aisle and returning home to that empty nest her Mom has so wonderfully built.  But I’m blessed to be married to a castle-builder, and there will soon be new worlds to conquer. 

In between is the Language of Letting Go.  It comes disguised as rants about wedding costs (Steve Martin wasn’t just right in “Father of the Bride” – he was prophetic) and jokes about frequent flyer miles.  It’s a language sometimes too deep for words.  But it’s a necessary rite of passage for them, and for us.

Lord willing, there will be no funerals this weekend.  Just a gathering of four generations of family, more friends than we deserve, and an extraordinary church community.  Each of those three kids-turned-adults will leave with spouses and callings and, in one case, a daughter of their own.  The quiver will be empty, but my heart very full.  We are blessed.  Greatly blessed.

The Language of Letting Go is a reminder that life is fleeting, but love is worth finding.  And with memories and a heritage to stand on, and new castles to build, we do not live as hopeless people.  There really is coming a time when we’ll say “good-bye” for the last time.  Until then, we stretch.  We launch.  And we embrace the God who never lets go, and trust Him with the results.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Tree Newt June 19, 2008 at 7:44 am

Andy, once again, you are a very blessed man. As a husband of a great “castle builder” myself, and the father of one baby girl that’s here and one that’s on the way, this post resonated deeply with me. I know it will be the blink of an eye, and I’ll be the one standing in a 20 year old tux removing “superfluous buns” from hot-dog bun packages, all the while ranting about wedding costs. My little one turned 2 last week, and it has flown by. I was getting teary-eyed reading your post, because I can sympathize, even if just a little, with you. You have been blessed, and, if what my mom and dad tell me after I, the last of 5 left the nest, your life will be filled in new ways. Enjoy this weekend, soak it all in, and have a ball!

Grace and Peace,
Mattie

Ivy June 19, 2008 at 8:01 am

Congratulations Andy. God is so faithful and good in spite of our mistakes. We have seen that in our family as well. Grown up children are such a blessing, especially as their faith matures into adulthood. And I love your “Father of the Bride” reference. It’s so true. Peace.

Daddy June 19, 2008 at 9:22 pm

Andy,
This all goes back to when you and Debbie were born. We barely knew how babies came to be. So, we turned both of you over to the Lord to raise and guide your lives through childhood into adults. All the credit goes to Him for this wonderful family you have.
Love ya,
Daddy

kenSwitzer June 21, 2008 at 9:43 am

Well,
I had a great post ready to post and then I read Tree Newt’s. All I can say is, THIEF. You stole the words from my keyboard and made them sound better in the process.
The only differences are my little girl will be 3 in August and we o not yet know if the one on the way is a boy or a girl.

Andy,
After this weekend is finished, actually and mentally (so a couple of years from now) you need to write a book about how you were able to handle letting them go. I know, I know, “Trust God” and all of that, but when you actually have to talk to Fraunk(sp?) and you have give him a “blank check”, how did it all go down.

Good luck and have fun. These are the times that the kids will remember you as the “Best dad in the world”. They will watch you to see how to handle the stress of it all with grace and wisdom…..even if you do become a blubbering, snot spewing, falling down and wailing Father of the bride. To them you will be the best one around.

kenSwitzer

Robin Wood June 22, 2008 at 11:38 pm

To the Best Father of the Bride,

The week-end is over, our last has been shot off from the quiver and the bending of the bow was painful – but as you so beautifully wrote, necessary. What a week-end it was and you were amazing. As I watched you gliding, ok, stumbling a bit, across that dance floor, with our not so little girl, I knew you were making her life long dream come true and though it was painful for you to do, the dancing and the letting go, you have handled it well.

Thank you for all your hard work, sacrifice, and giving in helping to make this week-end a reality. I may be a castle builder, but never ever forget that you are my prince and that castles are worthless without the prince.

I love you darling,

Robin

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