Whenever I go on my iPhone to make a hotel reservation there are always the normal questions: destination, dates of travel, and number of guests. Upon entering “two adults/three children,” three scroll-down menus appear asking for the age of each of the children. Even though I am an honest person, I have a confession about answering those three simple age-questions. Sometimes I don’t put my children’s actual ages. I put the ages my children were when if I had the ability I would have stopped them from growing. Do you remember your children at that (those) ages? When you would have loved to have hit life’s “imaginary pause button” and they would have stayed that way forever? Instead of 16, 13, and 9, I sometimes put 11, 9, and 4. Those were the ages.
Joy fills my heart when I remember those days, when I see those photographs. When I remember those vacations and when I pass “Land of the Dragons” at Busch Gardens. Those were great days.
Anna turned 16 today, Sophie has grown so much in height and maturity this past year, and Laura will be ten in December. Time is moving on. There is a lot I miss. All parents face this, but as our children grow we have a choice. I can give myself to nostalgia and memories and miss the opportunities that a new day offers, or I can allow my relationship to grow and change and find new joys that exist with older children. Things will never be the same. They will never be 11, 9, and 4 again. No more Chick-Fil-A play spaces or toddler slides at Water Country USA. I can’t go back. But, there is so much that offers joy today. A Ghost Walk in Williamsburg at 10 o’clock at night. This wasn’t possible at 11, 9, and 4. A nice dinner at a “fancy” restaurant. This wasn’t possible when my children were still throwing Gerber Puffs.
I could miss all the new joys and hopes and possibilities by trying to bring back the past, the way it was, and if I try hard enough to bring it back it will destroy what I have now.
I know parents who refuse to have a growing relationship with growing children, and I know parents (and grandparents) who are willing to adjust and change and move into the future. The difference between the two is the difference between death and life.
The same is true of churches. In our changing world it is a reality that we cannot go back to the way things once were. For good or bad, through celebrations and failures, time moves on in the midst of a changing world. The question is the same. Will a church live with a nostalgic backward gaze or be willing to change and grow and move with new possibilities?
Our God is the God of new life and renewed hope. I feel that hope this morning. My children are growing, I honestly could never fathom having a 16 year old. And what I have learned is that at every turn there is hope and joy. Thanks be to God.