The day one of our sons left for Army basic training was a hard day. I did not expect it to be easy, but I also did not expect it to be one of the most difficult days I have ever had. Was it because I knew he would never live with us again? That now, the in-home part of our parenting was over? Was it the nature of his mission with the U.S. military? Was it the separation from someone I love dearly? Was it the difficulties that I knew he would face as an SIT (soldier-in-training) or if he is one day deployed in battle? Was it because I knew he would come back different?
In answer to all of these questions, all I can say is, yes to each one of them. What I know for sure is that it hurt. I grieved in a place that I didn’t know existed, a place deep, down in my soul. It was one of my hardest days. As I sat there crying, knowing I needed to “get it together” because our four youngest daughters were home, I remembered God the Father. In my grief, sitting in our family room, I was reminded that God the Father, out of his great love for us, for me, gave—was separated from—his beloved Son, the one in whom he was well-pleased. The father knew his Son would bear the punishment for sin, the very wrath of the Father who loved him.
My personal pain, my grief, gave me a tiny glimpse of the Father’s great love and sacrifice. I considered the grief he must have felt as he sent his Son to engage in spiritual war and fulfill his gospel mission. And I was reminded once again, true love is always fulfilled by self-sacrifice for the good of others. It is God’s nature. He is love and we cannot understand love apart from him. My love for my son, although deep, is imperfect. I was reminded that the nature of my grief for him, although rooted in love, is also stained with selfishness because of my own sin. He was never really minded keep, but to steward for my Father (Psalm 127:3-4).
Prayerfully, in less than two weeks we will get to see our son’s face again. We will get to see him walk across the stage and go from civilian to soldier. I do not know the specific mission that my heavenly Father, his Father, has for his life but my prayer is, though he will stumble and fall along the way, that his life will be one of self-sacrificial love. That he will seek to be like his Savior, the Lord Jesus. I pray that our son knows that when his earthly father and I look on him we see a son in whom we are well-pleased. But more importantly, I pray he remembers that God the Father, because of his self-sacrificial love demonstrated by giving his son as an atoning sacrifice, looks on him and sees Jesus, “his son in whom he is well-pleased” (Matt 17:5).
Below are a couple of familiar Bible verses that have been food to my hurting and hungry soul in these days:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
“And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”
Who knew my son enlisting in the US military would draw me closer to God and make me a better soldier of the Son by teaching me more about what it means to, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:2-3)?