Letting Go isn’t Easy
Though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. Philemon 1:8-10
This is the week my kids go back to college and it’s easily my least favorite week of the year. We dropped my daughter off earlier in the week and then, my son and I took off across the country to drive him to school. As we left home, the sky was dark and grey, which was an apt metaphor for my mood. I needed to pull it together or it was going to be a long drive. You’d think it would get easier every year, but so far, it’s not. So, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about letting go – and how bad I am at doing it.
Today’s passage provided me with some insight. In it, Paul addressed Philemon, whom Paul once probably led to Christ. Paul wrote to Philemon asking him to forgive Onesimus who’d stolen from Philemon. Paul was the elder apostle who’d led both Philemon and Onesimus to Christ. In his letter, Paul said that as an apostle/ father/elder he could demand Philemon forgive, but for love’s sake, he asked him to do so. Perhaps Paul once would have commanded Philemon, but their relationship had evolved. Paul allowed Philemon to grow, subsequently changing the way he interacted with him. Now, he didn’t order Philemon about, but rather, appealed to his sense of morality, asking him to do what was right.
When my kids were little, it was my job to be paternalistic, making decisions for them. As they’ve grown, passing into adulthood, I now must change how I interact with them. Hopefully my wife and I have raised them well, but either way, they now must make their own decisions and I must allow that. Perhaps I could force my will on them – I do still pay for college – but that wouldn’t be beneficial for their ongoing growth. To mature and develop into who God wants them to be, I must learn to let go, allowing them to make their own way.
Honestly, I want my kids to remain in junior high forever. A lot of my identity is wrapped up in being a dad. To continue to be a good dad though, I must let them grow. It would be abnormal if they stayed at home, and it would be unhealthy if I continued to treat them as children. I’m thankful for their growth. I’m just not very good at letting go – but I’m working on it.