Day of Rejoicing
Free! No more of those daily irritations that accompany raising kids! His son was off to Bible college and he was free—until …
My son Stephen enrolled in Prairie Bible College, a decision that had his mother and I rejoicing and sniffling and clutching our wallets all at once. The price for Bible college has not decreased since I attended in the latter half of the last century, but I assured him it would not be a problem. We would sell his little brother into slavery to pay for the first semester.*
I considered all the reasons I was happy to have this kid out of the house.
Recently he arrived in the Montana mountains for Explore, which I am told is a wonderful program where Christian leaders are born, where apologetics meet practical teaching in a pristine wilderness setting. I have the sneaking suspicion that it's really an excuse to go on an extended camping trip while getting to know girls. And I'll admit something else. Bible college wasn't on my agenda for this boy. I've checked Fortune 500 and Money magazine. There are very few ministers, missionaries, and camp directors listed there. I will reach retirement age in 22 years. Who will pay for my medication?
On the day of his departure Stephen's mother kissed his cheek and I hugged him until his kidneys hurt. He didn't seem to mind. There were no tears in his eyes, and certainly none in mine. In fact, I couldn't have been happier. It was a holiday. The sky was blue. The air was warm. I would go home and hoist a ginger ale, then cut the grass. As I pushed our old weed whacker along, I considered all the reasons I was happy to have this kid out of the house. These were just a start:
1. No more toothpaste on our bathroom door.
2. No more mould growing beneath his bed.
3. His music can keep someone else up now.
4. I can find my ties, my tools, and my remote control.
5. No more stepping in remnants of last night's yogurt snack.
6. Or tripping over clothes on the floor.
7. We will save roughly $4,000 per month on groceries.
8. No more adjusting the seat and mirror when I drive the car.
9. No more phone calls interrupting my work: "Dad, let's go golfing."
10. No more flopping on our bed at night to tell us of his day.
I was free.
That night we crawled into bed, my wife and I, the lawn neatly trimmed, the house cleaned, the back porch swept, and she said, "Aren't you glad Stephen wants to serve God? We've prayed that he would since he was knee-high to a Lego block." How could I disagree? I started on my list of ten things, but Ramona had drifted off already, so I lay there with my hands behind my thinning hairdo and gazed at the ceiling. The smile had subsided a little. It wasn't like I'd been baptized in lemon juice, but you get the picture.
Most nights Stephen brushed his teeth outside our bedroom door. If the door was open, he came in. Boys are easy to talk to when there's toothpaste in their mouth. Suddenly I missed those talks. I missed him thumping down the stairs and pretending he wiped out, just to see the horrified looks on our faces. I missed the music he would crank up about 11 p.m. in the room below us. Even if it sounded like someone killing chickens with a jackhammer.
I missed him rolling on the floor with the dog and sometimes me, and standing at the fridge together about midnight talking of our day and wondering where Mom hid the mayonnaise.
I went looking for the dog that night. Mojo was lying on Stephen's bed, her tail in the downward position. And try as I might to be brave and manly and a positive thinker Robert H. Schuller would admire, there were tears corning down my cheeks there in the dark. There are far worse things than hugging your firstborn goodbye as he goes off to Bible college, but I miss my son.
"Lord," I prayed, "take care of this boy. I know he was on loan, but we got pretty attached to him. Wherever he goes, go with him." And I thanked God that he loaned us two more kids. I'm so glad they're around. They're bright kids. I think they'll make good lawyers. They can buy my medication.
* Phil is joking. A recent study has shown that Prairie is one of the most reasonably-priced Bible colleges on the planet. Also, he did not sell his son. Please do not write him letters about this.
Phil Callaway is an alumnus of Prairie Bible College and High School. His column "Family Matters" appears in two dozen magazines. He is editor of Servant magazine, is a popular speaker and author of a dozen books including "Who Put the World on Fast Forward" and "I Used To Have Answers, Now I Have Kids" as well as the novels "The Edge of the World" and "Wonders Never Cease." His website is: www.philcallaway.com.
Originally published in "Prairie Harvester," Fall 2004 (www.prairie.edu). Reprinted in "Options," 2010.
Used with permission of the author. Copyright © 2005 Christianity.ca.