Not the baby. Well, I guess the baby is growing up, too. But today is about this lady, my sister(-in-law), Mary, who just graduated from high school.
I’ve known Mary since she was nine years old, and every day since I met her, she has impressed me with her joy, faith, confidence, and purpose. She is as complete and mature a young woman as I’ve ever known. Watching her grow up has been a privilege. Her imminent embarking on the next stage of her life—college—has compelled me, whether I like it or not, to reflect on the end of my high school career and the start of my time in college.
John and I had been dating for seven months when we went off to college, and neither of us could bear to break things off when the time came. Plus, considering how close our schools were to one another, breaking up would have been, in the eloquent words of our friend Laura, “stupid.” Laura was right. It would have been stupid. We had some challenging times in college, but what relationship worth its salt doesn’t have some obstacles to overcome? I am amazed and grateful every time I look back at eighteen-year-old me and see that one dream in particular did come true. The best relationship I’d ever been in and could ever imagine being in became a lifelong commitment to my favorite guy on the planet. This doesn’t happen every day, and I know how blessed I am.
When I thought of what “wisdom” I wanted to impart to Mary—and I thought about it for something like six months—one piece of advice came to mind. It’s something that an older friend in youth group told me.
There will be challenges ahead, she wrote to me when I graduated, but you can handle them.
I thought of this now and then in college, and it still comes to mind at times now. If the last year has shown me anything, it’s that with my faith, my family, and my friends, I really can handle anything that comes my way.
I offered these words to Mary, and I realize they are likewise a kind of standard for parenting. What is most important to me as a parent is that I build my child’s character well. That Jacob and those who, God willing, come after, will have the discipline, the thoughtfulness, the generosity, the patience, and the courage to handle whatever comes their way.
I’m pretty sure Mary already has all that in the bag. Maybe I needed to be reminded of it more than she did. But then maybe all of us need to realize that we are stronger than we realize and capable of more than we could imagine.