HEARTLAND | Nate Adams
It’s been several years since we sent our first son off to school. But it was a fairly traumatic event in our family, so I remember it clearly.
The trauma actually began the night before when we were reviewing with little Caleb the details of what would go in his school bag, when the bus would pick him up, what his teacher’s name was, etc. His mom was reassuring him, and herself, that everything would be OK and that he was ready for this important new adventure.
She had just told him about the wonderful, mid-morning fruit snack he would enjoy, when he looked up with helpless, pre-kindergarten eyes and asked, “But Mom, who will peel my banana for me?”
This of course sent Beth into a frenzy of self-doubt. How could we send our little boy off into the world without banana-peeling skills? How many other parenting deficiencies had we overlooked?
The next morning, things only got worse. Caleb insisted on wearing his favorite, familiar, but tattered T-shirt, and Beth and I disagreed on how well that would represent the family. His younger brother Noah started whining and then crying that he didn’t want Caleb to go off to school. When it came time to go out and meet the bus, Caleb literally held on to the front doorknob and starting crying. That triggered his mom’s tears.
Fortunately a young lady that I now refer to as the best bus driver in the world rescued us. She pulled up, swung open the doors of the big yellow bus, and cheerfully called out, “Hi Caleb, ready for your first day of school?” It turns out she had driven the route the previous day, and learned all the names of the new kindergarteners. She directed Caleb to a special seat in the front row, and said some reassuring words to Beth and me. Like I said, best bus driver in the world.
So before I knew it, Caleb was on the bus and I was in my car on the way to work. And it was there that I found myself asking, “What just happened here? Why was this so hard?”
I began to pray. And it was then I found myself asking some different questions. In eternity past, had there been an event like this for God? Was there some kind of moment when he looked upon His own dear Son, and instead of majestic robes saw swaddling clothes? Doesn’t Philippians 2 tell us that God more or less watched from heaven’s front step as Jesus left home to do what had to be done, and what only Jesus could do?
I realized then why this first day of school had been so heart wrenching. I had just experienced a faint reflection of what God experienced in His own heart that first Christmas, as He sent His own dear Son for the ultimate good of the world and the people He created.
There was a very happy ending to that traumatic first day of school for us. Caleb returned home bubbling with joy at the new friends he’d made, and how much he liked his teacher, and how the banana peeled just fine. He went on through many years of grade school, high school, and college, and made many new friends. Next month we will send that same little boy off, not to kindergarten, but to marriage.
And the story of Christmas has a happy ending too. God released His omnipotent, heroic Son to become a frail human baby because He knew that in doing so Jesus would also return home, having completed His mission at the cross, and having gathered many friends around Him as well. Sending a son is not easy. But it sure can have a happy ending.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.