This past weekend Cal attended his Senior Prom. It kind of snuck up on me. Since he's moved out, it's harder to keep up with these kinds of events, but, even so, I did have advance warning. I guess I just didn't realize how I would feel when the day actually arrived.
We tried to make plans to go down to see him the day of the prom and take some pictures. As you can imagine, he and his friends were difficult to nail down as far as where and when they would be for said pictures. It turned out that we didn't go and I had to settle for some texted photos of him in his tux. As soon as I saw them I was a mess.
It seems like only yesterday that I was going to my own prom. Ironically, I went with Cal's dad. Reflecting on that I remembered that we had gone camping with his dad's grandparents the weekend of the prom and his dad drove me back the day of the event so we could go. If you know much about Cal's dad and I you know that it's been many years since we were together and our relationship has had it's fair share of negative moments. Nonetheless, that memory prompted me to tell him that if I hadn't said so at the time, it meant a lot to me that he drove me home to take me to prom.
Not long after that prom Cal was born. I was 20 when he arrived and, again, it seems like only yesterday. Cal was a lot of fun as a kid. He was active and always eager to make new friends. He couldn't wait to be old enough to "go outside" and play with the other neighborhood kids. I can remember him asking me if he could "please go outside" when he was very little. As I looked at the pictures of him in his tux, I was thinking how quickly the time had passed. I was longing for more days of him playing in the yard, scrapping his knees and getting dirty.
And then, I remembered my prom again. As I reminisced about how incredibly reckless I was then, I began to worry. Then I started texting him neurotically...
Me: Have fun and be careful. And NO SEX!
Cal: Ok mom.
Me: I'm serious about the sex.
Cal: I know mom and I know the consequences of that.
Me: Just making sure because you really cannot afford to get anyone pregnant.
Cal: I know mom. I won't.
Me: Ok, be safe.
Cal: I will mom.
Me: Do have fun. And Miss Nikki told me to tell you to "crump it out tonight."
Cal: Haha. Ok, I will.
Never mind that I realize that texting warnings to your 18 year old son is by no means stellar parenting. I get that. I guess I just wanted to say the things that I felt needed to be said knowing that he would have to make his own decisions about those things anyways. I prayed that he would be wise and safe and be a gentleman to the girls he was with. It was all I could do.
What does all of this have to do with Blue Like Jazz? I'm getting to that, I promise.
James and I went to see Blue Like Jazz the night it opened. I hadn't read the book but had read much about the book and have read other work of Donald Miller's. I am by no means an expert, just a fan with some thoughts on what I saw.
The Story begins with young "Don" going off the a very liberal college after having had a crisis of his faith. He comes from a very traditional background and his experience within Christian culture leaves him somewhat unprepared for the life that awaits him at college. He goes to great lengths to hide his Christian roots in order to fit in, all the while, internally struggling with what he actually believes.
In the end, Don winds up finding his faith again and begins to address some of what he sees as inconsistencies in the Church. He confesses those shortcomings to his fellow classmates and finds himself in a relationship with a God who can handle Don's growing pains.
Obviously the movie deserves more than two short paragraphs, but, this post isn't just about the movie. I wholeheartedly recommend that you go see it for yourself.
Anyhow, with this story fresh in my mind as I was sending my firstborn off to his Senior Prom, I started to think about the faith I've tried to teach my kids and how I hope it sustains them in the world. I prayed earnestly that my son would only make the best of choices at his prom, at parties, at school, outside of school. You get the picture.
The thing is, as much as I want my kids to avoid the consequences I've had to live through, more than that, I want them to have a faith that can weather those consequences should they come. As I watched the character in Blue Like Jazz figure out that God could handle his questions and failures, my heart desired that same kind of relationship with Christ for my own kids. I want them to know that no matter what they do or what they go through, Jesus can handle it.
I've come to believe that it isn't enough to teach my kids morality. It isn't enough to take them to church and ask them to take a purity vow. I sell them short when I present to them a god who won't walk with them through failure or even doubt of his existence. I leave them with nothing to hold on to if I can't tell them of Jesus, who saves sinners and LOVES them in spite of their performance.
And I know this firsthand. He's loved me in spite of my performance. He's stood the test of time and walked through many doubts. Years ago, at that reckless prom of mine, Jesus was loving me and planning his dramatic rescue of me. As much as I want my kids to be "good kids", I want them to know the power of their own dramatic rescue. I want them to know in their very bones that Jesus saves.
A long time ago I was faced with some big decisions about my children. I remember feeling the weight of that and feeling like I was deciding their fate or even the course of human history. With this pressure on me as I drove one afternoon the Holy Spirit spoke clearly to me and said,"No matter what you decide, you do not have the power to change my plans for your children." It took my breath away to hear those words and I was flooded with relief. I knew then that God had a plan for my kids and that He would use me in that plan, but, ultimately, the plan was His. I've rested in that many times since. I do now instead of obsessing over what might have happened at Cal's prom. I hope you can rest in that too.