I could feel the tears—the one’s I swore I wouldn’t shed—start forming in my throat. I didn’t want to get choked-up. Today was a happy day from Luke’s perspective. He was leaving for a dream come true summer job in California. Having your Mom cry when you’re 20 is embarrassing.
The irony was that if he’d been leaving the night before I would’ve said, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out,” because the kid is driving me crazy. I couldn’t seem to hold on to that emotion though. While anger can be a great fuel it’s an expensive one. It keeps you from feeling the harder emotions—the one’s you aren’t sure what to do with.
As much as I tried though, my eyes just kept filling. It seems the Holy Spirit wasn’t going to let me off the hook. My heart is breaking and there’s no way around it. It’s not empty-nest syndrome. It’s a Prodigal Son story.
You see of my two children Luke is the one who has to do life the hard way. He’s been this way since he was born but even during the terrible two’s a wicked determination can be tamed. A hard-headed twenty year old from the Millennial Generation is another thing entirely. It’s proof positive that Bill Cosby was right when he said all children have brain damage.
The generation gap between us is profound. Where my fellow Baby Boomers and I are just an updated version of our parent’s generation, today’s 20 year old is like a different species. Yes, this is an exaggeration and not a new phenomenon. But knowing that the parent’s of the hippy movement were also worried sick is of little comfort. Trying to help your child negotiate the perils of adult life when they think you, “don’t get it” is agonizing.
First off, it’s a real blow to your ego especially if you consider yourself a capable person, which I do. It stings a little more if you feel like you’ve made great sacrifices for your child which I think I have. Then, in my case, when you believe some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome have been out of the ordinary it feels like one-two-three-strikes you’re out-of-your mind.
So, why was my mascara on the verge of melting as Luke drove away?
Because I know my son is lost in a dream world. Where he believes he’s ready to conquer life independently I know he can barely open a can of soup. Quitting school, hawking yet another ill-conceived multi-level-marketing scam, and working a part-time job don’t land you on the Forbe’s Richest People in America list. It puts you back in your mother’s basement which although it’s a very nice one is not where he and I want him to be.
Is he capable of being successful at a lot of things—YES! Is he realistic—NO—and in every conversation with him about the real world his response is anger at what he considers my desire to stifle his passions. On the one hand he thanks me for all I’ve done for him, telling me I’m the world’s best mother, on the other he accuses me of being unsupportive. Never mind the fact I lined up the summer job.
All this is why I thought the door would shut today and I’d breathe a sigh of relief but instead I had to reach for the tissues.
After I pulled myself together I decided I’d get the laundry going before church. Productivity is always my best medicine. To get it out of the way I headed to Luke’s room first to get his sheets. I flipped the light on half-expecting he’d left something important behind.
At first glance I didn’t see anything, but then as I turned to leave I saw what I’d like to believe he left for me. Two pennies sitting right next to a flashlight I’d given him when he was having bad dreams. Now the mascara was ruined.
The Bible tells us nothing about how the Prodigal’s father survived the folly of his son. I wish it did. All we know is that the son learned what he needed to and returned home.
I find great comfort in not only this parable Jesus told, but the one before it. In that story a woman has ten coins but loses one. She doesn’t choose to count it as lost but instead lights a lamp to search for it. When she finds it she calls all her friends and neighbors together to celebrate.
Two stories with happy endings, two pennies, and a flashlight—reminders to me to leave a light on. In God’s Kingdom what’s lost is always found.