Everyone goes out of their way to prepare you for parenthood. At baby showers, new parents gratefully receive all the necessary supplies (and some precious, though unnecessary accoutrements). In countless conversations, new parents have to pick through loads of unsolicited advice to mine out the gems. But few people prepare you for the sending season.
If I had to whittle down the innumerable stages of parenting into three seasons, I would choose receiving, shaping, sending. The receiving season is poignant and powerful whether it happens suddenly and seemingly effortlessly or is a painful and involved process of waiting. The sending stage seems to come suddenly even though it’s out there lingering all along. We know that one day, these children we have received and have spent decades intentionally shaping (and being shaped by) will likely be independent in some form or fashion. But the shaping season is so involved, so time-consuming, so all-encompassing, that it rarely allows us to look up as the far-off sending point approaches with haste.
Lately, the Lord has been lifting my eyes often to the sending season. I have found myself as weepy and thin-souled as I did during those early days of receiving these sons. We will be doing something normal and necessary in the shaping season (chores, driving to sports practices, eating dinner) and my soul and sight will suddenly shoot out back to the receiving and then forward to the sending season.
I’ll be folding huge, mens-sized sweatpants. Suddenly, I am remembering the days when their entire wardrobes fit into one small basket. Then, I am imagining them avoiding laundry in college and wearing one pair of sweatpants ad nauseam. Then I am crying and treasuring up the days.
Or, I’ll be driving them to school, listening to their silly banter or helping them with vocabulary. Suddenly, I am remembering the days when they learned a new word. Then, I am thinking of how quiet (and clean) my car will be one day. Next, I am a puddle.
Yesterday, at church, my husband (who is also my pastor), mentioned John 20:21 in passing: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” It was a passing point, not even a tertiary point of his sermon; however, it is looming large on my heart and in my mind.
I know there are dangers of forcing human experience onto the godhead. I know that God speaks anthropomorphically as a concession and condescension to our limited natures. I know that God exists outside the constraints of time. But I keep thinking of that interchange. The Father sent the Son. The son leaves the Father.
Realities of Sending
- The sending informs the shaping. Before creation was spoken into existence, God knew Christ would take the path of the Cross. Jesus needed no shaping, as he was and is and will be as he is. We, however, as adopted children of God, require unthinkable amounts of shaping. God’s shaping of his people hinged upon the sending of his Son. My shaping of my sons is informed by the reality that they are to be sent out. I am shaping my spouse to stay and my children to be sent. Keeping the sending (and the Sent One, Christ) on the forefront allows me to enjoy the days I have with them and to invest intentionally and sacrificially in this shaping season.
- The sending involves sacrifice. The eternal status quo was shaken up when God sent the Son to become a man who stepped into time and space. I don’t know much about time/space continuum, but I know a little about the heart of a father. Fathers loves the presence of their children, and they are pained when their children are not near to them. When I send these boys out, there will be pain and discomfort on both sides. We will be shaken, things will shift, and we will experience sadness and sacrifice. But if it doesn’t bleed, it is not a sacrifice. And there are purposes to be fulfilled for both parents and sent sons.
- The sending is also a receiving. God sent his Son so that he would receive many sons. God allowed his Son to be slaughtered for our sin because he wanted to receive back to his lap his once-wayward, now-adopted sons and daughters. I love listening in to the conversation Jesus had with his Father in the high priestly prayer (John 17). You can feel not only the impending agony, but also the eager anticipation of being reunited with the Father having done the work he was sent to accomplish. When these sons are sent out, there will be new receiving to be done (by them and their parents). Seasons change, but the Savior who ushers them in stands unchanging (Heb. 13:8).
I am almost the mother sending out sons even though I feel like I just received them. I long for our shaping to be informed by the sending. The end bathes the means in fresh light. I long for our sending to accomplish deeper shaping in our lives. I long for our sending to be centered on and sustained by the Sent One. One day, we will be gathered back to him. Then, we will be the satisfied ones. Until then, there is much receiving and shaping and sending to be done.