life than they ever dreamed of." - John 10:10 (The Message)
This week I've been going through boxes in our basement, trying to clean up a bit. Some of those boxes belong to my oldest daughter, an Army lieutenant who will be home for a few days next month before her unit heads to Iraq. I decided to work on her boxes now to save her some time and also because I know it will be much harder for me emotionally to do this after she deploys.
Jess is a prime example of how God's paths for our children can be so different than our own dreams for them. A lifelong musician, she joined the local National Guard band in high school because she loved to play and wanted to earn money for college. She left for basic training two days after graduating from high school. I remember begging God for nine weeks to "please let her survive Basic!" She had never been an athlete, wasn't in prime physical shape, and had never expressed interest in military service before then.
Jess not only survived Basic - she thrived. To my amazement, she fell in love with Army life during those nine weeks. After returning home, she was bored at college and one day found the website for the US Military Academy at West Point, NY. She became determined to get into West Point, and she succeeded. She even met her future spouse there - a fellow South Dakotan - and married Craig on graduation day.
Now she's a lieutenant in the medical services branch, stationed at Fort Hood, TX, and heading to Iraq in August for her first deployment. Craig's unit is also being deployed, and they hope to be able to share a CHU (housing quarters) or at least see each other now and then.
This is not the life I would have chosen for Jess. I would have chosen a life of music, spent close to home, close to me. God chose a life of service to country for her, service to soldiers as a leader, a life far from me. Though it will not be easy, especially when she is overseas and in harm's way, I know His choice is the better one.
I have watched Jess blossom and grow these past few years. She loves her husband, and he treats her like a queen. She loves her job (a good thing, since she works 14-hour days) and is a fierce advocate for the soldiers in her platoon. She has seen places I only read about (Egypt, Vietnam, Thailand, France, and soon Iraq) and lived experiences I can scarcely imagine (20-mile foot marches, throwing hand grenades and shooting rifles, even skydiving with a free fall!). And when we talk, I hear her enthusiasm, her passion for life.
As moms we want our kids to be safe, to take the easier way, free of pain and sacrifice. It's in our nature. But when the Lord tells them, "Come, take My hand, and see everything I have in store for you," would we really choose instead to clip their wings and hold them close to us?
I'd rather have my daughter love her life and live out her dreams than force her to live my dreams for her. Because this way, even if she is taken from us by an enemy bullet or IED, at least she will have fully lived.
Lord, help us to pray daily for our kids. And let us pray not for our will to be done in their lives, but for Your will to be done. Help us tuck them softly, confidently into Your loving arms, knowing that they do not belong to us, but to You. In Jesus's name, amen.