higher education

Katie goes to college
Katie goes to college

Just for the record, I’ve never really been the father of a college student before.

I’m not sure how this is supposed to go.  I’m not sure how I’m supposed to act.

We’ve had some difficult conversations as we’ve wandered through the ideas about Katie leaving home and finding her way in life beyond us.  How, where, when, why?  Questions simultaneously bitter and sweet on the tongue.  Answers weakly discerned and hardly articulated.

Most of the difficulty comes from my own dying.  Kids are good for that – helping parents with the dying.

Plenty of me still to go through the dying.  Dying to live, dying to live.  More of him, less of me.  I hope.

Life fights to get out through the dying.  I die a little and life bears much fruit.  Like giving birth, I suppose.  Renee knows.

Like Katie going to college.

So, we visit six schools in five days, far from home, and cry a little and laugh a lot and try to see the path designed for a girl old enough to go but too young to go, searching for the light, the voice, the best cafeteria food, and the comfort of the inspiration.

We grow weary, and use harsh words, feeling the desires and fears, and speaking only the mumblings of the pain of stress and anxiety and the dying.  But, we’re bound to each other, bound to the purpose of finding the way together.

So, we don’t stop with the dying, we have to push through to the living.  So we dig deeper, discovering the feelings and the real words to describe, and to understand, the struggle, knowing its fountain is life.  The muddy silt, stirred by our intrusion and disrupting our vision, will settle again as it flows.

Finally, we get back to the bottom line; the ultimate measure of a college, a life, beyond the pressure of deadlines and tasks, of emotion and dying.

Finally, with tears and weariness, at the bottom of the hole, standing on something firm again, we get back to this:  “Honey, please, push everything out of the way, give yourself some space, tell the world to go away, and just find Jesus.  He knows.  If you find him, if you’re with him, it won’t matter if you know, or if I know, of if you go, or if you stay, or where, or how.”

We say “thanks” and “sorry” words, and “love” words, and “please” words to each other, working at going places we’ve never been before.  Our hearts surge and fail, then surge again.

It’s the dying we see and feel and express most often.  But it’s the living that matters.

Only the living matters.

I’ve never really done this before – being the parent of a young woman in a far away pursuit of higher education.  I’m not sure I’m fit for it.

4 thoughts on “higher education”

  1. Hey Dale, as always thanks for sharing your heart. I’ll start my response by saying (and anyone who has listened to me talk for any length of time can attest to this), a Godly dad is about the most amazing and healthy thing a girl can have as she grows up and learns who she is, who she wants to be, and how to live a life worthy of the calling in the midst of it all. I remember the day my parents took me to college. I was super excited…we unpacked my things and had a lot of laughs, but as my dorm room started “coming together” I could feel the intense anxiety mounting and I began stalling. What was once hopeful anticipation was now fear and sadness. In the whirlwind of making preparations for college I hadn’t totally prepared myself for a reality that didn’t include daily encounters with the two people in the world I loved/relied on the most. When it was time for goodbye my mom cried (naturally), my brother joked then gave me a firm peptalk, and my dad could barely speak. He hugged and kissed me on the top of my head and said, “You’re gonna do great. I love you.” I watched my family drive away and felt like they had taken every ounce of security in the world with them. That night I laid awake in bed for hours thinking about my parents (the kind of people they are, the kind of marriage they have, the millions of memories we had shared over the past 18 years), and I could hear their words of encouragement and loving support ringing in my ears and beating in my chest. Overwhelming peace flooded my thoughts and for reasons that can only be explained as the Holy Spirit I just knew I was ready…for all of it. “Bring it on, world. If God is for me who can be against me?! Plus, no matter what happens, my mom and daddy love me like crazy!” I got up and composed a letter to them. The letter recapped some of the aforementioned topics but at the end I thanked them….for countless things they did and said, but mostly for who they are…I described how watching them steadfastly serve God and seek to honor Him had inspired and empowered me to do the same. I explained how grateful I was that they rely on God for security because through them God constantly shows me how trustworthy He is. I told them not to worry and to keep praying, but to feel confident that they raised their daughter to seek first the kingdom of God. My parents have since told me that they must have read that letter a billion times and wept throughout those 4 years I was in school. I share all this to ultimately say, Dale you and Renee are awesome parents, you’ve given Katie both parameters and space in which to grow, and she’s a phenomenal young lady. This transition is/will be heart-wrenching for you all to say the least, but I want to encourage you, my friend, it’s gonna be an Awesome ride for you guys as well!! You get to see what God can do with Katie when it’s just the two of them! Don’t worry though, as a loving daddy your presence will be with Katie regardless of geography. I’m 30 years old and in moments of weakness…when compromise is moments away, when I’m discouraged, when I’m lacking wisdom, when I feel broken (and not in a good way), when I’m lonely, when life just isn’t what is should be….I hear my parents’ words of encouragement and loving support ringing in my ears and beating in my chest. I keep a sort of playlist in my memory of all the wise words and votes of confidence they’ve given over the years and I play those moments frequently. I’ve even asked God to preserve the accuracy of those memories because He uses them to give me such comfort. I’m a total grown up (well, maybe not totally) and I can hear my dad’s voice saying over and over, “You’re gonna do great. I love you.” Katie has a playlist too, whether she knows it or not, and in her moments of weakness God will bring the necessary words to her head/heart and reassure her. And in moments where your words won’t be enough (because sometimes growing up is REAL hard), God will write his words on her heart over and over, and she’ll have scripture rotating through that playlist in her mind, because that’s how you raised her. Katie will thrive and grow and blow your mind with new insights and levels of maturity and holiness, but she’ll always need her dad’s reassurement, so you keep givin it and adding to her playlist. Ready or not, Dale my friend, the season of change is upon you, you’re the parent of young woman in far away pursuit of higher education, and You’re gonna do great buddy!!


    1. Lisa – Wow! Thank you. You’re probably too kind, but your encouragement is meaningful and valued. Thank you for your investment in Katie, I know how she admires you, and thank you for sharing your story. It’s a good story. I hope everyone who reads this will be inspired to share their stories in the same way, with even more words.


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