by Andy Chen
It’s coming to a new chapter in life for me…my oldest daughter will be starting college later this year. She was busy filling out college applications and writing college essays. She applied to safety schools as well as “reach” schools. She is a “city” type of girl. Naturally, she likes colleges in big cities such as Boston, New York and Los Angeles. Last summer, she visited colleges in New York and Boston with her Mom. She also visited campuses in California. All in all, she applied to about a dozen schools. Through this college application process, God showed me a piece of His heart.
The whole college admissions process was not just occupying my daughter’s mind but also ours as well. My wife and I talked about potential colleges she might get into. We are proud of her contributions and accomplishments in High School. She applied to West Coast colleges, as well as to schools on the other side of the country. As a Father, having my oldest child leave home for college for the first time, I realized I had to prepare myself, emotionally and mentally. That wasn’t easy for me, having the thought that I wouldn’t be seeing her everyday, which has been so opposite from the norm over the last 18 years. Eventually, I got over it. I was prepared for her to go, even if it meant attending a college on the East Coast.
One day, as my wife and I had another conversation about our daughter’s college again, she asked about my thoughts of her attending school on the East Coast. Initially I thought it was wonderful that she wants to step out and experience the world, until she dropped the idea of her possibly not returning home after college. She might attend school there, find a job there and establish her family there. My wife shared about a sister at church who went through this stage before. This sister told her that she was prepared for her kid to go but wasn’t prepared for her kid not coming back after college. Her kid built a career and a family where the college was.
The idea of my daughter not coming back home after college hit me like a ton of bricks. I already had a hard time preparing to let her go, and now she was potentially not coming back? My extended family all live within 5 miles of each other. The idea of an immediate family member not nearby is both so foreign and shocking to me. For this very idea, I wept and lost a whole night of sleep. Clips of holiday movies flashed through my head of adult children and their spouses visiting their parents with their kids only during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Parents opening the door and the children yelling joyfully “We’re home!” These pictures played over and over again in my mind. It is not the life I had imagined for myself. I struggled and struggled. Again, I eventually came to terms that this is her life and if God calls her there, let it be so.
It is in this process that God reminded me of the story of the Prodigal Son from the Bible; how the Father must had felt when his Son asked for his inheritance and left home for the city. More than anything, this Father must have grieved deeply, not because of the inheritance but because his Son was leaving. A Son whom he loved so much for so many years at home. And so, he waited and waited for his Son to return. It didn’t matter what condition his Son was in. He just wanted to see his Son come home. That is the piece of the Father’s heart that God showed me. He loves us so much and He longs for us to be home with Him, just like I long for my oldest daughter or for any of my children to stay together with us.