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This is a Monday of departures and transitions. Two of my favorite young men, both named David, are just about to begin new adventures and callings in their lives, and I’m missing them already.

My son David left yesterday after worship for his junior year in college in Iowa. This isn’t the first time I’ve had to say goodbye to him as he headed off to school. But I found this departure a particularly hard one.

Maybe I’m feeling his absence more acutely because we spent so much quality time together this summer, especially during the nearly four weeks we were in Africa. Maybe it’s because I am realizing he’s halfway through undergraduate school already, which means he’s rapidly moving along the path towards even more independence. Don’t get me wrong, that’s what I want for him. Always have. It’s just, you know, it used to be an abstract, future, far-off thought. Now it’s an approaching reality.

David is a great young man. He’s doing well in school in the classroom, on the baseball field, and socially. He often impresses and even startles me with his amazing spiritual and intellectual maturity. To be honest, I couldn’t wish more for him or from him.

There’s a line I repeat to myself and my wife, and sometimes we share it with others. We’re not raising a child. We’re raising a man – and we add, a man of God. The goal isn’t to end up with someone who is childish, needy, or dependent. The goal is to give our son every opportunity to fulfill his God-given potential as a mature, contributing, independent adult.

The thing is, as David shows us all the time these days that he’s becoming–and in many ways already is–the man we’ve hoped and prayed for nearly 21 years he would be, my role as his dad is to take another step back – probably several steps back. The best dad thing I can do at this stage in his life is to give him the space he needs. While I’m so proud and pleased for him, I’m very aware that this is a time of transition in our relationship. As excited as I am for who he is and will be, I guess I have to admit I’m missing the boy he was not that long ago – at least a little.

Another David making a big move is Cross of Christ’s Director of Music Ministry David Hendrix, who has just accepted a similar position at a church much closer to his home in Edmonds. David is not only a terrific man of faith, a talented musician, a thoughtful choir director, and an outstanding tenor, even more importantly he’s a husband and father of twin baby sons. That’ll change your life, and your priorities! So with very mixed emotions David was open to this new calling that will significantly reduce his commute time away from his young family as well as allowing them to be more involved in the church he serves.

We as a congregation are very much going to miss David, whose last worship with us will be this Sunday. I’m going to miss him as a pastor as well as personally. He’s been a tremendous blessing to us as well as a joy to work with and get to know. I’m very sad to see him go.

But I affirm his decision and I’m happy for David and his family. I’m confident this is the right move at the right time for him. We will send him with our best blessings, deepest gratitude, and honest well wishes.

I’ll admit, however, that while I’m pleased for these two Davids, and proud of them, and honored to be a part of their lives, I’m feeling their departures today. It’s not easy for me to step back or step aside. It’s not easy to let go.

All this gets me thinking about how gracious God is with us, especially in allowing us space to grow in faith, to mature as disciples, and to make choices and even make mistakes, for the sake of our becoming more and more the people God not only intends but designs us to be. It’s got to be hard – much harder for God than for me – to allow us this great gift. God already knows we’ll use this gift imperfectly. God already knows we’ll falter and fail at times. And God knows that God could choose to protect us from ourselves and from this fallen world. But that would require God to choose to not allow us choice, to not gift us with free will.

So God does perfectly what I’m trying to do (but I’m quite imperfect in my efforts) with my son David, and with David Hendrix. God loves us so much that God not only allows us but whole-heartedly cheers us on as we transition towards maturity and strive to reach our fullest potential. God doesn’t desire that we have no choice but to love and rely on him. God longs for us to choose to love and trust him.

I’m very grateful God is so good at this. Today I kinda feel like I kinda suck at it. Guess I have some growing and maturing yet to do. By the grace of God…