Back in May, our friends in St. Louis called and invited Joshua to go to Florida with them for a week. To give you some background: our friends moved from Louisville about four years ago. We were in a small group with them and their son, Andy, and our son Joshua were big buddies. We see them about once or twice a year and Joshua and Andy always look forward to reconnecting. Andy is an only child and they thought that it would be fun for him to have a buddy on their vacation this year. But there was a BIG catch: Joshua would have to fly by himself to get there. My first thought was, well that is way too expensive. Even if we were willing to let him go, we really don't have money set aside for him to fly somewhere. But that thought was soon squashed. Our friends' happened to have frequent flyer miles that they insisted that he use. OK. So cost is no longer an issue...
Joshua is our cautious firstborn who likes to be in control. He has struggled with fears on so many different levels since he was itty bitty. He is not a risk taker. He had expressed to us before that he was scared to fly. I honestly doubted that he would want to go, even with the enticement of spending a week with his buddy, Andy.
So we began with asking Joshua if he would even be willing to fly by himself. His initial response was, 'no way.' However, after he'd had a few hours to mull it over, he began to warm up to the idea. By the end of the day, he was actually getting excited about the prospect of it and began hoping that we would decide that he could go. OK. So cost is no longer an issue. And fear is no longer an issue....
I was stunned that we had gotten this far. Now the ball was in our court. So, I began thinking upon this. It sounded something like this in my head: "Joshua is ten years old. TEN. Fly???!!! By himself??? WHAT IN THE WORLD??? ARE WE CRAZY TO EVEN CONSIDER THIS???"
Strangely enough, from the intial conversations Eric and I had about him going, our gut instinct was saying, 'yes, let him go.' We spent a week praying about it; we wanted to know if those 'gut instinct' feelings were from the Lord. After that week of praying, we still had an absolute peace about sending him and felt the Lord was saying 'yes'. So, we finally concurred.
Over the next couple of months, there were times when I talked to others about this decision that I could sense them thinking: "You are crazy, you are so crazy...over my dead body would I let my child do that..." There were times I would begin waffling and catch myself wondering "Are you crazy??? What are you thinking??!!! Are you sure the Lord said to do this?" I had to keep reminding myself that Eric and I had prayed about this and had both felt clearly that the Lord had said yes. I had to remind myself over and over and over and over.
The Thursday morning before Joshua was supposed to leave, we sat down as a family while Eric read the first chapter of Joshua outloud. While up to this point we had had a peace about Joshua going, at this moment I began to tangibly feel the Lord in this decision. For many reasons, it was very fitting to be reading the first chapter of Joshua outloud to prepare Joshua for this departure. For one, Joshua was named after this Joshua in the Bible. The verse Joshua 1:9 hangs on a canvas in his bedroom and he considers it his 'life verse'. This verse says: 'Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.' Secondly, the Lord repeats over and over again to Joshua in this chapter: 'Be strong and courageous!' What better words could our Joshua hear right before this trip?
As the Lord often does, He had even more to teach us that morning. Verses 7-9 specifically say: 'Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.' As we read these verses we were able to talk to Joshua about the importance of the following:
- reading his devotional and Bible even when his mom and dad are not there to tell him to.
- obeying the commandments in scripture even when we are not there to direct him, such as shielding his eyes from things that might come on tv, talking respectful in our absence, etc.
- that he need not be nervous about flying because God is always with him wherever he is.
Verse 11 says 'Go through the camp and tell the people, 'get your supplies ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession o f the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.' I do not believe it was a coincidence that we were reading this three days prior to Joshua's flight! Eric, Sophie and myself had each written down bible verses on index cards for him to pull out while he was taking off and anytime he became nervous or scared during the flight. We talked to him about the importance of getting your 'spiritual' supplies ready before you venture out on your own. We each gave him the bible verses we had for him, explaining that these were his supplies. He could read these outloud and internalize God's truths as he was flying.
So, Sunday arrived. We were at Kentucky Lake for the weekend with our extended family. The plan was that I would take him to the Nashville airport and then stay all night with some friends that night and head back to Louisville the following day. So it was just me and Joshua. A mother sending off his son. Joshua was visibly nervous the whole morning. I kept reminding him of God's truths. Once we began the process of checking bags, going through security, etc, all of Joshua's fears seemed to vanish and it was replaced by anticipation and excitement. Everything went without a hitch. Everyone was so friendly and overly helpful (gotta love those Nashvillians!).
Finally, it was time to board the plane. We hugged and said our goodbyes. As he walked away I felt a tug on my heart. As I watched the plane back up and begin taxiing away, I felt a bigger tug. Amazingly, I was able to watch the plane taxi to the runway, takeoff, and ascend into the sky until it was just a tiny speck. As the plane got smaller and smaller, the void in my heart got larger and larger. Questions bombarded my mind: 'what if he is scared? what if someone who doesn't like kids is sitting next to him? what if they crash? what if...what if...what if....???' Joshua 1:9 came back to me as clearly as if the Lord was speaking it aloud: 'Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged. For I am with your Joshua--my Joshua--wherever he goes.' He also reminded me that He loved Joshua much more than I could ever love him.
As I walked out of the airport, I could see in the distance the Nashville skyline. The sun was setting behind it and it was illuminated by the clouds that surrounded it. It was absolutely beautiful. It reminded me of the love I have for this city. The city that I came to know God as my Savior. And now the city where I was sending my son off for the very first time, with the promise that His Savior was protectinwith Him. I was trusting the Lord with Joshua, even though it felt as if my heart had been ripped out. I thought about all of the mother's of missionaries...all of the mother's of soldiers sent out to war...I realized I had just had a small taste of their experience. I thought about how this was just the beginning of many times that I would be sending my children off. With every year that passes they are getting older and 'taking flight'. Somehow, I knew that it was going to be hard to send them out but that the Lord would give me the strength to do it, just as He had tonight.
Well, the week sped by, Joshua had a blast and flew home without a hitch. I thought about all of the lessons Joshua and our family had learned through this adventure. Lessons about faith and facing our fears through leaning on our Lord. I thought about how this was a definite spiritual marker in all of our lives, specifically in Joshua's. I thought about all of the lessons we would have missed if we had said 'no'. I am thankful that we listened to the Lord and said 'yes'.