In a week in which we have witnessed the agony of parents over the deaths and injuries of their children in Orlando, and others have grieved an empty “nest” as their children graduated from high school or college and left home, others still yet stand at bedsides of children who are in distress. Into those events I have been comforted by these words from Fredeck Buechner as he talks about parenting, loving and letting go of our children.
(Buechner's children are going off to college)
"What I did not see was that even though they were only a couple of hours away, and even though there would be years of weekends and vacations for us to get together whenever we felt like it, there was a sense in which, when we kissed them goodbye that September it was good bye for keeps. From that day forward Vermont would never be home for them in the way it had been. From that day forward, home, for them, was theirs to find wherever in themselves or in the world they ever happened to find it, if they were lucky enough to find it at all....It was not just that I greatly missed them but that I feared for them more greatly still. The world does cruel and hurtful things to us all before it's done with us, and with little more to defend themselves against it than their bags full of clothes and their boxes full of rock records, coat hangers, hockey sticks, it was out into that world that they went....The adventures that they have had since are theirs to tell, not mine, but insofar as from time to time the world has worked them over as it works us all over, I have suffered vastly more from such pain as they have known than I have ever suffered from any pain simply of my own.
As Buddha well knew, that is the price that love exacts from us all, but since from childhood I have always been given to helpless brooding and worrying and darkest, most doom-ridden imaging, the price it has exacted from me has often proved crippling both to myself and to the ones I love....But unlike Buddhism, Christianity nevertheless affirms this love that suffers and, what is more, affirms it not in spite of the fact that it suffers but because of it. It affirms it for the reason that to love others to the point of suffering with them and for them in their own suffering is the only way ultimately to heal them, redeem them, if they are to redeemed at all. It is God's way in Christ, and as we are called to participate with Christ in his suffering, so we are called to be partners with him in the work of redemption. For our own sakes as well as for theirs, we are called to be Christs to all humankind, in other words, and that is close to the heart of our faith and of our lives together as Christians.
And yet. And yet. Having spoken this Christian truth, we must also, I think, remember the Buddhist truth which may be closer to it than at first glance it appears. If love is a matter of holding fast to, and identifying with, and suffering for, the ones we love, it is a matter also of standing back from, of leaving space for, of letting go of. To become, through loving and needing them, as involved in the lives of others as I was involved in the lives of my children is in the long run to risk being both crippled and crippling. Because we love our children as helplessly as we do, they have the power to destroy us. We must not let them, for their own sakes, no less than for our own.....
~ Frederick Buechner from Now and Then, p. 102-105)
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