Andrew got off at 9:00, right on time. He had all his odds and ends sorted and ready to go, early by a good half-hour, neatly packed and loaded into his Saturn. Ready for the drive to Virginia. New job, new digs, new schedule at a new college.

And there he goes, one carefully planned road trip and an awfully long way up I95. Suddenly gone.

To be honest, I didn’t think it would be like this. I didn’t think it would be so easy to execute, so cut and dried. I didn’t think it would be so very hard.

I had been doing really well, too. Until, that is, I leaned into his room Monday evening to say good night. “Good night, Andrew,” I said. Only, this time, it stuck in my throat. I suddenly, overwhelmingly, realized that I’d been saying “Good night, Andrew” to the lump in the bed, often leaning over to kiss his forehead, or touching his shoulder in sleep to pray, for twenty-one years.

Twenty-one years is a very long time. I considered that reality in an unexpected rush of emotion, and I broke down.

Don’t misunderstand me, this is not a bad thing. Rebekah and I are honestly excited for him. We are happy, pleased that our son has it in him to set up this whole adventure, and then to follow through. He’ll be taking on new responsibilities, pushing his envelope a little beyond the comfort zone, making his way in the world under his own head of steam.

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But he definitely is gone, cruising at seventy-five miles per hour up I 95 even as I write, in a small car stuffed with everything he really needs . . . Everything except his parents.

But that isn’t our job, not anymore. I read this in a book recently: “The simple goal of being a family, of parenting our children, doesn’t really look any more complicated than this: Raise them well equipped to leave home, and to establish faithful lives that are both fulfilling and self-sufficient.”

So, we wonder about how well we have done with this raising thing. All parents do. We wonder about their confidence, if they believe in themselves the way that we believe in them; we wonder about their faith, about how well equipped they are to deal with the realities and hostilities beyond our doors; and we wonder about ourselves, about how our own hearts are bound so deeply and tenderly into the substance of these wonderful young people whom we have released into the world.

There are words for days like this; words not only for our children, but for us, too. They are words we can all hold onto; they are the words I have for Andrew. “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)

Copyright © 2004 Derek Maul, Sunbelt papers. Used with permission.

Derek Maul feels that his life has always been richly blessed and full of grace. He and his wife Rebekah enjoy a positive and challenging family life with their two teenage children – Andrew and Naomi – and several furry animals. Derek publishes a weekly column in several Tampa papers and also writes for the Tampa Tribune – in addition to several Christian publications throughout the country. Visit Derek at