Eat honey, my son, for it is good; honey from the comb is sweet to your taste. Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off. Proverbs 24, verses 13 and 14.
These are times of change. Perhaps that could be said about every day, but in my house, these are days of major changes in the fundamentals, especially as regards children. Changes are occurring here and within them I’m watching as my children are changing as well. “Big duh” on that one, you might say; kids are always changing. So are we all. Our circumstances change, our jobs change, our habits change, our friendships change, we change. I won’t recount some of my changes; you read about them enough. But I will talk about the apples of my eye.
I talked with my son last night. He called his mom, so we shared the phone and talked for about 20 minutes. You may remember he’s on a mission trip in Illinois, biking from town to town and then participating in VBS shows at night. He’s finding his element now, riding hard and opening up. They rode 36 miles one day and most of 70 yesterday, although this included a 5-mile detour for a Dr. Pepper; go figure. They ride only 21 today. He’s also singing, which he only does in private. More than that, God is working in him, through him, helping to come out of his shell in talking with strangers and repairing frayed relationships. Son Bull and I both like honey; we’re the only ones in our house who do. Far from our house, he’s freely enjoying it, perhaps not even realizing how God is changing him from the inside out to assure future hope.
Then there is his older sister, who may or may not be moving out of state next week. She’s having a tough time making a decision about what to do, oscillating between staying and going. I think I know what her final decision will be, but I’m refusing to tell her what to do. She’s an adult, and she has to own it. I’m also refusing to bankroll it. That means she’s having to knuckle down and raise the money for her wherever-move all by herself. Economics is a hard lesson but a firm teacher. She’s on the cusp of a major change, and maybe she also doesn’t realize that God is putting these choices, these changes, in her life to remind her to not handle it all by herself. No man is an island; no young woman either. A month from now, the initially hard part will be done, and it will onto the next batch of changes for the new graduate. Her changes are monumental; given her disposition, they’re also full of drama. But God is moving in her life whether she sees Him or not. She doesn’t like honey, but she’s being sweetened all the same.
Finally, there is their older sister. Oldest child is a child no more. She’s a grown woman, entering her third year of college. She is in love with a great guy who has become another son to me. Next year they are getting married in what promises to be the event of her lifetime. Economics has been a good teacher to her, too, and she is self-sufficient in most things. That makes me glad, knowing that this once-flustered young woman has assumed the mantle of adulthood. Oldest daughter is working full time in a job that, well, she doesn’t like much; the place is mismanaged. I get a call from her every day in which she downloads her frustrations and opens up her heart. We also get to have lunch every week. One week she buys, one week I buy. I’ve come to cherish our time together as peers, as father and daughter. Her life is full of the changes that accompany a twenty-something taking her place in the world, and she’s learning to look for the tender mercies that come with realizing how God is changing her from within. No, she doesn’t like honey either, but she’s already lived a sweeter life because of it.
Through it all, I hope we’ve instilled in our kids the knowledge that life is good, that there is hope. I’ve said it so many times before and will keep screaming it out: God’s hope isn’t a wishing well. It isn’t just a way for us to say to him “I want this” or even to just ask “please let this happen.” God’s hope is a promise, a guarantee, a covenant. He says what He means, and He does what He says He will do. Always. Always. Always. When a verse like this says “your hope will not be cut off,” He means it. He guarantees the sweetness of life no matter what happens. God’s hope is pure love and real wisdom. In accepting it, we learn that the happiness we feel is a product of that loving wisdom.
He doesn’t guarantee happiness, though; that’s true, at least not here. Here, unhappiness is a dysfunction of our allowing it to exist. God doesn’t have a hand in making that happen, but He is active in letting it happen so that we might see how much He actually loves us. It’s not unlike those lessons of economics and hard rides that wear you out. Many people have been stressing to me that happiness is my own responsibility, that we’re each responsible for letting ourselves be happy. I see that now. Whether it is the pursuit of wealthy, secure happiness from Jefferson’s Declaration, or happiness with ourselves and our lives, we are each responsible for it. In this responsibility, God implores us to trust in him, that He is the founder of real happiness. It goes back to His loving wisdom. He promises to strengthen and preserve us even as daily, even hourly, struggles with the world try to drag us down. He promises to impart His wise love into our lives so that we can stand up, smile from the heart, and move forward. God promises to sweeten our souls with His love and His wisdom. Come what may, He never lets go.
Some changes can be frightening; if we don’t keep perspective, they can scare the hell into you. When relationships end, I get down, very down. When tension happens, I get nervous and defensive. When the world is cold, I get a chill. And when my kids are in flux, I get to be a concerned dad. In all these, we also get to celebrate. The trick is to remember that changes are always happening; they’re actually blessings God puts in our lives. They are ways for us to remember that through them He is buying back unhappiness and replacing it with its opposite; they are ways to remind us that He loves us so much He gave Himself up as fully as anyone could. And they are ways for us to remember that the taste of honey is sweet, that it never spoils, and that life is so much better because of Him. No change can ever take that away.