April 15, 2013 — it wasn’t tax day that got my attention. It was during my lunch break, in the teacher’s lounge that I first heard of the explosions in Boston. My heart sank. I knew our son, who attends college in nearby Cambridge, was planning to visit the finish line with some of his friends to enjoy watching and cheering on the runners. One of his dreams, to run among them, postponed for a future year when more hours and more miles of practice were available. They had explored much of the course the day prior and especially wanted to see the élite runners cross the finish.
Amid the unfolding awfulness of that day I felt a tinge of guilt as we breathed a sigh of relief at news of his safety. Safe by two blocks and two hours owing mostly to large crowds that had kept him out of close proximity and a study ethic that sent all four of them back to class prior to the 2:49 p.m. calamity. Over the next couple days in my mind, I toggled between distraction and dread as I tried to go about the normality of life while asking God both “why?” and “why not?” questions.
Then on April 19, we learned of the lockdown at his dorm. An MIT police officer had been shot at the 7-Eleven on one side of campus followed by a firefight in Watertown, on the other. I could not have done any more to help had I been there but the 3,000 miles between our home and my son’s dorm seemed insurmountable in my longing to ensure his safety. Again prayer became an outlet, yet now, perhaps tempered by a few days of thought, we prayed for safety for all involved, tamping down muted “Why” questions. Had I become numb to the shock? I found myself thinking that in a fallen world, “Why not bad things happening to my loved ones?”
For parents it comes as second nature that we want to protect our children. As they grow into young adulthood, we are confronted often subtly, this time for us much more starkly, that those things they face beyond our control are things we need to lean into the father of us all for protection from fear. The one who said, in this world you will have trouble, followed with, but fear not, I have overcome the world.
Our son has dreams beyond one day running the Boston Marathon. He prepares for a future leadership role in our world; faith compels him as he stands for justice for the poor, immigrants, the dispossessed. These are not necessary “safe” causes but they are the dreams God has placed in his heart.
As the New Year approaches, I encourage parents: When your children reach toward adult lives, release them to live their dreams and support them with your prayers. Trust the one who is father (and mother) of your child even beyond your capacity to love. Jesus promised in John 10:10: I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. He did not teach us to keep our children safe at all costs. He did teach us to pray, deliver us from evil.
In October, our son celebrated with the same friends in the same Boston streets, a World Series victory. On the journey, may you and your family continue to enjoy God’s abundant life. Happy New Year!
Dan Lundberg is a public elementary school teacher in Southern California, half of the parent team of two very grown-up students.