Monday evening, my 15-year old son was among a group of high school freshman who went before our church council to be approved for confirmation.
If I weren’t a council member, I would have been sitting with the other parents, who were not privy to the meeting. The incident would have been just another event marking Shepherd’s rapid march toward adulthood. Instead, it was another event marking my slow march toward letting go – letting go of control, letting go of worry and letting go of him (just a little bit.)
Shepherd has always marched to the beat of his own drummer, and I, his worried mother, have always tried to maintain a more acceptable beat for him.
The problem, according to my husband, is that the two of us are too much alike.
We both question almost everything we’re told, and we both demand a logical explanation for why we should do anything. We roll our eyes with our inability to humor people who are annoying or ridiculous, and Shepherd even inherited my vision. I wear a thick pair of contact lenses and he sports a thick pair of glasses, but neither of us is capable of seeing anything in black and white. Instead, we see everything in shades of grey.
In the scheme of life, I consider these traits to be assets. In the scheme of being the parent, these traits make me cringe, especially in church council meetings.
But Monday evening, I had to let go and trust that Shepherd would have appropriate answers as council members grilled him and the rest of the candidates.
The first questions were uncomplicated. “What do you want to do after high school?” one council member asked. The students dutifully answered.
“A nurse,” said one.
“I want to go into the Marines,” said another.
“I plan on studying radiologic technology at WVU,” another replied.
My son wasn’t as decisive. “I don’t know.” he shrugged. “I think I want to do something creative. I just don’t know what.”
That should have been the first indication that he wasn’t going to give us the answers council members wanted or expected. He, like his mother, was going to be true to himself regardless of the consequences.
As the minutes slowly ticked by, the questions got tougher.
“Who was Martin Luther and how did he define the Lutheran Church?” asked a senior council member.
My son turned to his left then to his right, silently checking the reactions of the other students. They all remained quiet.
He shrugged and said, “He was this guy who decided that the current church situation wasn’t all that. He was like yo, dudes, you can’t actually think that paying money to the church is what make you righteous. You can only be righteous when you actually believe in God.”
The other council members smiled politely. My head went down as my hand went to my forehead. The council member next to me said “It will be o.k. Mom.”
The questions continued, and my son continued to hold forth in his own unique style. Finally, the council president asked the last question.
“Is the church going to help you deal with tough situations and choices after high school?’
One by one, the students noted how their Christian upbringing will influence their choices. Council members smiled in pleasure, and students beamed with confidence.
And then, it was my son’s turn to answer.
“I don’t know,” he said honestly. “I really don’t know.”
I didn’t think anyone else appreciated his genuine answer, but his mother did. His answer expressed honesty and uncertainty about the life that lies ahead of him. I’ve never wanted my son to lie, and in a situation when lying would have been the easiest path to take, he didn’t take it.
In that moment, I didn’t care what the other church council members were thinking, and I could not have loved my son more.
For the record, the church council voted unanimously to approve his confirmation, and on Sunday, May 19, he will go through the rites.
In the meantime, I’m basking in the glow of a different and unexpected confirmation. Despite all of my insecurities and missteps as a mother, my son is secure in who he is, and that person is going to do just fine dealing with uncomfortable situations.