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Last week, my wife and I dropped our firstborn off at college. I wasn’t prepared for the deluge of emotions that have poured over me these last few days.
In particular, I wasn’t prepared for the surprise attack of regret.
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I’m not someone who spends much time regretting things. I’m an optimist. But in the days leading up to my son’s move, an unexpected sense of dread and fear came over me, paired with pangs of guilt over the ways I knew I’d failed him as a father, and over the failures I couldn’t yet see but were there nonetheless.
So many questions have risen up in me—questions that carry a tone of accusation. Have I prepared him for life as an adult? Have I instilled in him a sense of reverence for God? Have I given him what he needs to walk upright in a bent world? Have I modeled a life of faith for him, one that he can imitate? What have I withheld? Why didn’t I sit with him more when he was in the house?
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As I began to take stock of these questions, I was confronted with the inescapable reality that, in many ways, I’ve been far from perfect. On many occasions, I chose myself over him. I prized my solitude too often when he was right there, available, within the sound of my voice. Some days I lost my temper with him. There were times I said what I’m sure were shaming words. I could go on. The list of my shortcomings as a father is long.
The day after we dropped him off, I went on an overnight solo hike deep in the heart of the Cumberland Plateau. I’ve hiked this particular wilderness area with my son several times. We both know it well. I went there to...
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