Off to the Babylonian University without parents

Such a celebration of feelings we experience watching our children graduate from 12 years of schooling, ready to leave home, to go to college, to tackle life on their own. The diploma and their age declare our sweet babies have grown-up prepared to handle life. And they will do just that – unless they have ‘helicopter parents’, so named because they hover over their children, refusing to cut the electronic umbilical cord.

Helicopter parents insist contact must be maintained – daily, constantly – with text messages, e-mails, phone calls and frequent visits. If the least bit of something goes wrong, the whop, whop, whop of chopper blades sounds across the campus.

With four grown children who attended four different universities, I know the many reasons for concern. That brilliant student may try drugs, may be caught up in the party scene, may rush to embrace a time without mom or dad’s strong guiding hand to point them away from the temptations of life. They may test different philosophies, get themselves caught up with the wrong group, make really bad choices, encounter some hurtful experience or lose their way.

They might do all of that – but before you reach for the phone to check on them one more time consider the story of Daniel.

There he was, a young man, possibly as young as 16 years-old, newly enslaved in a strange land with a few friends, but no parents, no relatives, no familiar faces of authority from his school or synagogue. But, all of his parents training and preparation remained intact including his brilliant giftedness and leadership. He had what it took to catch the eye of the king’s man.

“The king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility. Young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.” Daniel 1:4-5 NIV.

Smart, capable and good looking, Daniel had all the requisite qualifications for the scholarship to the University of Babylon along with three of his friends. The four realized the advantage to cooperating with the program. They learned the foreign ways and did as they were told – except when the training and activities crossed paths with their personal faith and beliefs.

So the book of Daniel opens with Daniel negotiating a deal with the king’s own man. Daniel wants his immediate supervisor to allow them a 10 day trial in which they would consume only vegetables and water instead of the rich foods and wines from the king’s table. Daniel and company considered that consuming such would defile them before God.
Reluctantly, the steward agreed. Ten days later all four looked brighter and better than the rest of the class. With that in mind, the steward provided them with a vegetarian diet for the entire three years.

At the end of that time, the king tested all the students and declared the faithful four were 10 times brighter and healthier than all the rest. He gave them good jobs in his kingdom.

In a time without any electronic umbilical cords, four young Israelites snatched from their homes and plunged into a totally different culture, still made good decisions, politely stood up to the king’s chief official and followed their faith. Without a single hovering parent, these four teenagers made healthy, wise choices. Through the rest of their lives, in the face of difficult circumstances and harsh threats to their lives, they continued to honor God and the training their parents instilled in them – long after their parents disappeared from their lives.

With graduation over for this year, spend these few weeks of summer mentally preparing. Prepare to exhibit confidence in your graduate. Step back, let go of their hands and allow them to enter college as the adults they are. Encourage them, pray for them, listen to them, but let them step out, fall a few times, get back up and tackle college and life’s realities without your hovering intervention.

Let them surprise you with what they can do on their own. They might make you proud – if you give them a chance.