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Baylor Chaplain Burt Burleson On Transitions, Parents and the College Years

August 30, 2017
Burleson
Dr. Burt Burleson, Baylor University’s Chaplain and Dean of Spiritual Life, is a Baylor grad and parent of two grown children. Here, he shares his thoughts for parents at the start of a new school year.

I’m aware (more acutely in these first days of a new semester) that the transitions of our children always usher in transitions for us as parents. They turn the page to a new chapter, and a page automatically turns in our book as well, so that we too are ushered into something new and different.

“New and different” is good—mostly. Most of the time. But it doesn’t always feel so, does it? First of all, it means we’re having to let go of something. In the case of our children, that comes with some grief prompted by small things that we miss. The sound of their car pulling in the driveway, their chair occupied at dinner or their friends that became your friends— daily graces that are gone.

Letting go is significant spiritual work, isn’t it? Surrender is such a Christ-like gesture, but it’s hard. However, the promise is that surrender takes us into new life. That really is a good thing, but it involves some deeper work on our part. For instance, we strive to get where we are (hopefully) less preoccupied with everything going on with them and, rather than worrying, are working to be centered daily in God’s peace. That’s good spiritual work. It’s also deep spiritual work, now that you are in a new chapter, to see your own purpose anew. Perhaps there’s a new calling. And as we say “yes” again to God’s work in our lives, it gives our adult children the freedom to do the same. They are not in this world to take care of us, and by setting them free, we in turn are set free. There is a great deal of fulfilling work for us to do in this chapter prompted by absence.

Having noted (and lamented a bit) this “letting go” transition, it’s also our deep intuition, the wisdom of our tradition, and the consensus of some good studies, that your presence is still so very important. It’s true in general as they navigate all that college involves, and it is especially true as they continue on a deepening journey of faith. Your place in the past and your place now is still very influential. Trust that, even as you stand humbly in that place of ongoing influence.

And as you trust them in to this journey, remember that Baylor’s mission is to offer a transformative education, and to walk alongside and engage with them as they grow into the people God called them to be. There are so very many ways to get involved in spiritually formative experiences at Baylor (visit Baylor Spiritual Life online to learn more ) and we hope you’ll encourage them to take advantage of these opportunities.

May God bless us all as the changes in the lives of those we love prompt changes in our lives.

Dr. Burt Burleson
Baylor University Chaplain and Dean of Spiritual Life
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