You Go First - Cindy Shoaff

May 14, 2017

Four kids.  My mother-in-law always said, “even numbers are best” and true to her advice, we rounded out our even numbered family with four kiddos.  They are currently 18, 17, almost 16, and 12 years old.  Kind of crazy family planning, I know.  We have had our share of really insane moments for sure, but overall, I would say, our kids are friends.  Good friends.  Sometimes, even best friends.  And that makes me, the mom of the friends, really, really happy.  We’ve moved several times over the years.  Lived in 3 different countries.  Been “the new kids” a lot.  And through it all, my kids have had each other.  That’s a real gift.

          I say all of that, to set you up for this:  Sam is graduating.  (Sam, the oldest of the fabulous foursome.)  We find ourselves on the brink of a new chapter in parenting and family life.  One that I know millions of people have survived before me, and yet, to my heart and in my mind, I am about to go through something brand new, scary, sort of exciting, and kind of sad.  The “emptying” of the nest begins now.  Gulp.

          So, since I am the emotional mom of the graduate, humor me for a moment and let me tell you about my first born.  Samuel.  He is fiercely independent.  Very confident.  He has great survival instincts, and can manipulate nearly any circumstance in his favor.  He can convince and coerce others to go along with his plan.  He is usually quiet and reserved (although those of us closest to him get to see his crazy side!) And he is hilarious.  He is brave.  He is protective of those he loves. 

          Sam is first.  We often tell him that he is our ‘guinea pig’ when it comes to parenting.  We have figured out what NOT to do because that’s exactly what we HAVE done with Sam.   Being first brings some privilege of course, but it also brings a lot of responsibility.  Sam shows the others how to do things.  He tries things first.  He tests the water.  He shows them which way to go and they learn from watching him.  Sam sets out first on the jungle path that is “growing up”, and it’s an uncut path in the brush.  The direction he chooses will guide the next three who follow in his footsteps. 

          Being the ‘line leader’ means he will find some of the land mines first.  He will see the potholes and either swerve around them or fall in – both of which serve to benefit those behind him.  His choices will both warn and inspire those setting out next.  He will make some courageous decisions that will, in turn, give courage to the others.  He will also fail.  And because he is a compassionate, protective, caring older brother, he will allow his brother and sisters to see his mistakes and learn from them.  They will be spared some pain because he will take the blow. 

          Graduation seems to highlight the truth that all of us are, indeed, “sheep from the front and shepherds from the back.”  We have each followed someone.  No doubt, each of the graduates can point to a handful of people whom God has placed ahead of them on their path so far to cut through the brush and show them the best way to go.  And, this threshold of graduating also makes us aware, that all of the graduates are also stepping out as  shepherds themselves.  There are rows of students lined up behind them.  The task before them is to make a straight path for those coming next.  

          At Sonlight, we say we exist to teach and train others, who will then teach and train others.  As their teachers, mentors, friends, and parents we pour into them for over a dozen years as they grow and learn year after year.  We don’t disciple them for their own sake only, but for the sake of all who will follow them as well.  Pray with us during this graduation season.  Pray for our seniors as they step out of the Academy and into something new.  Pray for them to recognize the honor and responsibility they have as a leader who ‘goes first’ with so many watching and following behind them.          

Congratulations Class of 2017!  Follow Jesus.   Show others the Way.