Our Kids are Never Out of God's Reach
I remember telling my father that I wanted to attend the University of Virginia. The school had recently won top honors in Playboy magazine’s annual catalog of hot collegiate party spots, and my dad was understandably concerned. Making matters worse (for me) was the fact that one of his best friends—a minister—had sent his son to U.Va., and the fella had gotten into all kinds of mischief. “I wouldn’t send my dog to that school,” the minister had warned, and I thought I was doomed.
That’s how I introduce Chapter 17 (“Praying for Strength to Resist a Party Culture”) in my new book, Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children. I wound up attending The University (the minister’s son turned out okay, and my dad liked the idea of in-state tuition), and during my time in Charlottesville I found a warm, welcoming, and spiritually sharp Christian community. Of course the party scene back then was also omnipresent, but thanks to God’s grace, the gift of some wonderful friends, and the host of mentors who poured into my life at the Center for Christian Study (thank you David Turner, Elizabeth Brown, and Ken Elzinga!), I graduated, got a job, married a fellow Cavalier (Robbie), and never thought much about the college party culture again.
Until my own kids grew up.
All four Berndt children turned out to be Wahoos. Dropping the eldest, Hillary, off on Move-In Weekend—amid a sea of red Solo cups—I had all sorts of questions. Had the party scene gotten worse? Would she be exposed to a lot of drugs? Sexual pressure? Should I advise her to avoid Greek life? And was the same God who kept both me and the minister’s kid from doing any permanent damage to ourselves or our reputations still on the job?
Pretty much the only answer I was sure about was the last one: God was definitely still on the job. And I knew, based on verses like Matthew 28:20 and Hebrews 13:5, that he had promised to be with my girl. Honestly though? I wanted more than a promise. I wanted some sort of guarantee that, instead of doing all the dumb things I’d done, Hillary would be more like a modern-day Daniel, living in Babylon, eating vegetables instead of late-night cheesy bread, drinking water instead of wine, and being “well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve” (that’s Daniel 1:4, and it’s one of my favorite “college kid” prayers).
I wanted that guarantee, but I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know when I say that I didn’t get it. And after seeing my children grow up (and talking to dozens of parents about their own kids’ experiences), the only thing I know to be true about the party culture and its impact on our adult children is that it is out there—from college bars to corporate boardrooms—and they will be tempted.
That’s the bad news.
The good news—the great news—is that God is crazy in love with our kids. And it doesn’t matter where they go to college or how far away they may roam (physically or spiritually), they are never out of his reach.
God has wonderful plans for our kids, and prayer is his invitation to us to partner with him in accomplishing those purposes. And when we slip our hand into God’s—tethering our prayers to his promises, letting the Bible soak into our hearts and our minds—good things happen. Our perspective starts to line up with God’s. Our prayers take on fresh power. And, as we learn to trust God with our loved ones, we discover the gift of his peace.
Read more about how we can trust God with our college-aged and young adult children—and access more prayers like the one from Daniel 1:4—in Jodie Berndt’s book, Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children (HarperCollins/Zondervan, 2017).