I have seen many lighthouses along the shorelines of Michigan’s Great Lakes. Nearly every town on the water has at least one light that marks their port and there are many more set out on lonely points or spits of land, keeping a watchful eye over those on the water. This is their purpose and you can never really understand the security that a lighthouse provides unless you venture out onto the unknown waters. They know the craggy rocks that lie hidden beneath the surface of the water; they understand the swirling currents that can draw vessels away or send them crashing into the rocky coast. Great Lakes lighthouses weather the raging storms and blistering heat and humidity of summer then the gale force winds and icy blasts of northern winters. Those who brave these waters would well be lost without them. They stand on the shore, ready with warning when the way is unclear and relief when a journey has been long.
We all have a lighthouse or two in our lives. For some it is a brother or sister and for some it may be an aunt or uncle or grandparent. For many it is a parent. Though at times in our lives we seem to believe we know best and everyone else is wrong because “they just don’t understand”, somewhere we know our lighthouse still stands, and deep down we crave their guidance. They signal warning when difficult times approach, and welcome when the road has been long and we are weary from travel. They are strong and resolute and often weathered from years spent watching and waiting. They are quick to forgive and ready with aid; ever hoping and praying that those they love will be safe out on the waters of the world.
I never really understood what a parent goes through until I became one – being a parent is a life-long lesson in letting go. Their tiny hands hold tight to our fingers as we walk behind their first steps…then they loosen their grip and we let go and they walk alone. We climb the steps with book bag in tow and lead them to a room with desks and toys, tables and chairs and a whole bunch of wide-eyed children…we give a quick hug and maybe wipe a tear then walk away as they make new best friends feeling as if we’ve just lost ours. They learn to ride two wheels with us holding onto the back of the seat till they pedal faster than we can run…then they’re off popping wheelies and spinning out. Eventually they are driving the car and we pray even more as we watch the idea of freedom take hold. All too soon, 18 years has passed by and the best thing we can do is step back as they step away ready to chart their own course. They grow up so much faster than my heart can let go. Now, the hardest part of the lesson begins: learning to be that quiet, patient, steady, watching light standing on the rocky shore somewhere, shining out – ready with a warning or a welcome…whichever is needed.