This morning’s reflection comes from Leonard Finn, by way of the Mockingbird Devotional:

But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No! but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.” And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, “Hearken to their voice, and make them a king.” Samuel then said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.”

1 Samuel 8:19-22, NRSV

“There’s a time and place for everything,” Chef on South Park once explained, “and it’s called ‘College.’” A time that seems to sanction rebellion, college can be one of the most challenging moments in the relationship of parents and their children. The child is far away, out of sight, and (from the background ruckus on the other end of the phone) completely out of control. However, one of the most powerful forms of grace is when a parent releases that control and allows their son or daughter to make a mistake—or two or three—in unconditional love.

When we talk about my college years now, my father tells me that he has no idea what he was doing or how he managed to survive that time himself. The bottom fell out when I arrived home for winter break sophomore year: I had done miserably in my classes; I was worn out and thoroughly depressed. I told my father that I had had enough of college and planned to drop out.

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My father was hurt, and also concerned about the education I was giving up. Of course, he wanted to fix everything, but instead he just asked me, “Are you sure?” When I said yes, he let the matter drop. We talked about other things over winter break—my part-time job, politics, the Patriots—anything except dropping out. However, a few days before the semester was to begin, I strangely felt capable of returning. I didn’t know why.

It took me years to understand that moment: that the space allowed for mistakes—and love despite them—is utterly and beautifully superhuman. This space is a total game-changer when it touches you. In the passage above, God acquiesces to the Israelites’ request for a king, so that they can “go to college” with the other nations. He lets them make the mistake, even though it not only means rejecting Him, but also more mistakes. However, what we see is that God’s love never abandons us, even when we abandon Him. His love is always there: it is always bigger than the mistakes we make, and nothing—not even our own foolish desires and decisions—can ever separate us from it.