With two children in college now, I find myself thinkingOK, worryingabout them. A lot.
Are they using their time wisely? Are they studying hard? What do they do on the weekends? What are their friends like? Do they party on the weekends? Are they starting to drink? Will they fall in love this semester? And if so, will they behave themselves during this romance? Are they going to church? Do they still love Jesus? Do they realize how many sacrifices my wife and I are making for them to go to college? Are they learning anything? Will they be prepared to get a job when they're done? And on it goes.
But mostly I wonder about the most important thing. "If I
understand all mysteries and all knowledge
but do not have love," says Paul in 1 Corinthians, "I am nothing" (13:2). In the end, the knowledge, experiences and expertise my children gain in college are inadequate for what I want them to be ultimately about.
I remember a key moment in my college days at a secular university, after some fellow Christian students and I made a presentation in our religion class. We had summarized the history of the church, answered the major philosophical objections to Christianity, and explained why we had decided to follow Jesus. As we fielded questions, I was startled to see how hostile some students remained. Certainly none came up afterward and asked how to become Christians.
I was devastated. After class, I asked one of my friends, "How come no one was convinced? We knew our stuff so well."
"To argue well is important," he replied. "But ultimately, we have to show them the truth of the gospel by loving them day in and day out."
In fact, my children happen to be good students. They know a lot of stuff! So I don't worry about that. But have they figured this outthat knowledge will only get them so far?
Unlike Paul, they sometimes act as if they do indeed understand "all mysteries and all knowledge"and that their mother and I understand so very little! I'm trusting that Mark Twain's experience will become theirs. "When I was a boy of 14," he wrote, "my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned." But Twain's new perspective grew out of a newfound humility, which to me is very much a product of love.
And so I wonder: Will my children, who every day grow in knowledge, also grow in love?
It turns out, though, that I can do something about my biggest worry. I can pray for my kids; I can phone them regularly. I can send them e-mails and care packages. More crucially, I can support them in the inevitable ups and downs, successes and failures, joys and regrets these college years will hand them. In short, I am in a unique position, as a parent, to continue to give them the one thing that will teach them about the ultimate meaning of their college yearsand of their lives. I canthrough the way I liveteach them about love.
Mark Galli is the editor-in-chief of Christianity Today. He and his wife, Barbara, have three children.