Category Archives: Seasons of Life
The Lang Gang’s 2017 Christmas Letter
“when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son,
born of a woman … so that we might receive adoption”
Dear Family and Friends,
On our kitchen counter, we have a little decorative chalkboard on which to write the number of days left until Christmas. Each day, Jo Jo (8) writes a new number on the board and then delights to remind us that Christmas is now one day closer. When I was his age, I remember wondering if Christmas would ever arrive. For children, who see only the promise of presents under the tree, time just seems to drag on interminably in the days leading up to Christmas. Parents, meanwhile, have a different perspective on time: each day that passes is one less day to buy presents, decorate the house, plan get-togethers, and otherwise try to have the “perfect” Christmas. For us, time seems to fly by in a mad rush toward “C-Day.”
It’s funny how our perception of time is affected by our perspective. When we’re waiting in hope for something good to happen, time seems to slow down. Later, we look back and realize how short the time of waiting actually was.
When I was a young man fresh out of college, it seemed as if it would be forever before I could find a dream job or meet and marry the girl of my dreams. Now that David (22), Caleb (21), and Bethany (19) have all graduated from college, they are each taking their first tentative steps in pursuit of their own dreams. At times I see in them the same impatience to get started that I used to feel, and I know they’re wondering as I did, “Will I really ever be able to get there from here?” Looking back now, I’m amazed at how quickly I managed to find both my dream job and my dream girl. From my current vantage point, I can see clearly how God was directing my steps the whole time, and I can casually minimize that period of waiting and uncertainty as “a few short years.”
Of course, at the time, a “few” years of waiting seemed anything but “short.” Likewise, it is little comfort to my kids when I tell them they have “plenty of time” in which to see their dreams come true.
Ironically, while our adult children cannot fully appreciate my perspective on their current stage of life, they are already looking back at the challenges of college from a completely different vantage point. Right now their younger sister Alexa (16) is busy filling out college applications, taking entrance exams like the ACT, and scheduling auditions in the hope of becoming a violin performance major. These hurdles all seem capable of determining her entire future, so she is naturally anxious about getting over each one. Her older siblings just shake their heads knowingly and say, “Of course you’ll be accepted. Of course you’ll pass the test. Of course you’ll nail the audition.” Already they seem to have forgotten the fear and trepidation they themselves experienced just a “few short years” ago.
Galatians 4:4 tells us that “God sent forth His Son” when “the fullness of time had come.” In other words, Christ was born at the perfect time—not a moment late, nor a moment too soon. The events which marked His birth were set in motion centuries, even millennia, prior to the first Christmas. Seven centuries earlier the prophets Isaiah and Micah prophesied his virgin birth in the town of Bethlehem. Many millennia before that the “star of Bethlehem” was appointed to appear at exactly the right time. God’s timing encompasses a mind-boggling array of actions and events, and there’s no way to hurry it along or argue with it. Yet when the “fullness of time” finally arrives, God’s orchestrating hand is clearly evident.
Before we met, Lisa and I each broke off a previous engagement. By the end of those relationships, we each felt that we were pressing to make something work that just wasn’t right. Neither of us was eager to start all over again or face a period of loneliness, but we each traded the security of a less-than-ideal relationship for the hope of something better. And then we waited. At times, we felt lonely. But in the “fullness of time,” God brought us together, and we thank Him every day that He made us wait for His best.
This Christmas, whatever your hopes, your dreams, and your secret longings, we pray that you will look to the Savior who came in the “fullness of time.” He came not merely to deliver His people from political bondage and exile, but to deliver all people from bondage to sin and the resulting exile from God’s presence. He accomplishes this reconciliation through adoption, so that by faith in the Son of God we ourselves become God’s children.
Consider for a moment what it means to be a child of God. At Christmas, we go to great lengths to ensure that our children receive the gifts they most hope for. If we, fallible and imperfect as we are, “know how to give good gifts to [our] children, how much more will [our] Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?” (Matthew 7:11). Yet we also make our children wait until the “fullness of time” to receive those gifts, even when it means seeming deaf to their pleas for an “early Christmas.” In the same way, our Father in heaven is eager to give us every good thing, but only when it is truly good and only at the perfect time, a time when we are truly ready to receive it. Until then, He makes us wait until the “fullness of time.” After all, it is the Christmas presents we unwrap early which are most quickly forgotten, and the ones we had to wait for which are most deeply cherished.
So whatever you’re waiting for this Christmas, look to the Father who loves you, and trust that He will act in the “fullness of time.” Merry Christmas and God bless.
The Lang Gang
David, Lisa, David, Caleb, Bethany, Alexa, and Josiah
I’ve Looked at College “from Both Sides Now”
Have you ever heard the song “Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell? It’s a beautiful poem set to music in which she reflects on her initial idealistic view of things like clouds (“ice cream castles in the air”), love (“the dizzy, dancing way you feel”), and life (“dreams and schemes and circus crowds”). She then moves to a somewhat disillusioned view of those things and observes that she has looked at them from “both sides now.” In the end we’re left with a kind of grown-up ambivalence: having experienced both sides of life, we can no longer maintain our youthful optimism, yet somehow it’s “life’s illusions” we continue to hold on to, so that we “really don’t know life at all.”
The other day my wife and I took our oldest son up to Florida State University for his new student orientation. Twenty-six years ago, my parents were taking me to that same university for my own new student orientation.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but while I was going through my orientation, my parents were going through a parallel orientation for family members. Now that I was taking my son to college, it was my turn to go through the family orientation. While my son was choosing from a smorgasbord of interesting classes and being exposed to all the fun experiences he can look forward to, my wife and I were being told when the payment deadlines are and what can happen if our son’s GPA dips too low. The speakers at our orientation occasionally made comments about how little the students typically remember from their orientation and how important it was that we parents remember the information we were receiving.
About halfway through this process, it occurred to me that my wife and I were going through the real orientation! Then, as if I was finally seeing the “man behind the curtain,” I began to realize how much my parents shouldered the “real world” aspects of my education so I could be free to explore “great books” and “big ideas”.
A “liberal” education is called that precisely because you have to be “free” (Latin liber) in order to study things like literature, philosophy, art, science, and culture. People who work hard every day just to put food on the table do not have that kind of freedom, and so a “liberal education” is a luxury they simply can’t afford.
For me, college was a wonderful time when I got to wrestle with important ideas and competing views of how the world works, the nature of God and man, what constitutes a good life, etc. The answers I came to largely determined the course I have taken to this day.
My parents had received a liberal education (at FSU a couple of decades prior to my going there), and they had raised me to be interested in all those lofty subjects. Yet somehow, while they were interested in what I was learning, I could tell they weren’t as passionate about it as I was. They were focused on more “prosaic” things like earning a living. When I myself entered the “real world” and began providing for a wife and a rapidly growing family, I soon found I had little time to contemplate all those lofty ideas I was so focused on in college. I was simply too busy with “prosaic” pursuits like earning a living.
Today I see that the freedom I had to pursue a “liberal” education was largely made possible by the added responsibilities my parents shouldered on my behalf. Sure I contributed to the financing of my education with scholarships and summer jobs, and sure I had to take on increasing amounts of responsibility, but there was always that safety net: that knowledge that Mom and Dad would come to the rescue if I really messed things up. That freedom from worry is what really liberated me to wrestle with all those grand and lofty subjects.
It would seem I am now looking at college “from both sides.” If I were adding another verse to Mitchell’s song, I might say I’ve looked at it “from play and pay!” Yet somehow, like Mitchell, it’s still “college illusions I recall.” I know a large university is a big bureaucracy with many people who are more concerned about defending their little fiefdoms than about guiding young minds. I know the honest exchange of ideas is sometimes tainted by insecure professors and sycophantic students. I know many kids use their newfound freedom to do incredibly foolish things. I know a college degree is not a guaranteed ticket to a great job and an easy life. Don’t tell my kids I said this, but I even know a college education doesn’t necessarily make sense for everyone—especially from a cost-benefit perspective. Still, it’s an opportunity to grow up some without completely having to “sink or swim.” It’s an opportunity to wrestle with big ideas and discover for yourself what’s really important. It’s an opportunity to meet people who share the interests your high school friends never understood, as well as to engage people who think very differently than you do. All those ivy-covered illusions we have about college life still resonate with us because they represent the enduring value of a liberal education.
So while my son still has the freedom to pursue a liberal education, my wife and I will preserve that freedom by shouldering some additional responsibility. And if he starts to think us a little prosaic, I can take comfort in the knowledge that he too will eventually see college “from both sides.”