Editor’s Note: Russell Gehrlein was a guest on the radio program, Mornings with Eric and Brigitte, a Moody Radio program on August 15, 2023. Below is a partial transcript of that conversation, which you can listen to in its entirety here. You can view blog part 1 of this episode here.
Supporting Siblings Who Are Still At Home
BRIGITTE (host): You not only talk about preparing the parents for this transition, but if there are other kids in the home, sometimes we can forget that they’re going through their own tearing away process too.
RUSSELL GEHRLEIN: No, you’re right Brigitte. I was very humbled when I thought about that and it just didn’t dawn on me till several years into the process. I’m a firstborn, my wife is a firstborn, we were so eager to get our firstborn out the door that we didn’t really think about the effect on her brothers. And honestly, three years later when we were pushing number two out the door, I was all excited for him. We had a good relationship with our daughter, but then my youngest was there all by himself and it didn’t dawn on me and I just did not see that. So in hindsight, that’s a sad lesson not a success story. That’s just a humble story for me to share to be more intentional. And looking back now, they were very much connected so there was not a break. It’s fun now looking back a decade, twenty years later launching our first kid out. All these kids are very well connected with each other and with us. I just praise God for that because that’s not always the case.
ERIC (host): Yeah, pulling out a calendar might be helpful for that child left at home. You might say, “Look, they’re in school now but in just four, five, six weeks they’ll be home for an extended weekend.” Or, “In 5 weeks down the road, we’ll be traveling there to visit them for just a few days.” Whatever it is, mark those days on the calendar so they have something to look forward to without saying, “This is how it’s going to be forever.” Letting them know what’s expected for them is helpful.
RUSSELL GEHRLEIN: That’s a good tool. And parents going into it, just definitely include those kids. It is hard. It is also important for the kids. My kids were all military brats—in my background, I’m a retired Master Sergeant. So they are used to moving around every few years and making new friends, so going to college was no different for them. But I do understand that for a lot of folks, especially if they’re homeschooled or just very close to their family, going off to a Christian school or where God’s called them can be a hard time. Just keeping those connections with parents and siblings. Yes, your job changes. And then you gotta work towards preparing them for marriage, too. All three of our kids are happily married and we’ve got some grandkids here. The idea of leaving and cleaving, a very important biblical principle in Genesis, that’s something that kinda guided us. It took several years for them to find their spouse at school and get married. But that process of leaving your home and not breaking the ties but changing it. You’re starting a whole new Christian family and so from an adult development perspective and a biblical perspective, it starts early just getting that idea across.
God Is With Parents, Too
BRIGITTE (host): We’re talking with Russ Gehrlein, former youth pastor and teacher. His article is really helping us, as it’s called Lessons Learned from Launching Our Children Off To College. Now, with all that we’ve talked about, you also mentioned God can be with us in the midst of this transition. Talk to us a little bit more about that part.
RUSSELL GEHRLEIN: This is where it really gets to my heart because I shared briefly in another article that I linked here in this one that I missed taking my daughter to Wheaton College. We lived at Hill Air Force Base, I was stationed there in Salt Lake City training reserve and guard soldiers. And then I went to Korea for a year. So my family stayed behind and my wife had to take my daughter to college and I missed all of that adventure. The next year when I came back I said, “Hey, Dad’s home. But we’re moving.” We moved here to Missouri nineteen years ago, where we’ve been. And then within a couple weeks it was time to get settled in our new house and time to take her to school. And I kid you not, as soon as we pulled up to the dorm, this song Blessed Be The Name came on the radio, the Christian radio in Chicago. The bridge says:
He gives and takes away,
he gives and takes away,
my heart will choose to say,
Lord blessed be your name.
It was a clear message to me that the Lord gave us this precious daughter, and I didn’t experience what it felt like to let her go the first time but this time I really felt it. But there was an underlying trust that this is where she was called to be. She was not leaving home, she was going home because she had made a lot of friends at school, and she was eager to get back to them after a long summer. So I had to just trust her into God’s hands and recognize that God was watching her better than she was if she had been home. And god was also with us as we felt that loss.
ERIC (host): You’d think we’d be better at this as parents since we went through that transition, but we struggled with it! So we do need our heavenly father to help us through that process and help train those who we’re leading through that process. We’re just as bad at it as our parents were. It’s hard though, and it’s good to know that there are people like you have have thought about this process and written about it to really give us a better understanding of what this takes because it isn’t easy, it’s a hard process for parents.
RUSSELL GEHRLEIN: Thank you, it really is. I think it’s a fear of the unknown. Are the world’s influence gonna get our kids? Are they gonna lose their faith? Lose their way? Are we not gonna be close again? I’m here to tell you that if you pray for your kids and prepare them for these kinds of things and you have these adult conversations, God works in it. I’m grateful that years down the road, our daughter started this process of calling us once a week. Even when I was in Korea, I talked to her once a week. And then she talked to her mother and brothers once a week in Utah while I was away. She still to this day, and she’s late thirties now, twenty years later, she still calls us once a week, and our boys stay in touch as well. So, parenting changes but you just really have to trust God for it. And gosh when grandkids come along it just makes it all worthwhile just to see God provide. But yeah, the first steps of that separation are painful but you just have to trust God.
BRIGITTE (host): Well, this article may be helpful for you if that’s the season you’re in. Also Russ’s book Emmanuel Labor: God’s Present in our Profession. Russ, thank you so much for joining us today.
RUSSELL GEHRLEIN: Thank you for allowing me the privilege to encourage some parents out there!