You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
      and knit me together in my mother's womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
      Your workmanship is marvelous — and how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
      as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
      Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
      before a single day had passed.
(Psalm 139:13-16 NLT)

I had dressed for work and was grabbing a diet Dr. Pepper as I took a quick glance at the paper. As I reached down to grab the morning news, I heard the sounds several blocks away. It was the low whine of the engine shifting from first to second gear and then back again. It was the gentle squealing of brakes as the bus pulled to a stop. It was the unmistakable screech and whack of the right front door popping open while the red lights flashed, and then a few moments later, the sounds of the door popping back closed again. Then there was clunk of shifting gears and a repeat of the low whine as the bus rumbled down the street a few more blocks to pick up its precious cargo.

These were the sounds of letting go ... the sounds of moms and dads placing their most precious gifts on the big yellow bus as their children headed off to a new year of school. More than just the signal of the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year, these sounds are the yearly reminder that children spend their lives growing up and moving away from us.

While we call them "our" children, they're really not. God chose their genetic code and wove them together in the womb for his delight. Each strand of DNA was chosen by his wisdom and grace. The goal of each child's life was to become mature, godly, and leave his or her parents to build a life of influence for the King of Kings. God has loaned these precious gifts to us for a short while, then they leave us. Yet in some primal and powerful way, the beginning of school is the incremental yardstick, the yearly reminder that they are not ours to keep. Instead, they are ours to point in a holy direction and to help discover God's holy character.

An old legend has it that Michelangelo had been staring at a huge block of marble for hours when an onlooker broke the long silence by asking, "Michelangelo, why do you peer so long at this block of marble?"

His response was said to be, "Why, to discover the work of art captured inside the marble that I am to set free!"

As parents, our job really isn't to fashion a child as much as it is to uncover the work of art captured inside a boy or girl and set it free. Then, when that work of art begins to realize his or her place in the grand gallery of life, we are to give that young man or young woman the nudge to go be that work of beauty that God created him or her to be.

We can only effectively serve as God's artist, his sculptor, through prayer ... and his gift of wisdom ... and the help of others who share his dream for our child ... and his grace. All the while, each day we are preparing this person to move a little farther away from our direct influence and a little closer to his or her own independence from us and direct dependence upon their eternal Father.

Most days we don't recognize our incremental task.
Most days we don't recognize our incremental task. However, the start of each school year is a harsh wake up call that tells us ... "He's not mine to keep." "She won't be with us forever." "My, isn't he bigger and taller?" "Goodness, hasn't she become a young woman of grace and beauty?"

There's something comforting in the predictable moan and flashing lights of the old yellow school bus. At the same time, its sounds are the sounds of letting go and a reminder to love and to influence and to cherish these precious gifts God has given us while they are on loan to us from their Heavenly Father.

Clunk. There it goes again, dropping into gear as it whines its way down the street and pops its door open for another load of precious cargo. However, if you listen closely, you'll hear the deep sighs of parents letting go.

"Have a good day, sweetheart!"
"Go get 'em, buddy!"

We'll see them tonight, we pray, only they'll be a little farther down the road and our chisel will look a little more worn and the marble a little more finished.

God help us all as we partner with him on this journey of artistic grace.