FIRST-PERSON: Home for the holidays

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)--“Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays. 'Cause no matter how far away you roam, when you pine for the sunshine of a friendly gaze, for the holidays you can’t beat home, sweet home.”

As college students finish up finals and enter the Christmas break, one would think that such holiday lyrics would kindle their desires to get home as fast as possible. However, it seems that some university students I know are finding the jubilation of a successfully completed semester to be tempered by the sad reality that their home is not as alluring as the song might suggest.

There is the freshman who has enjoyed the first four months of university life away from her dysfunctional past. She weeps as she describes her holiday itinerary which calls for visits to her obsessively compulsive step-grandmother, her newly married and emotionally distanced father, and her overly career-oriented mother (which also requires spending time with her mother’s live-in companion).

The international student dreads flying home since “father” has too many responsibilities to make it home for Christmas. “He is a very busy man, and so many people depend on him,” he says as he stares into the carpet. He wouldn’t dare say it to me because I know people who know his dad, but the sorrow in his eyes speaks louder than the words from his lips. The student’s heart aches because he realizes that his father is too busy for him.

Then there is the junior who is anxious about going home to her non-Christian parents who are paying for her Christian education, but who also are having her pay for the experience by making her endure their passive-aggressive and scoffing comments about her “belief in Jesus.” They are not ugly to her, but she says their responses to her are as close to persecution as she has ever experienced. “They reject the Gospel again and again. I just wish they wouldn’t reject me,” she says as she walks out the door to go home.

When home is not what it should be, young people seem to respond in one of two ways. Either they find themselves doubtfully hesitant about venturing into mature relationships and duties, or they become more intentional in their pursuit of familial responsibilities. The first response is sad. The second is encouraging.

Motivated by a desire to not experience what they have known in their past, many young people are heading into adulthood with the goal of prioritizing family more than their parents did. With a zeal for God and obeying His Word, these young people are taking seriously the command to “love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) They also understand their personal responsibility to take the Lord’s commandments and “teach them diligently” to their children. (Deuteronomy 6:7)

As in all things, these students realize that there will be costs associated with the prioritization of family. Career aspirations, materialistic ambitions and professional opportunities will have to find a proper place of contented submission within the context of faithful and God-honoring, family-focused living.

Students are telling me that costs like these are insignificant. In fact, such costs are nothing at all compared to the parents they have always wanted.

My prayer is that today’s students will live their lives in such a way that their children will one day actually want to go home for the holidays.


Todd E. Brady is minister to the university at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.