Thank you.

What else can I say? Our third and last child graduates from high school this month and will soon deprive her parents the fun of torturing her into submission to our narrow ways. She will join our other two, who have happily proven their parents’ worries unworthy.

So good, so far. Far from perfect, our children nevertheless signal a strengthening gene pool. They possess traits that honor their ancestors, better their parents, and allow us to begin worrying about whom they marry.

It takes a village to raise a child, liberals say. It takes a family, conservatives counter. It takes a church, a preacher like me says. This is not a zero-sum game; there’s enough praise to go around.

Let me spread some, liberally. My children are preachers’ kids that grew up with all the blessings of being so, and few of the curses. More people knew them than they knew. More cheered them on than they can imagine. Rather than looking for their flaws to get at their father the back way, they got the benefit of the doubt and lived up to it most of the time.

Countless teachers and principals and coaches and parents of friends and neighbors and strangers have formed a loose-knit community that kept our kids in their sights, in their hearts, and in their prayers. Some kids suffer from expectations too high or low, community standards too rigid or loose. Our kids somehow managed to stay somewhere in between without mediocrity masquerading as virtue.

They looked out for each other, too. All three knew when to gang up on their parents and when to conspire with us when one of them wandered too close to trouble. We will miss the noise of their sibling chatter. We will miss the debates over curfews and privileges. We will miss them.

I have always hesitated to preach on parenting, knowing that my expertise could be invalidated at any moment. Whatever their mother and I did to abet them thus far or did not do to ruin them yet, we count it the grace of God more than parental prowess. Any parent will tell you that you do this on a whim and a prayer.

They may any of them blow it still. It’s still up to them. But they are off to a good start – thanks to you, thanks to them, thanks to God.

Thanks be to God!