We have five children, and sometimes people assume that means we have a larger than average income. While we have been blessed financially, I think it is more accurate to say that we have different priorities than many Americans. One of those is we have let go of the financial burden of paying for our children’s college. This is a purposeful decision we made even when we only had one child, and could easily afford a college fund. Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying people with college funds are bad parents. Every family and situation is different. The following is simply why our family said “no” to college funds.
We don’t have a dream for our children, because we know God already has a plan. Many parents not only assume, but insist, college is an outcome for their children. We are not in the business of running our kid’s adult lives. God has already equipped our children with the traits they need to become what He designed them to be. It is our job as parents to cultivate that relationship, and shepherd those traits, so our children can grow into the people they were created to become. Both of us have masters degrees so we aren’t anti education. We realize college may or may not be important to any one of our kid’s adult lives, but we just don’t assume that it is. We also know that if it is, the provision will be there without our saving up for it.
We measure success differently. Our children’s value is not tied to personal wealth or choosing a prestigious career. Instead, their value is tied to being children of God. Our hope is that they grow into adults who love God, and pour His love into the people around them. Of course we want them to be independent and productive members of society, but that will likely end up looking very different for each of our children. For example, one of our children wants to be a math teacher, and our first grader wants to be a garbage truck man. All work is valuable, and making lots of money or being well educated isn’t the only way for people to prosper. Our sole criteria on the path they choose is that it is moral, legal, and they can support themselves doing it.
There is value in the struggle. Parents often want to pay for their kid’s college, because they remember what it is like to try and pay for their own college. They remember having to pull all nighters studding because they were working during the day. They remember not running the air conditioning, and scraping together a few dollars to buy milk, and box of cereal, and some ramen noodles. They love their kids, and don’t want to see them struggle the way they did. However, when things like college are simply handed to a mostly grown child it takes something away from them. They loose experiences that grow important traits like self reliance, self efficacy, problem solving and financial management. This is not to say we are just going to throw them out when they graduate high school. Of course we will help them however we can, and we will help them plan for their future. That help will not come in the form of simply writing a check.
A friend recently told me of a story she read in a devotional. A man was watching a butterfly come out of its cocoon. The hole was very small, and the butterfly was struggling to get itself through. Out of compassion for the butterfly the man made the hole slightly larger so that it would be easier for it to come out. Sure enough the butterfly quickly appeared, but unfortunately its wings were never strong enough for it to fly, and it died. What the man didn’t know was the struggle to get through the opening is what makes the butterfly’s wings strong enough to fly. Just like the butterfly our children need a fair amount of struggle to grow strong enough to fly.
We have more important things to do with our money. God put adoption on our hearts, and by aligning our values and goals with Him instead of the basic American culture we have been able to say “yes”. Not only do our adopted children have a family, and hope for a better future, but the lessons in unconditional love, grace, redemption, and the importance of family have given our biological children (and us) more than a college education ever could. I realize not everyone has a heart for adoption. However, God has placed a need on every Christian’s heart, and it hurts me when people miss out on those blessings because they think they cannot afford to meet that need. If this is speaking to your heart right now prayerfully consider where your money is going. Maybe its not a college fund, but instead it is a bigger house, or a newer car, or a big remodeling job. Maybe you need these things, and maybe you don’t. I’m not trying to judge anyone’s life. I’m simply asking that you pray about it, and ACT on the message you receive.