For the last year, I’ve driven Pike to school most mornings. The routine is pretty ordered. We sing songs, usually Pike’s picks of whatever is on the iPhone. Sometimes we talk about the day. Sometimes we sing. On the last quarter mile stretch before school, we recite the Shema (Deut. 6:4-5) together (something we’ve done for a few years now). Then we leave the vehicle, he jumps in my arms, I set him down, and we hold hands walking to the door. Sometimes I get a hug and an “I love you Daddy,” but mostly, he sees friends and walks away ready for the day as I do the same.

Today was different, and I wasn’t ready for it. This morning as I put snacks and lunch in his bag, I noticed it was full of all of the take-home papers since school is done for the year. He said proudly to me, “Here are all the things I’ve been working on” and added, “Tomorrow I won’t need my bag Daddy because it’s a half-day, school is done, and I’ll be a second grader.” I smiled and said, “I’m proud of you pal!” 

That’s when it started. In a moment, I realized that another year went by when it felt like it barely began.

The drive to school was the same but completely different. He was reading (Are you kidding me?! My son is reading on his own and learning on his own. He’s gone from learning to read to reading to learn!). He was reading a book about sloths. 

A little known fact about me: I was obsessed with sloths when I was younger. My first email address was Yeah, that’s right . . . hotmail. Pike told me all about sloths, snakes, and everything in his book, and then I turned on a favorite song. 

For years, Pike has loved “I Raise a Hallelujah” by Bethel Music. We typically sing it at the top of our lungs until we get to school. He sang, but I couldn’t. I could feel tears welling up in my eyes, and my throat tightened to the point that talking would be challenging. All I could do was breathe, swallow, focus on the road, and listen to his sweet voice. He must have known that I was struggling because when I looked back he smiled and blew me a kiss.

As we drove the last quarter mile, I turned the volume to full blast, and we rolled into the parking lot with the minivan shaking. Then I turned down the volume, and we recited “Shema.” Well, he recited. I couldn’t. I couldn’t speak. All I could do was cry. “I’m not ready for this,” I thought. “I’m not ready for him to be a second grader. I’m not ready for reading on his own. I’m not ready for him to stop jumping in my arms. I’m not ready for him to stop holding my hand. I’m not ready for him to be big and grown.” I wasn’t prepared for today.

As I shared these thoughts with a friend, he laughed and lamented with me. His children are grown, some graduated and paying taxes and some in their last few years of school. He said something to me that I will never forget, “It’s a rental Josh.” 

He’s right. My son is a rental. I don’t own him. Pike is “on loan” from God, and the time will always go faster than I want. I guess deep down, I know that, but I felt it today, and I wasn’t ready for it.

Friends, let’s remember that “it’s a rental,” and let’s savor every moment. Let’s soak it in and praise God for it all. Let’s enjoy “the rental” for as long as we have it.

Author: Teaching Pastor, Josh Zoerhof