Lessons from God

-A A +A
By Ken Begley

Jesus Christ was the ultimate storyteller, and he did it through what they call “parables.”   The parable leads the listener to one important moral lesson that can’t be denied or rationalized away.  

I think God sent me a parable to live out this last year.

Let me tell you about it.

My oldest is graduating from WCHS this year.  Renee’s a smart young lady that Cindy and I are very proud of, along with the rest of our children.  But we had one big fear hanging over our heads that all parents could relate to.  It was the cost of sending her off to college.

You’d have to live under a rock not to know that college costs have been skyrocketing for the past few decades.  Indeed, most all students end up coming out of school with massive debt levels.

Now, I knew this more than most.  I was the Student Financial Aid Director at St. Catharine College 15 years ago and completed some 1,500 student financial aid forms during my three- year tenure.

Still, I had always thought my children would get some need- based grant money due to my knowledge in the area.  But, being a cautious type, I completed the Federal Aid Form while Renee was still a junior, just to get an idea of what we would receive next year when she went to college.  

I was shocked at the result.

We qualified for nothing.

The second shock came when I investigated the cost for attending a public university.  It all depends on where you go, but $20,000 a year in a public university is not an unreasonable number to wrap your mind around when everything is all said and done.

The bad part is, I have four more kids standing behind her to go.  It looked like we could wipe out our entire retirement savings and the kids would still have to borrow all the money they could on top of that.  I’m nearly 52 and have some health problems, and my youngest is seven, so wiping out our retirement is a big concern.

What to do?

Most of my experience in financial aid was on need-based grants, and she qualified for none.  That left only the highly competitive merit-based scholarships.  I thought she had a real shot at these.

She had worked a couple of part-time jobs, maintained a good GPA, won several academic awards, and was heavily involved in student organizations where she held offices.  That’s what they’re looking for in merit based scholarships.

We began working on every single one we could find from midway of her junior year forward.  Many long weekends were spent completing applications, gathering letters of recommendation, writing essays, and then reviewing them over and over again.  

This is where we ran into trouble.  

My daughter was so heavily focused on school, work, and her organizations that she did not want to spend what little spare time she had working on applications.  The applications are complex, detailed, and require a lot of student writing and input.  You don’t just check a bunch of boxes and mail it in.

We collided head-on.  Not only did Renee not appreciate my efforts, but she resented me riding her around like a jockey on a horse about these scholarships and deadlines.  

My frustration also grew.

I work a full-time and two part-time jobs.  All the rest of my time is spent running from one kid activity to another, or working around the house and cars.  Spending my weekends working on scholarship applications that may or may not pay off is not my idea of a good time.  Still, I knew she had worked very hard for years, and we needed some scholarship search committee to see this and maybe, just maybe, award her some bucks.

We didn’t like each other very much while all this was going on.

I was talking it over with a friend at work one day and I told him, “I’ve never worked so hard to help someone and have them get so mad at me.  I love her, I have her best interest at heart, and yet she just won’t listen to me.  She’s so focused on the here and now.  I keep telling her that all this high school stuff is ending, and something better is going to happen.  College is coming, and all that stuff behind you won’t mean anything.  If you don’t prepare yourself, then you’re not going to get to go to college.  Why won’t she listen to me?”

It was at that point that I froze after hearing my own words.  I had just lived a parable.  Do you see it?

God really works hard to help us, but all we do is get mad, complain, and at times resent him.  

Yet, God loves us, he has our best interest at heart, and sometimes we just don’t want to listen.   We are so focused on the here and now.  God keeps telling us that all this earthly stuff is ending, and something better can happen for us.  Heaven is coming and everything we have on earth is ending.  If you don’t prepare yourself, then you’re not going to get to heaven.  God pleads, “Why won’t you listen to me?”

I could be wrong, but I thought God used the situation to express his frustration with me and how I live my life.

We got the scholarship applications completed, some paid off, and we’ve even released the grip on each other’s throats.

But the whole experience left me with something bigger to think about.

Take care my friend.