“As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings, so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.” Deuteronomy 32:11
In my former life I was a Marketing and Communication Director. Quitting my job to stay home with my children was the best decision for my family. I transitioned slowly to the new role of stay-at-home-mom, but I grew to love the freedom of being home and deciding the daily influences on my children.
For eight years I stayed home. I went from being the sole playmate to the mother of two boys who would rough and tumble and love and laugh for hours with each other. We had play dates, craft projects, park visits, stroller rides, board games, Target trips (thank you lollipops!), and, yes, even lunch at Chick-fil-a. We took classes at the zoo, took morning runs together and visited the local library. The day was packed full, exhausting, and rarely quiet. The house was a mess and the sound of the garage door sent all of us running to meet Daddy at the end of his work day. It wasn’t glamorous work, but someone had to do it, and I was glad it was me.
When I got word that my youngest child got accepted into the full day PreK program at school, my role in the world I knew was about to change. In an instant, I went from being needed every waking moment to having a completely quiet house with no one to answer to but myself. No more pushing the stroller during my morning runs. I am now running solo. Though I am still adjusting to the transition, I know that there is life after the kids go to school, but I also know I cannot do it alone. This is where I am reminded of God’s promises.
The empty nest is a serious grief trigger. Mercifully, it doesn’t happen all at once. Every little step to independence helps prepare us for that dreaded, glorious day when the parenting mission is complete and the children take flight. It’s appropriate to grieve as our children leave the various stages of childhood behind forever. However, to mope there too long is unhealthy and God has given us some wonderful truths to help us through. We have an eternal mandate. We have an expectant promise and we have an everlasting possession.
Our children are God’s assignment to us. “Forgetting the past,” writes Paul in Philippians 3:13-14, “and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us.” Paul’s goal was to complete his ministry. Seeing parenting as a sacred mission replaces some of our sorrow with anticipation as our children grow up. We are part of God’s plans for our children, and we want to see these plans realized. Of course, this doesn’t mean we should forget our children’s precious, early years; but it’s exciting to know that God is even more concerned with their growth and purposes than we are, and He has asked us to raise them. After all, they’re really His. When we focus on our eternal mandate, we grieve less and rejoice more with each passing stage.
I am still transitioning, so I have to remind myself that God did not plan for my children to remain under my care forever. As wrenching as it is, even the kindergarden empty nest is part of the program. With it comes the promise of God’s continued purpose for our lives. “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11) Hope does not depart with our children.
Parenting changes when our children are grown, but it isn’t over. As we enter the stage of adult friendship with our children, God wants to use us to bless and edify them. This stage can be both extremely challenging and richly rewarding. We may have to make some difficult decisions during the transitional years if our children are struggling to find their place in the world. We are still praying and nurturing our relationship with our oldest daughter now. There will be weeks when we will not hear from her at all. We have gone through some dark nights. This is intimidating, but I love the description of the wife in Proverbs 31:25: “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” Another translation puts it, “She smiles at the future.” Our prior experience with God’s faithfulness assures us that He will help us with the transitional years. I pray that God provides me with the grace to be the one that smiles at the future with the rest of my three.
We may grieve as we take the outgrown clothes and toys to Goodwill and watch our children grow, but God’s promises provide assurance and hope, bringing us through the empty nest stage with peace. We can anticipate the joy of seeing our children fulfill God’s plans for them. We can look with excitement for the next phase of ministry God has prepared for us.
This morning’s run was filled with worship and praises the entire 6 miles and even a couple of tears, but I am reminded that the empty nest is filled with God’s promises. Now I think I will continue to focus on my spiritual training and write my first devotional book. Happy running everyone!!