I am almost seven months into this new phase of life, aptly called the “empty nest.” Of course, I know this is the natural progression of things. If so, then why has it been so difficult?
Life transitions – even good and natural ones – are still difficult to maneuver. Routine answers take on a whole new meaning until you’re living through any kind of transition. This is true for a multitude of them: children leaving home, the death of a loved one, caregiving aged parents, or even good transitions like marriage or graduation.
Why are these transitions difficult? First, in the season of time that any transition occurs – albeit expected or abrupt – it signifies a change from what “used to be” to a new reality or way of living. Second, not only is it the transition itself, but also the things that go along with the new normal. For example, the first day of being at home in the nest alone, I had a mini meltdown when I only had one load of wash. Why? It signified that one of my daily routines had abruptly changed. As the clothes in my college freshman son’s car gradually increased, the clothes in my laundry room had instantaneously decreased, a “negative correlation” of sorts.
And specifically what would I miss on a daily basis? The soothing sound of running water from the upstairs shower, the tunes from the phone or iPod, the slamming of drawers and doors, or the thud of a gym bag thrown into the laundry room, just to mention a few. Oddly enough – and quite unexpectedly – it has made me miss the oldest bird to fly out of the nest even more than when he first left for college. But what do I miss the most? The bear hugs that start my day, the tendered smiles when I’m emotional (as the only female in the house, this comes quite often), the laughter, and even the tears. I miss every little twig that has built our nest over the last 22 1/2 years (but who’s counting??).
How appropriate that this scripture from Matthew 6: 25-27 takes on a whole new meaning for MY empty nest:
“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life (NIV, emphasis mine)?”
So I constantly remind myself not to worry about the empty nest, a reminder that is twofold: First, the view from the perch of the home nest is limited; second, the reassurance that God sees my sons and tends to the details of their daily lives even though I no longer can. He’s more interested in the workings of their lives than I am, and He loves them even more than I do. It’s a divine concept that is hard for a “mama bird” to wrap her wings around.
My prayer is that each one will see Him working in their routines and their novelties while, at the same time, feeding them with daily food that allows them to grow strong into a healthy maturity that gives them courage to soar in the direction that God has ordained for each of them. They are stretching their wings in new ways. The home base nest – made strong and sturdy with sunny days of laughter and intertwined with life’s unexpected storms – has hopefully constructed a secure resting place to weather life’s novel or challenging experiences for wings learning to fly. More than anything, I want it to be a secure resting place filled with wisdom, understanding, and knowledge (Proverbs 24:3-4) that has become a soft place to land.
And the mama bird? Well, the Father watches over her too. He sees the leftover food that I place on the nest’s table in hopes that it can be eaten before it spoils. Or how I excitedly buy more food to prepare when I know the nest will be full, even for short, brief visits. He sees the creases in my freshly washed clothes in addition to those on my face if I’m worrying too much. Thankfully and so lovingly, no detail by Him is left unobserved – whether He watches as the wrinkles in clothes are smoothed by the warmth of the iron or, more importantly, the warmth of His Promises on my soul that, in turn, seem to lessen the visible creases on my face. He cares most that I’m clothed with inner peace. He keeps reminding me: Are you not more valuable than the birds of the air?
It’s the season for me to grow in new ways and stretch my wings as well, just like the ones who have left the nest. And the calming part? God lovingly watches and tends to all of it.