My heart is tender these days; I can cry at the drop of a hat. Questioning the cause, I consider the onslaught of menopausal hormones… a spiritual awakening that’s happening at church… or maybe just a mother’s natural sorrow at the thought of her children leaving home.
The truth is that my sons are starting to scatter. The middle one will be the first to be dropped off at his college destination, and my youngest son and I are on tap to help him deposit his belongings in his new home. Imagining our parting, I recently pictured it happening something like this: I smile brightly, hug him tightly, and then hurry to the car to begin the long trip back home without him. I wonder at what mile marker the boys will forego all warnings about texting while driving and have the following non-verbal communication with each other:
> How’s Mom?
> Not sure; she can’t talk. Sobbing uncontrollably.
> What should I do?
> Abort life plan completely. Return to Ohio as soon as possible. Live out your life in the basement bedroom of your childhood home.
Ridiculous, of course. God has good plans for my sons, and the last thing I want is to hinder those plans in any way by my reluctance to let go of the hands I’ve held on to so tightly for so long. For years I’ve asked God to bless my boys abundantly, expand their boundaries and enlarge their territories, as in the prayer of Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:10). And surely I can’t expect God to answer that prayer without them outgrowing their current surroundings. To stay is to stagnate; to go is to grow.
And yet I reject the concept of the empty nest, as if it had never been blessed with the joy and the mess of masses of boys about the place. No, their exuberance and laughter is woven into the fabric of our family, ever to remain. They are simply a part of who we are. I prefer to think of mine as an overflowing nest, one which can no longer contain the life and love inside it but simply has to spill the overflow into other cities, other states, or (gulp!) other countries, without diminishing the quality of the original quantity in the least.
My mind understands this theory, it’s my heart that gets in the way of its implementation. And so I’ve devised a game plan to keep me from becoming the woebegone woman described above. I’ve worked diligently at keeping a positive mental attitude as I face the upcoming event. My emails to my sister have become daily pep talks to myself about entering my sons’ excitement as they head off on their own. I’ve tried to fully participate in the process of finding apartments and household furnishings, bedding and necessities. I’ve concentrated on enjoying every moment of our family outings this summer, culminating in a week-long celebration /family reunion in a glorious rented home on the Oregon coast.
For the most part the plan has worked well and I’ve kept my emotions at bay. But recently I’ve started to wonder if suppressing all sadness is really the best idea…if it might not lead to greater issues and problems on down the line Perhaps it would be better to face down this giant in the time and place of my choosing, a little at a time, so I’m not overwhelmed by an onslaught of grief at some later date when I’m least prepared to deal with it.
And so now by day I busy myself with sending security deposits to hold apartments, establishing bank accounts, and preparing vehicles for long drives to distant climes. But on the late night drives home from my second-shift job I let myself think about just how much I’ll miss the tousled heads sticking out from swaths of blankets on the living room couches, tripping over shoes left abandoned in hallways, and the pounding of feet down basement stairs in the early-morning hours that lets me know the last of my night-owl sons has returned safely home once more. In the silent darkness of those moments I let my heart run unhindered. If my nest is truly overflowing, it’s to be expected that my eyes will occasionally, as well, and I let the tears go as freely as I desire to do my sons, trusting that God puts the world on hold for a few minutes while He sits with me and lovingly counts and collects each one (Psalm 56:8 CEV).
I studied this morning how Jesus prepared His disciples for His upcoming departure. In John 16 we read that He reminded them of His love for them, explained that his going was for their ultimate good, and promised that they’d be together again one day. Although we all long ago made our eternal futures secure, I’m glad that my earthly goodbyes to my boys are just temporary in nature. A family friend’s wedding in early fall will bring us all together once more. Frankly, wild horses couldn’t keep me from attending that event. And it’s likewise the upcoming wedding of another Bridgegroom to His Bride that will call us all from our earthly occupations to our eternal destination. May we be just as desperate to hasten that day.
I posted the engagement picture of the prospective bride and groom on my fridge to help me get through the difficult days of this August, a reminder of a happy reunion soon to come. God knew we would need a spiritual version of the same to get us through all of the trials and tribulations we face in this world, so he penned it in the pages of the Bible. Because Jesus did so first with His, I can truly smile brightly as I hug my boys tightly…the whispered “See you in September!” in their ears a reminder to us all that sooner than we can imagine we will be in a place where the sight of His face will erase every thought of our tears.
“And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.”
(John 16:22 KJV)
(John 16:22 KJV)
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Hudek