Thursday, August 5, 2010

See You in September

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)

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Hudek

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Risky Revelation

I’d been following its progress for months. My friend had faithfully relayed to me the latest details of her blossoming romance after each visit with her new boyfriend. Successive dates revealed new aspects of his personality that delighted her and she found herself liking him more and more. In our last conversation she whispered that she was beginning to realize that she loved him… and was now in a quandary as to whether or not to tell him so. I was somewhat surprised at her reluctance to voice her feelings.

“I’ve never said it first,” she said in explanation. In all her previous relationships it was always the guy who first declared his love. I understood without her saying so that there was a lot at risk. Sure of her feelings, she was less so of his. Perhaps such an honest expression would scare him away, indicating a depth of feeling that he might not share. There was the possibility that after having laid her heart bare she would once again find herself wounded and alone. “Once burned, twice shy,” as the old proverb goes, suggesting that it might be wiser to keep one’s feelings under wraps and let the other person take the plunge.

To me it was obvious that he was in love with her, too. Throughout the course of their relationship he had been careful almost to a fault not to do or say anything that might jeopardize their relationship. Yet he clearly was facing the same fear. I urged her to say what she was feeling, but at the right moment and in a place where she could see his face in response. I was sure she’d be pleased with what she’d see.

A few days later I was shopping when I came across a bracelet that caught my eye. A simple silver heart was strung between a couple of small beads on two elastic bands that met and tied in a knot in the back. A sucker for hearts anywhere I see them, I soon walked out of the store with the bracelet in a bag.

As I looked at it often on my arm that afternoon I began to ask myself what it meant to me, as I knew it was more than just a pretty bangle. Perhaps it was nothing but a simple reminder that Jesus loves me. If so, I can never have too many of those. Or maybe it would prompt thoughts about loving God by loving His people, as well. Maybe the fact that I wore it with the heart pointed outwards was symbolic of the need to give His love away. But some time later it came to me that God was simply telling me to wear my heart on my sleeve… to risk love, and to love genuinely and openly, without concern about how that love is received.

Perhaps we are reluctant to do so because loving in such a manner makes us vulnerable to hurt or heartache. It means pulling our hearts from the layers of protection we’ve placed around them and putting them out there where they can easily be broken by the careless or deliberate actions of others. But there’s a reason that God would have us to do so, and that is that it makes His love visible to those who may have been looking for it all their lives. And in so doing we make ourselves available to be His instruments of help or healing in whatever situations they may be going through, to point them to the One whose love never fails and who has all the answers to the questions they ask.

At the store that day I tried on all the bracelets on the rack before eventually purchasing the one I did. I wanted to be sure I bought the one that was the right size and the right color for me. Similarly there’s no one way to wear love or to love other people. Each of us will express God’s love differently, but the important thing is that we do. And when you find that right moment to say what’s on God’s heart to someone in need, you’ll find that you’re finally in a place where you can see His face…and you can be sure you’re going to like what you see.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…”
(1 John 4:18 NIV)
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