I’ve been asked several times these past few weeks how I like being an ’empty nester.’ I’ve hesitated to answer because, if we’re going to continue this analogy, technically, I have hatched four birds in my lifetime and just recently nudged the last one out hoping, with all my bird-like instincts, that he’ll take flight never to return.
I realize this sounds a bit snarky, and ’empty nester’ is a simple handle for saying, “So, after 28 years of having kids under foot, what’s it like to have an empty, quiet house and all that time on your hands?”
Yeah, ’empty nester’ softens the blow, I guess.
But is there anything more sad than an empty nest? I mean a literal empty nest. I have several empty nests that I’ve picked up after storms have knocked them out of trees on our property. Often, they are spring nests–delicate, unfinished, routed out of the tree by a blustery March wind. But sometimes in the golden aftermath of a gusty October day, I’ll find a round nest, heavy with mud and well-used. Perhaps a feather leaves a clue as to its long-gone occupants. Most likely a robin or a blue jay. Cradling it in my hands, I wonder how many eggs once clustered there? How many happy, little chicks took flight from its twiggy edge? Did the parent birds sigh wearily as the last awkward chick cautiously dropped off the edge only to reappear in the next tree over? Probably not–just my odd imaginings.A favorite childhood book of mine and also my children is P.D. Eastman’s Are You My Mother? In the book, a mother bird leaves her nest briefly to procure a worm for her soon-to-be-hatched baby. In her absence, the baby bird hatches and, perching on the nest’s edge, looks for his mother. Unfortunately, he tumbles out of the nest and down, down, down (so the story goes) to the ground below. Unhurt but unable to fly, the little chap wanders the countryside asking all sorts of animals and machinery, “Are you my mother?” With each answering, “No,” the little bird becomes more desperate in his search. Finally. . .
Well, because I hate spoilers, I won’t share the dramatic yet satisfying ending. You’ll have to read the book. But as I considered this simple story, I realized a few things–
1. The kiddos need to be prepared to leave the nest. Obviously, this little guy
wasn’t. Mine, thankfully, have–mission accomplished.
2. The nest is a great place to come back to, but there’s a big world out there–
people to meet and places to see. They were meant to be a part of it!
3. Finally, my nest isn’t my world, and it’s not about me. The empti-ness is not
about me. Step up. Step out.
I watched a compelling and convicting video by David Flood, a former trouble-maker turned teen-advocate and speaker. It’s worth the five minutes it will take you to watch, but in it he shares these words, not necessarily profound but certainly true, from his 82-year-old mother, “Your life’s not about you. . . It’s about your family, your friends. . . Stop thinking your life’s about you. . . Your life’s about all the people around you. That you can teach and touch and impact.”
For 28 beautiful, hard, life-changing, God-trusting, prayer-filled, glorious years, I got to teach and touch and impact the lives of those most dear to me–the children who were simply gifts from God. They’ll always be my children–you never stop being a mom! But it’s time for them to teach and touch and impact their own piece of the world. And it’s time for me to shift my focus, not to me and what is missing, but to who God will place in my path now to teach and to impact for Him, for His glory, and for His kingdom.
For several years now in anticipation of this season of life, I’ve been prayerfully asking God, “What’s next?” And as is usual of my prayers, He did not send me a text, an email, or even a verbal whisper. But in the richness of His Word, He said, “For [you] are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that [I] might walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10) As one who knows Christ as my personal Savior, I rest in the promise that He has a purpose and direction for my life, and that purpose is for His glory and for my good. (Being mindful that “His good” does not always look good to us.) I also know that plan won’t be revealed in one fell swoop or in some grand unveiling. So, I will continue to pray like David in Psalm 5, “For to You I pray. In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice. In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.”
I’ll pray and eagerly watch with expectation for who God brings into my life, and what circumstances prompt me to step out in faith and in action. Now that my “nest” is empty, I’m pretty sure it’s time for me to look beyond it and step out trusting God for the next thing.
What is pushing you out of the nest? How are you being drawn out of your comfort zone and into a place where you can teach and impact others for good?
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” ~Corrie Ten Boom