The empty nest is a paradox. Thankfully, there’s plenty of Scripture that teaches us paradoxes are part of God’s working order. Inside: Hope for when what you planned for … well, hurts!
I kissed my husband that morning and asked him, “Will you love me through the crazy?” He laughed.
Crazy was no stranger to him. This wasn’t the first set of roller coaster colliding emotions he had witnessed in our three decades of marriage. It wouldn’t be the last.
But something about this version of crazy was different. You see, we were approaching the
… wait for it …
empty nest zone.
The empty nest
A few days later, we waved goodbye to our baby as she turned to go back into her dorm and start a whole new chapter without us. We drove for six hours and returned to a house where supposedly we could now run around in our underwear. (Seriously? Why is that such a thing?)
And just like that.
That season of parenting was finished.
I know I’m not through being a parent.
I know they’ll still need me. My older two have shown me that.
They’ve also shown me how much fun grown and flown children can be.
Yes, this is an exciting season ahead with so many new adventures and opportunities.
I know it’s going to be ok.
In fact, this is how it’s supposed to be.
But on that day when she walked away, I kept asking, “Why does it hurt so much?”
And why wouldn’t the truth in my head win the wrestling match with my heart?
There could have been an Olympic event for all the emotions jockeying for position inside of me.
Paradoxical Dance Partners
My friend wrote a guest post about the experience of letting grown children go. She described the internal pull of emotions in parenting young adults as a dance of two partners: joy and sorrow.
“Make no mistake. It’s a dance. Beautiful or terrible. In sync or out of step.
There are two polar opposite sets of emotions that are trying desperately to reach some kind of peace.
One pulls against the other, creating a swirling activity of emotion and unpredictable responses.
Hopefully they work with — and not against — each other.
If you’re like me, you might not be a great dancer.”
As I stood on that roller coaster dance floor, I was grateful for her wisdom. Yep. I’m not a great dancer either, friend.
Roots and Wings
This entire parenting thing is full of incongruent, conflicting, discordant strains that are supposed to combine in one masterpiece harmony.
- God gave us these people, but they aren’t ours.
- He destined us to receive them with open arms but hold them close with open hands.
- He shaped us to love to be needed and yet commissioned us to train them to need us less and less.
- He wired our impulse to scoop them up when they fell and also instilled the intuition to show them how to stand on their own.
- He instilled a nesting instinct that would culminate in an empty nest.
And so, if we’ve been doing our jobs, we’ve been teaching them how to walk away from us since we taught them to take their first steps.
It’s what we planned for.
I just didn’t realize it would hurt so much.
Roots and wings. What a paradox.
Paradox in Scripture
When I can’t make sense of life, I turn to the one who can. God is the original Author and he has an affinity for the element of irony. The record of Scripture is full of seemingly incompatible themes and paradoxes.
- In weakness, we are strong. (2 Cor. 12:10)
- Through humility, we are exalted. (James 4:10)
- In slavery, we gain freedom. (Rom. 6:18)
- To be wise, we must become fools. (1 Cor. 3:18)
- The one who loses his life will find it. (Matt. 10:39)
- The last will be first. (Matt. 20:16)
- The leader must first serve. (Luke 22:26)
- Gain is counted as loss and loss of everything brings the ultimate gain. (Phil. 3:7-8)
- Death of the Eternal One bought eternal life for everyone. (John 3:16)
- God as a baby. (Luke 2:11)
And that’s just the top ten.
The more I contemplate the unfathomable wisdom and providence of our sovereign God, the more I ease into the empty nest season of life. It doesn’t hurt less, but I’ve learned that leaning into the pain is the only way to get to the other side.
So I’ll keep dancing.
I’ll see this coaster to the end of the hill.
I’ll give God my crazy chords to compose a new harmony.
And when we get to the end of this ending, I trust there will be a beginning, with more full than my empty could ever have fathomed.
P.S. My dear friend Melanie Redd also wrote a round-up post on advice from empty nesters. It’s a treasure of wisdom.
Launching teenagers into young adulthood is not for the faint of heart.
Parenting teens is hard.
You’ll be reminded you’re not alone in this stage.