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.
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27 responses to “Are you facing the empty nest? 10 Scriptures you need + hope!”
My husband walked away from Christ for good when our 2nd oldest followed the footsteps of his brother and went into the Army. Our daughter at 18 became pregnant around that time too and then she lost her baby. Our daughter got pregnant again and moved in with her fiance (2019). Life has been horrible. I had been a SAHM for over 21 years. I homeschooled our children. My husband and I always seem to have marital issues… it has always seemed the enemy was out to bring us down, usually beginning with my husband and it would send my emotions into a rollercoaster ride. I am not one of those married women who can say that in my marriage there were more ups than downs. We just had an anniversary of 27 yrs. It definitely is the opposite. I have so many mixed emotions and the more inread and learn, i definitely have empty nesting syndrome. I truly dont know who I am any more and have zero purpose. My husband has become someone i really dont enjoy being around and he is such a glass half empty kind of guy and now more than he ever was before when he lived for Christ. What friends I do have live in other states and cities. Life is so busy for them. They are either raising teens or young children still or dont have any children at all. I dont have a any support thru a church. I just began a new church to only end up with so many health issues, major surgery then weeks long of covid that I havent been able to get there. Now that I can i have all these fears of what if’s. I thought about finding a partyime job… i actually have a job interview Tuesday BUT it doesnt seem right. I want to be my husband helpmate… im struggling to know if Im doing the right things… i had a dream about a trainwreck that left my family in a state of disarray and i cant shake it. I dont rememeber dreams in detail unless they are from God… and its been a long time since He has given me one. I use to have purpose with my husband when he served God. We at least strived to be what Christ wanted and we would do our very best to do it together, but now… ugh. Im so lost. I guess i just needed to share. Thanks. ♡
I didnt really understand what was happening to me and my husband said Im an empty nester . Hes more logical and works full time, Ive almost spent over half my life taken care of kids and it is hitting me in the heart pretty hard . But like everything in life this to shall pass . But for now Im reading Every bit of advice that I can fine so I don’t act like such a nut lol . Thank you for your insight really appreciated it and I’m gonna share it with others that have the same issues going on maybe. God bless you!
My son went off to college 2018 and my daughter is leaving this August 2019. My daughter and I have always been close and with him gone last year have grown even closer. The fun, laughter, love we’ve shared is something I am so very blessed to have. I don’t fear finding what my passion is again or spending more time on current interests. There are so, so many things out there i’ll try and/or get involved in. What hurts my heart is that I LOVE being a Mom. I’m sure I’ll find ways to love being a Mom to grown up children. But being a Mom to <= 18 year old's at every age is priceless. I love being pregnant, I was bless with beautiful, loving children, was able to work part-time and truly LOVE ever single second of every year. My kids and family is my passion. The kids will always need their parents. They are developing their lives and I have the best ring-side seat watching and encouraging them.
Empty nester of one year here… it hasn’t gotten easier. It helps knowing in not alone. The paradox you mention is spot on!! I have struggled finding myself again. God had been with me every step of the way!
I am in my 6th week of being an empty nest father of two. I’ll add that they both attend the same college that is 2.5 hours away. It’s a daily challenge to stay busy doing nothing like I’ve been doing the past 18 years. We talk a couple nights a week and my wife does FaceTime on her phone. This aids in our remorse, but still, is not the same. We are both in our mid 50’s having married later in life, both of our first marriage. What can you tell me to sooth this feeling?
Thank you in advance,
I’m so sorry for the struggle. I know it well. Since coming through it myself I’ve discovered that one thing others need to hear is that this is normal. We hear so many lauding the return of their “freedom” that we begin to think something is wrong with us that it hurts so much.
But for many (if not most of the ones who are grieving silently) this IS GRIEF. It is loss of the way it used to be. Loss of some of our purpose. Loss of a daily source of companionship and some of our joy. Loss.
And loss and grief take time to work through. You lean into it and let yourself feel it and take one day at a time.
For me personally the first year was brutal and the second time the last went back to college was hard. But the second year was better as we regrouped and began to define the new normal.
Give yourself grace and space and turn to Jesus to share your pain and fill the void and eventually you will feel full again.
This is hard. It is a lot. Hang in there.