I always wondered what “empty-nesting” was going to be like and here we are; one kid is now married and the other will be heading to college in the fall…where did the time go? This is a transition in life that many parents look forward to, but others like Jen and I struggle with because we are very close to our children and really don’t like the thought of letting go. In this month’s blog-article, I wanted to share some of those struggles and encouraging words I found in God’s word to help those who may be facing one of these life transitions or something similar to it.
Maybe you’ve seen the popular children’s animated movie “Toy Story” and remember the scene where Mr. Potato Head was about to head out on an adventure with the rest of the toys, when Mrs. Potato Head stopped him and made sure he had all of his appendages. The last thing she said as he departed was, “Don’t forget your angry eyes”. That’s a running joke around our home because my wife Jenny always does the checklist to make sure we have everything we need before we go, so the last thing we always say after she goes thru her list is “and…don’t forget your angry eyes”. It’s funny, but it’s also sad that we can’t hold on to our kids and really anything else in this world because God designed us to “leave and cleave”, “fly the coop”, “cut the apron cords” and just let go. Even though we have to the urge to remind our kids of things they need to do, make sure they have everything they need, or just hold on a little longer before they head off, we have to come to grips with the fact that God designed this world and us so that we can’t and shouldn’t hold on.
I’ve been referring primarily to our situation of letting our kids go, but there are so many types of life transitions that require us to loosen our grip and allow God to take control. There are all the stages of growing up, college, marriage, grandkids, and finally death. In each of those situations, there is a death of sort that occurs, but death brings new life. Change is good and necessary for us human beings to become more mature. We can’t stop change, so all we can do is embrace it, deal with it in a godly way, and trust that God will fill our empty places and take care of whom or whatever we may have to part with.
In Genesis there is a particularly sad story about Abraham’s nephew Lot and his wife. As God was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah where Lot and his family lived, He instructed Lot’s family to leave town quickly and not look back. Of course we know that Lot’s wife did look back and when she did, she turned to a pillar of salt. I don’t think the moral of the story is necessarily that we should never look back because reminding ourselves of the past can be beneficial, however it’s when we get stuck and can’t move forward that looking back can be so detrimental. I don’t know this for sure, but I believe that Lot’s wife had a longing for something in her homeland and she just couldn’t let go of it…to the point that it was more important than the salvation and safety that lay ahead.
There is a great section in scripture that reminds us that there is a season for everything. God created the earth to have seasons, each lasting their appointed time…each with good and bad things. He also created His prized creations, us, to enjoy certain seasons in life. I think it’s worth quoting the whole section of Ecclesiastes 3 which says, “ There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Here’s the crux of the matter…”He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart.” Everything (even the hard and the bad) is made beautiful in God’s timing not ours. He gives us seasons to enjoy things and to mourn them, but that’s all, just a season. He has set eternity in our hearts not earthly things, people, places, and thoughts, so He expects our true hearts’ desire to be set on being with Him in heaven. The most amazing thing about having our hearts set on things above is that they won’t be for a season…they’ll be forever! May our prayer be, “Abba Father, help us to keep our eyes and hearts focused on you in every season of life, so that when we see you face to face we will be able to say, ‘I’ve run the race and kept the faith and tried to do all for Your glory.’”