Hooooboy. Could we just take a moment for all the empty-nesters? Because yesterday our babies were clinging to us like their lives depended on it and we were waiting for someone to intervene with an extra set of arms and a glass of wine, and today we are crying at the sight of their too-clean bedrooms, all the left-behinds not worthy of their college dorm, and nary a wet towel on the floor to be found.
My oldest drove out of the driveway last week headed for his new Air Force base in Texas with everything he owned in the back of a pickup. My middle leaves in four days for a study abroad year in the U.K. And in two short days my youngest (I’m literally dying over here) catches a bus and two planes bound for her college orientation.
It’s ok. I’ll be fine. After all, I have endured four hours a night plopped on the couch watching Olympic coverage waaaay past my bedtime, so surely I can handle these hard things in life. (And by the way, we get a little picky with our Olympians after a few days, don’t we? We start saying things like, “She landed a little crooked on that vault, if ya ask me, pass me the bag of chips.” But I digress.)
Truly, I know life is hard and there are hurtful real struggles people have, and the fact that my babies are are leaving home and living out big fun lives is a good thing. But aren’t we all, in some ways, facing an empty nest of some kind every day? The “nest” may be a health challenge, a move, a death or illness, a job transition, a child who’s struggling, or maybe they just closed your favorite Starbucks. The point is we like familiar things. With thrive in the world of the known. Especially when those things are affirming and soul-filling, and life-giving. And then suddenly we are facing life…differently.
And so staring into the hollow heart of that beautiful little nest with NOTHING IN IT can be terrifying. Not because we don’t know how to fill the void – we do, and we will. But because what we created there can never be replaced. If we are paying attention, then wherever we go we can create a life we love. Little by little, step by step. So when the time comes (and it always does, friends) that something changes, the weight of what was is magnificent and so entirely powerful that all we can do is let loose a few good soul-cleansing sobs. I’m giving everyone who needs it permission right now to have yourself a good cry. But then do yourself a favor. Look into that nest. Really look hard at the gorgeous life you created. YOU DID THAT. You did it through hard work, love, massive reserves of energy and talent, and no small amount of time on your knees.
And what’s more, we are Resurrection people. We know that hope rises from empty places, stones can be rolled away in the darkness to reveal light, and God is always in the process of righting what has been knocked askew. I hope what you see when you look back on your little nest, whatever that nest may be, is that the nest is never empty. Because what’s left inside is you.