Today, we join Kit for her pick in “Our Favorites” series. It’s perfect timing for this post at this time of year when so many are saying good-bye to their kids and launching them off into the world. We hope this blesses and encourages any of you who are experiencing an empty nest in one form or another.
I Have Empty Nest Syndrome by Kit Hinkle
I have empty nest syndrome, and I still have three of my four boys at home! Only my first has moved out for college.
This empty feeling could be the loneliness of missing him already, but it’s more than that.
This past week we were in the family car—me driving, he asleep in the passenger seat. I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye—head bobbing, mouth open, slightly snoring.
I instantly flashed to the same image seventeen years earlier—a toddler in his car seat—head bobbing, mouth open, slightly snoring.
The same Joe. When you’ve raised a child for eighteen years, you feel him—at the core of your being, he’s part of you. You know his voice and anticipate every bold discovery he comes bounding in to announce. You close your eyes and see him at every age—infant—ten years old—fifteen—and now, an adult, saying goodbye.
It’s wonderful and it hurts all at the same time. Every fiber in you can’t believe he’s gone; yet you wouldn’t want to hold him back by asking him to stay.
So you step aside and continue your motherly obedience to the Lord. You’re like a mother eagle letting her eaglet fly.
The Old Testament describes the mother eagle well in Deuteronomy 32:11-12 when Moses commissions Joshua to take over and lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. It’s time for Joshua to fly, and Moses turns him over to God’s care.
The verse is part of a song that Moses sings: “Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the Lord alone guided him, no foreign god was with him.”
To best understand these verses, it’s important to know how eagles learn to fly. The mother encourages them out of the nest. Either she’ll perch herself nearby and ignore them, or she’ll rattle the nest a bit to make them uncomfortable. Both are attempts to let her young know it’s all right to leave.
I imagine how a mother eagle must feel, watching her little chicks complain when she won’t visit them. She still wants to be with them and care for them. Her heart aches and feels pain when she hears their calls for her.
Yet this is part of their training. She knows—and they know—she is there for them. When an eaglet first tries to fly away from the nest, it can’t master its wings quickly enough and it falls. The mother swoops down and catches it on her pinions. She brings her child back to the nest for another try.
Oh, how I’ve been that mother eagle so much this last year. As a senior, Joe applied to half a dozen colleges. He was hoping for a scholarship at one so that this single mom won’t have to worry about how he’ll pay for his education. How many times did I step back and watch him start the applications, but not complete them as the deadline approached? How many times did I swoop down and nag him, “Write the essay … don’t forget the deadline”? How many times did I let him miss a few deadlines and fall a little? Every time, I depended on the Lord to guide me if I should stir the nest or swoop in to help. Just like verse 12 tells us He will do.
The Lord alone guides us—us mamas and our children. When our kids leave our nest, in a sense, we leave a familiar place too. Do you trust the Lord with the child you just launched? Are you waiting on His ‘go-ahead’ of when to save the day for your child? Or are you disregarding His instructions and swooping in too frequently? If you take your eyes off of the Lord and try to own this launch process with your child, you’ll feel the pain of separation more than you need to.
Sister mother eagles, when your eaglets finally start to fly, listen for the Lord. He’ll tell you when to stir the nest and encourage them to leave. He’ll also tell you when to swoop in and catch them. Trust that your Heavenly Father won’t let you down in this new season either. Keep your focus on Him, not on your child. Your heart will be happier in your empty nest.