My twin boys’ bags were packed. College supplies were stacked next to the door. Colorful multipacks of Gatorade and snacks were organized and boxed up. Laptops and coffee makers were carefully stowed in the car.
At breakfast, I went over every possible thing they might ever need to know for college. Again.
Strangely, the boys ate very quickly and seemed eager to get on the road.
My last two children were heading off to college, leaving the nest, leaving me. The August day was hot, but inside my heart felt cold and fragile. Two decades of day-to-day mothering came to a screeching halt the moment they pulled out of the drive. My nest was empty, except for a few leftover “feathers”: football cleats, fishing rods and faded t-shirts.
Emptiness moved in right after they left. My first trip to the grocery store was actually quite painful. I didn’t know not buying their favorite foods would even affect me. Oddly, my cheaper grocery bill caused tears in the checkout line, instead of joy. Change often comes with a surprising sting. I had been a 24/7 mother for…almost my whole life, it seemed, and I really didn’t want to change. I wanted my life to stay exactly the same.
About that time, a pair of doves built a nest on my trellis. I could walk out on my porch at any hour, and find the mother dutifully sitting on the nest.
A Real Nest That Mirrored My Own
At first, the mother dove sat isolated, giving the eggs constant warmth. Every so often, she and her mate emitted a hushed coo. When the babies hatched, the nest hummed with activity. The parents worked constantly to feed the hungry chicks.
Now they cooed loudly over their nest, showing their pride. Their full nest seemed to make them feel alive, totally engaged in the cycle of life. The babies grew seemingly by the hour. Soon, the nest became so overcrowded, the birds had to hop onto the trellis. They ate great amounts and fluttered and preened their new wings. They were never still.
Until moving day…
One morning, the nest sat quiet and empty; the job was done. They had all moved on, not just the chicks I noticed, but the parents as well. Like the birds, God designed both children and parents to grow, spread our wings and fly. Childhood is supposed to end–this is life’s natural order (even though it feels pretty unnatural).
Beyond the Nest
The doves showed me that flying beyond the nest is so much better than trying to stay in it. At some point, the nest just becomes too small–both for children and for parents. Remaining in “nest mode” after the children leave only creates problems. That’s because God designed nests to be temporary, not permanent. Hovering over my grown children only thwarts their growth or pushes them further away. As they transition, I must, too.
Solomon explains life transitions this way: “For everything that happens in life—there is a season, a right time for everything under heaven.” (Ecc. 3:1, VOICE)
Once our “nesting” time is past, it’s just not right anymore. Trying to keep things the same only causes our lives to become stagnant and impure. Embracing the new season enables us to grow and learn new things. Helen Keller said:
“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”
After my children left, I finally decided I didn’t want to long for closed doors anymore; I wanted to open new ones. That meant I had to stop pining away for the past and accept that my life had changed. I had to create a new routine, stretch, grow and even take some risks.
God sent the birds my way to show me the importance of moving on. Eventually, He helped me mentally leave my nest behind. Since then, I’ve started a new writing career, taken classes and done some traveling. Accepting change was painful, but once I did, it’s actually been exciting. I’ve met the most interesting people and learned to do a lot of new things.
You may be facing an empty nest for the first time, right now. Maybe your kids recently boxed up their things and moved on to college, a new career, or marriage. You might be feeling a little lost. You may be struggling to accept change or longing for doors that are now closed.
Perhaps it’s time for you to stop holding on to the past.
Remember, if God cares for the birds, then He cares for and loves you so much more. God has more for you, if you are willing to fly on. Draw closer to Him as you work through change. He can teach you how to fly beyond the past and into a whole new season.
Be willing to fly. Then go and encourage others to fly, too. God plans good things for His own–in this life and in the next. One day in the future, as you soar effortlessly in your new season, you’ll suddenly realize that change can be one of God’s greatest blessings.