Anyone who has born and raised children and then watched them fly away, knows it’s not easy. It is one of the most difficult thing a parent ever has to do. For me, it comes next to saying good-bye to a child forever, for in this lies the hope we will see them again in this life.
And the next.
First we watch them fly a little ways from the nest as they test their wings, returning daily – then flying further and further away – overnight or for several days or weeks. The first time gives us little flutters in our stomachs, a few tears, maybe even an all out bawl.
We watch them suffer from various maladies, some small, some life-threatening.
Some take them from us.
We spend our time nursing, holding, kissing, cajoling, laughing, crying, worrying, praising, proud, overwhelmed, rejoicing, pacing…
There really aren’t enough adjectives in human languages to express the emotions of a mom.
We put them in sports, camps, youth groups, music, and co-ops to provide for them a rich learning environment and friends. We put them before ourselves – they get new clothes, we pull the old out of the closest and hope it isn’t so outdated we look like a character from Full House.
We provide them with extra love when they need it. (One that really didn’t have glowing eyes!)
They get more independent. We get more worried.
They start making plans about when they grow up. We think, “that is a long, long time from now,” even as we nod, affirm, and tell them, “Of course you can be an astronaut. You can do anything.”
We catch a glimpse of the future and push it far back in our minds. My baby still cuddles with me. The moon can wait.
Sometimes we suffer through difficult years. In Levi’s case, he was an easy kid. Sometimes given to mood swings (like his Dad used to be), but nothing big. He struggled in other ways – deeper – personal ways.
He and Joy were born after Micaiah died – they got all the hopes – and the trauma.
We do our best to “train them up in the ways they should go,” and hope that it develops deep and lasting roots.
We watch them make a commitment to God through our traditions. David was honored to water baptize Levi in our own creek, on a darkening, cool, October evening. Friends and family celebrate this milestone. It is a sign of hope that the God we love will watch out for our children, as they seek Him.
They start to pull away – also preparing themselves to leave. It hurts to leave.
It’s time, and we have raised them and prepared them for this. God only gives them to us for a short time to raise them to give back to Him. He has bigger plans.
Plans that also include their suffering.
The hardest part of parenting is watching our children suffer. From the pain of infancy, through the many trials of a broken world, we watch them suffer. Crushes, jobs, friends, competition, sickness, failure – for some – the more serious pains of a world gone awry with body image, bullying, or other issues that crush their very souls.
I watched as my baby- my son – held his best childhood friend – his Panda, as she quietly slipped away. I wept over her. I wept more for him. I wept even more knowing that both of them would be gone soon. She forever, and he for his new life.
It was a sign of the emptiness to come.
They call it “empty nest” I call it “empty heart.”
We are proud.
And we are not alone. We have each other – suffering humanity gets it. Mostly, we have God.
God also has a son. He watched as his baby nursed, cried, laughed, ate, and was cuddled by a loving mother. He watched him take his first steps.
Steps that lead to the cross.
He watched his baby die.
God knows that our job isn’t for wimps. He’s not a wimp.
But with God as our Wingman, we also can fly.
“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.” I John 4:9