Empty Nest, Full Heart
- 2004 20 Sep
We'd spent the weekend settling our daughter into her first college dorm room and I was exhausted.
I have loved being a mom. These days it would be far more respectable to say, "I've enjoyed juggling a number of balls," or "I've enjoyed a career and motherhood," but that's not the case. For me, there's nothing I've enjoyed more than being the mother hen. And now the brood is scattering. More often than not, it's just my husband and myself in our nearly empty nest, with a little chicken feed sprinkled across the kitchen floor.
There was a palpable void left by the latest one to vacate the nest. I missed discussing current events with her, as well as theology, politics, books, and fingernail polish. There was a hollowness to the house; a quiet that was tiring. I thought if I stretched out on the couch for ten minutes I could recharge my battery and take a stab at the pile of work waiting on my desk.
I hadn't been dozing long when I began to dream. I dreamed I was napping on the sofa and on the floor beside me was a receiving blanket with a baby on it. The baby was resting, too. She had a beautiful round head with a fine feathering of golden blonde hair. She was about three months old and wearing a pink knit sleeper with delicate white trim around the sleeves and the neck. I wanted to pick her up and put her on the couch beside me, to feel the warmth of her breath, her satin cheeks and exquisite hands. I was about to the pick up the baby when I awoke, startled, in a half-sitting position. I looked on the floor, was momentarily bewildered realizing there was no newborn daughter, no little baby girl.
My days of being a mother were over. I wondered if this strange ache inside would ever begin to ease. I started to pray. "Dear Father," - that's as far as I made it when it struck me.
I was praying to God the Father, the same one Jesus cried out to in the Garden of Gethsemane calling, "Abba, Father." Abba is the Aramaic word for father that was often used by a child speaking to a father. In our vernacular it is equivalent to papa or daddy. It is a term of endearment that denotes warmth and devotion.
"Dear Father," was also a vivid reminder of the what is perhaps the greatest gift of grace in the Christian faith - our adoption into the family of God. "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." I John 3:1
As a child of God, I have approached the Father many times in many roles: as the Great Physician, Wonderful Counselor and the Word of Life. There have been times I've pulled on His pant leg like a whiney toddler, times when like a school child, I blabbled more than I've listened, and times when I've slammed the door shut like a surly adolescent and shouted "Leave me alone!"
There have been times I have gone to the Father with praise and thanks, and times when I've gone with grief and tears. There have also been times when I have simply gone. Just to sit. To listen and to enjoy. To be still and know that He is God.
As the ultimate patriarch, my heavenly Father is -- above all things -- faithful. He guided me through a second birth into His kingdom, took me by the hand as I made my first faltering steps as a new Christian, led me skillfully through growth spurts, a few free falls, and occasional plateaus. He has been there with wisdom and guidance as I married, started a family, raised children, and now would begin to let them go. True to His covenant, God had always been, and always would be, God the Father.
J.I. Packer has said that you can sum up the whole of the New Testament teaching in a single phrase - a revelation of the Fatherhood of the holy Creator. I contemplated the gift of being an heir to the heavenly kingdom. I reflected on the marvelous privilege of having access to God the Father. Knowing that the lives of believers are to be a reflection of Christ's relationship with the Father, I realized I had been exhausted by a lie. The Father and Son would never part company. God the Father would never walk away from His adopted sons and daughters. Called to mirror the perfect parent, albeit in my flawed and fallen human way, I was assured that my relationship with my children would remain in tact as well.
There would be changes, but the kids would still come home for long weekends and for summers, for good times together, wild laughter around the kitchen table and discussions by the fire. Despite the revolving door and all the good-byes, I would never cease to be a mom, just as the God of heaven and earth would never cease to be Abba, Father.
Columnist and speaker Lori Borgman is the author of Pass the Faith, Please (Waterbrook Press). Comments may be sent to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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