WHEN THE NEST IS EMPTY

Children are a gift from the Lord, the Psalmist said and I believe.  Children give a family purpose.  They occupy your attention and take up most of your time.  At every age in a child’s life it seems they require more of you as a parent than in the previous time.  It is amazing how you think when they are babies that if you can just get through this period things will be so much easier.  You think I can get my life back and our marriage can be more of a priority.  But when the next stage comes you realize this takes more than the last one.  In elementary school you find yourself at school a huge amount of time with PTA and all the other things that parents are supposed to attend for their children.  You think when they hit middle school this won’t be so demanding.  But it is and the teen years when they can drive themselves to places they need to be, you may have more time but your attention is so focused on the kids that when you are at home with just you and your husband or wife you are still thinking of where the kids are and what are they doing?  Are they safe?

Then the day arrives when the last child at home goes away to college.  You have exausted yourself in getting them ready for college and taking them with all their stuff to the college.  Back home you go into their empty room and it feels like the whole house is empty.  Things are actually quiet.  It hasn’t been quiet at home since the children began to be born.  There has been tons of people here for several years now.  It was hard to find a moment to just be with your family.  If someone wasn’t there, they were on the phone or texting one another.

What now are we to do?  It is so easy during the years when you are bringing up children to focus your whole life on them and slowly, without noticing it, the two of you slipped further and further apart.  You always thought that when the children were out of the house you would reattach all the loose ends of your marriage and have that time with just each other that had been lost in your kids.  But it begins to dawn on you both how far you have drifted from each other and that reattaching the loose ends is going to be much more difficult than you originally thought it would be.

It’s certainly true that we live in a time when it is often a challenge to keep your marriage together and growing.  The divorce rate among those who are at the empty nest period of life has been growing disproportionately over the last decade.  It reminds you of the words of Malachi the prophet in chapter two of his book when he told the Jews that their worship was not acceptable to God.  They asked him why he wouldn’t accept their worship and God answered because the altar was stained wiht tears because they had left the wife of their youth and gone after other women.  God told them he had been witness between them.  He had made them one and the reason he made them one was that they might raise up a godly seed.  He told them he had witnessed the covenant of companionship they had made with each other.  When they broke up the marriage it brought broken hearts both between the coulple but also with the children.

The motivation for saving the marriage when the next is empty are many.  It ought to be sufficient to know that God wants us to stay with the mate we chose a long time ago and to work through the problems to have closer bonds than ever.  But there are many other good reasons.  The truth is that any marriage that is successful will require the same kind of work that it will take to rebuild the one you are in.  When the marriage breaks up in the empty nest era we may kid ourselves by saying that we stayed together for the kids, but now they are grown and it won’t hurt them now.  But when the marriage breaks it takes away the most stable thing in our children’s life.  Their home and the ones who showed them about marriage and commitment are folding and walking away. 

What can you do to rebuild a marriage that has lost its zip, it passion and the partnership.  It takes time and courtship to rebuild your love.  Love is best spelled T.I.M.E..  No matter how challenging the business or the job may be it won’t make a great marriage partner.  The right way to get things going is to listen to each other, work at restoring the romance the way you did when things were first beginning.  Then you couldn’t wait to be with each other. 

Its a good time to reread the Song of Solomon and learn again to express the romantic feelings that have drifted out of the relationship.  Start again to plan the rest of your life together. 

Its the right time to start planning meaningful things to do with the rest of your life.  If we plan only fun and light times there won’t be much of a foundation for a great marriage.  While so much of life in marriage is focused on the children, the remainder is your chance to fulfill purposes beyond thus things around home.  Imitate the family of Stephanas described by Paul in I Corinthians 16:15-17.  They addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.  No one appointed them to the job.  They took on a mission of their own.  Any couple can appoint themselves to some act of service for God and for leaving the world a better place than you found it.

Empty nest can be the fullest, richest and most joyfilled time of life.  But it only happens we we live for more than just ourselves and selfish desires.

About leoninlittlerock

Preaching minister for Central church of Christ in Little Rock. Author of over 20 books including: When a Loved one Dies, Spiritual Development, Skid Marks on the Family Drive, Challenges in the church, To Know Christ and A Drink of Living Water.
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