By Jodi Hiser
In the parking lot of the community airport, I looked over at my son, all grown up, sitting in the driver’s seat of our Toyota.
“You ready for this?” I asked.
“Yup,” he said, with a fearless, stubborn countenance.
“You sure?” I asked, thinking we could turn back and go straight home.
“Yes, Mom, I’m sure,” he said, patting my shoulder.
We had just arrived at the community airport for my son’s first flying lesson. At eighteen years of age, he was ready to spread his wings—literally. I didn’t know how I felt about it. But my husband had been reminding me all week to let our boys grow up to be the men they were created to be. And so there we were, walking into the terminal to check in for this new adventure.
After I performed the cliche activities of taking pictures and asking my son to give me a thumbs-up for the camera, he climbed into the pilot’s seat with his instructor on the opposite side.
The engine roared to life, and my son grinned as he taxied the plane towards the runway. Thunderous rumbles of his engine grew louder and louder, reverberating the ground beneath my shoes. The Cessna 172 gained speed and then altitude, softly lifting off the ground, becoming airborne. Gently and swiftly, my son simply flew away. The plane grew smaller as he flew farther and farther out into the blue sky, headed towards the northern end of town.
The sudden stillness was unnerving. I sat outside, alone, filled with emotions that tangled inside me like a wrestling match. I felt joy for my son, all grown up and living a wonderful dream. (What boy hasn’t dreamt of flying at one time or another?) But my heart also felt the wretched anguish of knowing that my boy not only flew away from me on this day and in this moment, but he was truly flying away towards his future as a man…away from home…making a way on his own.
“How could this be happening?” I whispered to myself. It felt like only last year that my son was twelve months old, doing a diapered jig in my living room. How had the time slipped away so fast? My stomach lurched. I wasn’t really afraid for my son, for I knew he was in good hands. My anxiety and fear reached into a deeper place: How will I ever live without him? What will life be like when my baby is not with me every day?
My chest felt an internal squeeze, and I almost couldn’t bear it. A part of my heart had just flown away with my boy, headed towards the other end of town.
And isn’t that what we mamas feel? With the dawn of that first birthday for each of our children, another piece of our heart is broken off and placed upon the altar of sacrifice. We weep when they shed tears, ache when they struggle, lament when they make mistakes, and hurt when they are wounded.
The sacrifice of a mother’s heart can lead us into despair. We can feel jerked around on a roller-coaster of emotion, living in fear and anxiety as our grown-up children leave the nest and fly into the harsh world around them.
In these moments, we have a choice. We can live in fear and anxiety, letting our worries and loneliness become incessant bonds that we carry. Or we can trust the Lord with the pieces of our heart, knowing that He is sovereign and completely capable of sustaining our children’s lives as well as our own.
This type of trust rests in the knowledge that God loves our children because He is their Creator. He has the power to guide them and sustain them in their every step. He has the power to bring all things to good in their lives, even in their mistakes. He has the power to bring good— even to our empty nest.
Motherhood has been an amazing ride for me, and I still have many years left! So far, our family has journeyed through chronic illness and job loss, infertility and miscarriage, death and financial loss. But we have also enjoyed the harvest of our homestead, the sweet memories of vacations, countless inside jokes, long walks on mountain trails, and contagious laughter around the dinner table. We have opened the Bible countless times and watched the Holy Spirit work in our kids’ lives despite our feeble abilities as parents. Nothing could be more rewarding.
Motherhood is too much of an exciting adventure to let fear and anxiety cloud the way. Trusting our sovereign Lord brings abundance and purpose to this journey. It reminds us that even when our children have flown away, there is still purpose. God’s work continues. And an empty nest simply means a door of new opportunity.
May God bless our hearts with peace as we choose to trust Him with our grown-up children, and as we choose to trust Him with our empty nests.
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
But steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.”