In a little over a year from now my wife and I will be empty-nesters. My baby girl already has a college in mind and has visited the campus. It’s about 350 miles away from home. When that time comes, it will be bittersweet. Paula, my wife, is already discovering ways and opportunities to visit.
What can parents do to maximize the time when a child leaves home? Releasing a child confidently requires preparation long before they leave. In the next several posts I’ll give some practical steps to make this occasion a mutual blessing.
The first principle was the most helpful to us as parents in releasing them: to prepare for the empty nest you must recognize God’s ownership of your child.
Our children do not belong to us ultimately, they are the Lord’s, and He has given us the privilege to train them for Him.
The Bible states this truth clearly, “… children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.” (Psalm 127:3) The word “heritage” has the idea of an inheritance or possession. A child is a precious gift from God to parents. We are responsible to train, direct and love them as He would.
They are also referred to as “his reward”. We are to see them as a priceless gift, a treasure from the Lord. Children add value to our lives. As His gift we are to always realize they are ultimately His.
Acknowledging your child is a gift from the Lord clears up a multitude of problems.
First, it influences the way you view your children. God gives us children as a blessing. They are not to be seen as burdens or intrusions in our lifestyle.
Your attitude will influence not only how you feel about them presently, but also what will happen when it’s time for them to leave the home.
Second, it influences the quality of leadership and involvement in your child’s life. The biblical term for one that has a responsibility to care for the property of another is a steward. He simply managed the resources that had been loaned to him. He wasn’t an owner, but an overseer.
Years ago, I was at soccer practice with my boys and a father approached me.
He said, “Are all these kids yours?”
I said, “Yes, sir.”
He responded with a chuckle and a raised eyebrow, “Well, I’m glad they’re yours and not mine”.
They weren’t misbehaving or being a nuisance; I think he was just reacting to the thought of having to care for that many kids.
I never forgot that exchange.
It is a common attitude of our society to see children as a burden, not a blessing. Because I knew children are God’s gift and He loans them to us I saw them differently.
I stood in a hospital delivery room in Alexandria, Virginia the evening of March 29, 1984 and a doctor placed my firstborn son, Jeremiah David, in my arms. The first thoughts I had while holding him were, “God, at this moment I give my son back to You and acknowledge that He is Yours. Thank you for giving Him to us to love and train for Your kingdom”.
Believing they are gifts has kept us from wanting to hold on to what God loaned us when it was time to release them. Yes, there were still tears as we let each one go, but it was easier knowing this was God’s plan.
Have you ever consciously acknowledged your children are God’s gifts to you and given them back to Him to care for them? Trust Him to care for His own. Even after they leave your home.
The lyric Steve Chapman wrote says it well.
“The Arrow and the Bow”
Here is wisdom for the moms and dads that time has proven true,
The day your children learn to walk they start to walk away from you.
For at first you hold all of them, cradled safely in your arms,
Then one day their hand is all you hold, and soon its just their heart.
And there’ll even come the time
If your love for them is true;
You’ll have to let their hearts go free
And let them love someone else not only you
Can the sparrow ever learn to fly if the nest is all it knows?
Can the arrow ever reach its mark by remaining in the bow?
You have to let it go.