On change and empty-nesting

September was a big month for us.

On the  1st, W left the ministry team of our church to take on a full-time academic job again.  He now commutes quite a distance, stays away 3 nights a week and returns tired, but usually fulfilled, often needing to unload burdens.  His excellent teaching ability, interpersonal skills and massive capacity for organisation are standing him in good stead and it’s great to see him  flourish.

On the 10th we had a wedding!  I (son#1) was married to the lovely M.  An utterly wonderful day.  The ceremony was in the spectacular setting of Exeter College Chapel, Oxford University.  Full of family, friends and the Spirit of God witnessing the joining together of two lives into one.  W was delighted to have been asked to preach and very appropriately he took as his text Gen 2:24, which speaks of a man leaving his father and mother and uniting to his wife.  Very emotional – I’m welling up even as I think of it.

On 17th I took S (son#2) and a carful of his possessions and left them at university.  I thought I might get away without crying this time, and all was well until I decided I would pray for him before I left.  There’s something about prayer which brings emotions to the surface and I cried not because I didn’t want him to go, but because of a mixture of love and pride in the confident young man he has become.  We both laughed and I cried some more.  Good times.

So there it is.  People now keep asking me  if I’m missing either W (because he doesn’t come home every evening) or S (because he’s left home – I has been gone for a while!) and I usually say no, not really.  I actually quite enjoy a fair amount of solitude.  I like reading and thinking and sometimes just being, so when they’re not here, I rarely wish they were, though I do have to admit that there’s a longer term kind of missing in which I realise that W’s and my relationship requires extra input and a bit more work than it’s needed for the past few years. We are developing new routines:   we go out for meals or just for a drink and to talk more often than we used to; we arrange such evenings in advance and look forward to them.

I love the fact that S is revelling in university life, both studies and friendships.  He’s found a church where he is able to give as well as receive and seems happy.  Last night he came home just for the one night:  it’s wonderful to hug him and to hear some more of his stories, but also good to send him off again into what is now his life.

W was right at the wedding to preach on the leaving verse – in actual fact it is the job of parents to prepare their children to leave them.  Every stage of development brings increased independence and it’s the parent who tries to hang on to their child or to control them who often suffers most when the child rebels.  If we let them go they will keep coming back and the ties which should remain will.

And even in marriage, that relationship which does persist (thank God) throughout our lifetime, there has to be a degree of letting go.  W and I have consciously released each other in various ways over the years, with the desire to do all we can to help the other one to fulfil the call of God on their life.  You have to hold on to things and people with open hands – and in truth it’s not only other people that you have to let go:  Jesus said “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life  for me will find it.”  So the principle is that if we are willing for God to mould things, people we love and even our own lives the way he wants, that is the way to the greatest fulfilment.

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