The Empty Nest Years
Curt Grice, Associate Pastor of Educational Ministries & Larry Link, Minister to Boomers & 2nd HALF
First Baptist Church, Arlington, Texas
Achieving the long-term goal of raising and launching a child is one of those milestones in life that can lead to strong, mixed and surprising emotions. After completing an ultra-marathon of 18 or more years, you’re probably ready to rest a little and catch your breath. Soon, however, things can begin to feel a bit too still and quiet.
Every life change requires adjustment, and this one is no different. It’s natural to miss the activity and responsibility related to having a child at home. Some parents, however, experience a deep measure of sadness, depression and separation pain as a result of launching their young adult. This “Empty Nest Syndrome” seems to affect stay-at-home mothers the most, but any parent can feel loneliness or grief during this transition.
Whether you’re anticipating, just engaging or deep into the empty nest season, you’re likely experiencing a range of emotions that have you asking, “What next?” It’s time to rediscover your life!
STEP ONE: Rediscover your mission
Psalm 90 gives empty nesters a sober reminder of the passage of time. It also offers an earnest prayer asking the Lord to “teach us to number our days aright”, give us “a heart of wisdom” and “establish the work of our hands.” Much of your life to this point has been committed to serving and guiding your children. Whether you realize it or not, that responsibility has been preparing you for other work. In 1 Timothy 3:5, the Apostle Paul asks the question, “If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” A way to understand that passage is that those who have managed their families well have learned some things about caring for God’s church… loving, forgiving, serving, leading and encouraging. These valuable traits, as well as the additional time and resource that often come with an empty nest, can equip you for a new array of opportunities to fulfill your mission during this exciting season of life.
STEP TWO: Rediscover your marriage
Some marriages don’t last until the empty nest years due to death or divorce. If your marriage has made it this far, the child-rearing years may have left you needing to re-experience the person you committed yourself to long ago. Proverbs 5:18-19 says, “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.” After an intense stretch of parenting, it’s important to find fresh ways to rejoice in the marriage of your youth and “be ever captivated” by your spouse. It may start with reintroducing yourself (“Hi, I’m that guy who asked you out a couple of decades ago,” or “I’m that girl you fell in love with back in college”) and start rediscovering some of your earlier passions and dreams.
STEP THREE: Rediscover your children
During earlier parenting stages, you had some fairly clear lines of authority and control, especially when it came to your “house rules.” Those lines blur as your child becomes more independent… even if they “boomerang” back home for a season. Your influence is now built on strong relationship rather than direct control. Your parenting efforts will focus on coaching your child into self-sufficiency, pursuing marriage and building a family of their own. This season requires a lot of trust because “sideline coaching” is all you can offer. But this season also provides a unique vantage point to observe the time and effort you’ve invested in your child in a different light… especially as they begin to take ownership of the values and principles you’ve tried to instill. You also need to begin praying about how these values will be passed on to the next generation.
“…stories we have heard and known, stories our ancestors handed down to us. We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about his power and his mighty wonders… so the next generation might know them – even the children not yet born – and they in turn will teach their own children. So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands.” (NLT)
GOING FURTHER – Resources
10 Great Dates for Empty Nesters by David & Claudia Arp
Ideas to fill your empty nest with fun, friendship and romance.
Half Time by Bob Buford
Reaching midlife doesn’t have to be a crisis. It is actually an opportunity to make the rest of your life the best of your life.
Finishing Well by Bob Buford
Inspiring true stories about “code breakers”… people who decided to make the “second half” of their life even better than the “first half.”
Second Half of Marriage by David and Claudia Arp
Addresses eight challenges of the empty nest years.
GOING FURTHER – Church Support
Contact Larry Link at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.