“…you must learn to hold everything loosely…everything. Even your dear family. Why? Because the Father may wish to take one of them back to Himself, and when he does, it will hurt you if He must pry your fingers loose.” – Corrie Ten Boom
“If you prepare your heart, you will stretch out your hands toward him . . . And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security.” Job 11:13; 18
A few years ago, a little family of blue birds built their nest in a nook in one of the columns on our front porch. The kids and I would take turns peeking in the nest, watching the eggs, never touching, always on the lookout for momma blue bird. It wasn’t long into the spring that the eggs hatched and we’d peek in on those baby birds, mouths agape, waiting for their momma to bring them dinner. We could hear their chirping and observed as their momma flew out—never very far away—to find a meal for her babies.
One day we noticed the momma was encouraging those babies out of the nest. She was letting them go for a test flight. The birds had a short route from one column to the next and then back to the nest. They never ventured very far. They would fly out and return in the same pattern for days and weeks. Then we noticed they flew a bit further; to the end of our driveway this time. Then back home to the comfort of the nest. One day we saw those blue birds fly out of the yard and we waited and waited, but there was no return home. Those baby birds had grown up and grown strong and were now setting out to do what God created them to do—to soar.
I remember watching those birds with tears. I recognized the metaphor. My children, at the time, were too young to realize the significance of those beautiful creatures, and how they were piercing my momma heart. I knew my time was coming. The time was quickly advancing when I would need to send my kids out of the nest to do what God created them to do. But it was years away. Then, I blinked.
Now I’m mom to a college junior, a high school senior and sophomore, and a seventh grader. I’ve sent one bird flying out of the nest. She is soaring above the clouds. She is becoming who God created her to be. She is spreading her wings. And I’ve got three plotting and planning their journey to the next adventure. They are anxious to spread their wings and set out on their own, but those wings still need strengthening. I am learning there are more lessons than I expected as I walk through this season of parenting. Here are a few notes I’ve taken so far:
It’s harder than I expected. I knew sending my girl four and a half hours away to school would be tough. I knew my heart would grieve. I didn’t know how much I would miss the little things. Talking with her after a long day at work. Counseling her about friends and life and holding her hand as I prayed with her. Grabbing her up for a spontaneous road trip or movie or hike. Learning with her; editing her papers. Missing her in her chair at dinner or in her usual spot on the sofa. Squeezing her every morning as she wandered down the stairs in a sleepy haze. Seeing her artwork strewn all over the house. I don’t know if I’ll ever not miss those moments, but the joy begins to overtake the sorrows and I am beginning to recognize those memories as sweet gifts.
It’s filled with gifts of grace. You often wonder how your kids will do when they leave the nest. Have you taught them enough? Did you speak truth to them enough? Did you give them the tools they need to stand firm when they face opposition? Did you pray with them and over them enough? I have found God to be true to His Word in every way. Even when I blew it (which was a lot) and even when I missed it (which was a lot), He filled in gaps and taught my girl. I’ve watched her walk in the truth and press into Jesus. She has become desperate for Him. His guidance. His presence. That, my friends, is grace. In spite of my lack, in spite of my mistakes, and maybe even because of them, God has captured the heart of my child.
It’s essential that they struggle. Those baby birds did not succeed in flying every time they left the nest. But the momma bird didn’t keep them from falling. She let them struggle and encouraged them to try again. Through the struggle, the strength those baby birds needed to soar was worked out. It was through their falling they learned how to get up and try again. My girl has struggled. Her first year away at school was tough. I mean HARD. She faced stress and friendship drama and heartache. She wondered if she could. She wondered if she would. And then she did. She learned how to press into Jesus. She learned how to manage her time. She learned how to forgive. She learned how to find comfort in the arms of her Savior. She learned how to be discerning and humble and kind. She learned how to love well and sacrificially. All those spiritual muscles were built because of those hard things she faced.
It’s better than I imagined. I know that’s a paradox, but there has been a certain beauty in watching my little bird soar. I remember looking at that momma bird as her little birdlings soared through the skies and I could have sworn I saw a glint of pride in her eyes. When I watch my girl now, walking in the truth, learning from her mistakes, working so hard, yet learning to rest in His guidance, all I can see is the faithfulness of my God. All those years of tears and abiding and teaching and wondering and feeling like I was failing my kids, all along, He was holding me. He was holding my children. And He still holds them.
I told my children many years ago, there would be a time when they would need to transfer their obedience to me into obedience to Jesus. Their hearts would need to be fully surrendered to their King. My time with them only serves to model what it looks like to honor and obey their Heavenly Father. They practice with me and their daddy. They learn from us what it is to trust and to respect and to honor and to obey and to seek counsel and to learn and to grow. We are imperfect, fallible parents who struggle with our own humanity and sin. But our job, in all our weakness, is to point them constantly to the perfect parent, their Abba Father, and watch them soar in the shadow of His wings.
Letting go is painful. Letting go is necessary. Letting go is beautiful. Giving them wings is what we seek to do every day as we point them to the One who created them and will hold them as they set out on their own adventure with the King. And we, as parents, don’t want to hold so tightly that God has to pry our hands away. We learn to hold them loosely. And trust that the One who created them is faithful and will be with them every step of the journey. And He is. So we stretch out our hearts and rest in the hope and security of the Savior and sustainer. We let them go and we watch them soar.