This week at church, there was a rubber band sitting on every seat. The sermon was about taking risks and allowing God to do in us what we were made to do…expand. It was a great sermon…you can listen to it here (click on “watch this week’s sermon”). But it started me thinking in another direction.
My friend, Lisa, who is close to my age and is facing her empty nest, read my posts to young moms and asked me if I had a word for us older moms. Specifically, she said, “I can’t seem to grab a hold of the empty space and figure out what I’m supposed to do now. How long will it take for me to see a vision of my future and embrace it?” Wow. I was SO at this place a year or two ago. Please know that I don’t (nor will I ever) know the complete answer to all of this. In fact, let me just say right now, for the record, that any and all thoughts I offer in answers to questions come from a flawed human that has survived an untold number of mistakes and failures (perhaps you read my last post “Falling Short”…sheesh). In all humility, I’m grateful to say I’ve learned from them and it is my hope that I can spare you from getting tripped up by the same pot holes. With that said, I direct your attention back to the rubber band.
While the pastor was talking, I imagined it wrapped around a big, fat newspaper…stretched so tight it might snap, but doing its job to hold everything together. Then someone takes the newspaper out and puts the rubber band in the drawer with a package of new ones. The new rubberbands are much smaller and firmer; next to them, the older rubber band looks big and stretched out. One might be tempted to think that it was past its prime, no longer good for anything.
In my experience, when your last child leaves home it can be a bit like that. You go from being stretched to capacity, filled with a thousand tidbits of news and the goings-on of a busy household, to…nothing. Everything stops in an instant and you’re left with what feels like a gaping hole in your middle. Stretched out and empty.
Lest we all fall into a pit of despair and sadness (and, trust me, it’s easy to go there), allow me to offer up this thought. All through the years of being a mom, when you thought you were being stretched to the breaking point, couldn’t it be that God was expanding you for just this time in your life? As I look back on my time as a full-time mom, I can see, now, that God was preparing me for this next chapter. The multi-faceted skills that were sharpened in motherhood are now at the ready to be used however God sees fit. That young, new rubberband that was small at the beginning, is now not just big and empty, but has grown to a greater capacity; it’s been broadened for an even greater use. It’s up to us whether we act discarded and useless, or if we examine this new shape and ask God to fill it with His purpose.
I’m not going to lie. This is a process. Even if you know full well who you are in Christ (see my post “The Real Me“), there is a time of redirection that takes place. Precious time to hang out with the Lord like you’ve never had before. Time to hold each experience-won skill up to the Light and ask what He wants to do with it. He might show you right away. He might not. The key is to focus on the space inside as infinite possibility…keep the rubber band pliable and ready. Stay expectant.
From where I sit, a couple of years ahead of Lisa, I can honestly say I’m excited. Do I miss my girls? Of course. But I’ve made my peace with it…they are supposed to leave and I am supposed to be ready to wrap myself around whatever God says is next. He hasn’t given me the clear picture of what’s in store yet, but He’s been faithful to help me determine gifts and talents that He wants to use somehow and sweet enough to send words and memories of confirmation. And, it’s enough.
Stretched out and empty, or broadened, with space for new direction and purpose? Sweet friend, don’t succumb to the desolate. Embrace the possibility for the future, even if you don’t know what it looks like yet. It really doesn’t matter, as long as you are resting in the arms of the One who will write tomorrow’s news and then lovingly wrap you around it.