Of course, even for a couple of empty-nesters like my wife and me. I had this worry thing in my mind when our last one left the nest and entered the working world. No grandkids yet. It was strange facing this empty freedom stretching before us through Autumn, into Winter, into the rest of our lives. It sent me into a funk, that idea of growing old and useless and all that.
But…it hasn’t happened yet. I find myself surprised that my world still revolves around the cycle of the school year. Time still is determined by when kids have Christmas breaks, by the school pageants at church, and the anticipation of the Summer recess filled with vacations and outdoors.
What gives? Why am I still in this cycle? I have been thinking a lot about this lately. Old habits die hard? Maybe. After all, it’s been 30-plus years of the school year routine ingrained into our psyches. Yet somehow that doesn’t feel quite right. The question remains: Why do we who are without little ones follow this yearly school cycle?
I think I have part of an answer. See if you agree: the cycle of the school year really isn’t about school. Our little smidgen of God’s universe works in a seasonal flow. We know that, it’s obvious. The school year, holidays, farm planting cycles, work opportunities, the rainy seasons and hurricane seasons and dry times are linked to the cycle of the Earth’s seasons.
We see the school year because we find it familiar. Having kids going to school for 30 years means I still see the year oriented around school. If I was a farmer, I would see the year oriented around soil prep, planting, fertilizing, harvesting. For a baker, the year revolves around holidays and wedding seasons…same with florists. These human, social, work, and school activities overlay the seasons on God’s Earth. The Divine Planner made us a part of this miraculous parade of the seasons. Pretty simple, pretty dramatic. Maybe scary.
Now consider one of Jesus’ teachings as described in the Gospel of Matthew:
Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you…?
And then the take-home message for me:
Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. (Mathew 6: 26-30; 32-33, New American Bible)
So there is a hint of an answer for me and a great deal of relief. I don’t really worry much anymore about the empty nest. My wife and I are anxious less often about being older or not having kids to send off to school or should we take a vacation in October because we CAN.
My nest may be empty but my life, seeking God’s kingdom, is not ended. I am finding that there are many seasons of social interaction that have always existed but that I didn’t see.
In seeking His kingdom as first priority, the cycle of the year can be one of joy and fulfillment and service. My hours and days in reality are quite full. I realize I have a place here and a part to play, one given to me by our Heavenly Father. A plan in harmony with all the seasons, leading to the Kingdom.
Oh, and that empty nest? They will all be home to celebrate Labor Day.
Copyright 2010 by Mark Szewczak