The Empty Nest Years
Achieving the long-term goal of raising and then launching a child (or children) is one of those milestones in life that can lead to surprising emotions. One day you might feel relieved to catch your breath after such an intense marathon and then the next day you miss the busyness—especially the ever-present relationships that went with it. Whether you are approaching, just hitting, or deep into the empty nest season you are likely experiencing a range of feelings that can leave you asking yourself “What next?” This would be a great time to take steps toward rediscovery in your life.
STEP ONE: Rediscover your mission
Psalm 90 gives empty nesters a sober reminder of the passage of time, but also a wise prayer for the Lord to “teach us to number our days aright” and to “establish the work of our hands.” A major segment of your life up to this point has been committed to serving and guiding your children. That faithful and daily focus on individuals within your home has been preparing you for broader service.
In I Timothy 3:5 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 less obvious point to see within that passage is that those who have managed their families well have undoubtedly learned a couple of things about how to care for God’s church—how to love, forgive, guide, lead, and encourage. Such characteristics developed in the last season, as well as the additional time and resources that often come with an empty nest, can equip you for a whole new world of opportunities to fulfill your mission during this exciting season of life.
- Take time to pray and seek God’s face
- Take time to explore things that you were once passionate about that you may not have had time for while your home was full and busy.
- Take time to look for opportunities and needs within your church body that you could meet here and now.
- Take time to consider how you might leave a lasting spiritual legacy. Explore the role that you have now as mentor to your children and perhaps grandparent to your grandchildren. How can you continue to impact the lives of your loved ones for Christ?
STEP TWO: Rediscover your marriage
Some marriages don’t last until the empty nest years either because of death or divorce. If your marriage has made it, you may feel like the tsunami of kids that swept in and out has left you needing to rediscover the person to whom you said “I do” so long ago. Proverbs 5:18-19 says, “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.” After this intense stretch of parenting, how can you find fresh ways to rejoice in the marriage of your youth and to “be ever captivated” by your spouse? You may just need to reintroduce yourself (“Hi, I’m that guy who asked you out a couple of decades ago,” or “I’m that girl you met on the missions trip”) 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 children become independent—even if they boomerang back home for a season. Now is the time when your influence is built upon strong relationship rather than direct control. Your efforts will focus on coaching your children into self-sufficiency and into pursuing marriage and building families of their own. This season requires a lot of trust because “sideline coaching” is all you can offer rather than step-by-step direction. But this season also gives you a vantage point to see the time and effort you’ve invested into your children in a different light—especially as they begin to take ownership of the values you’ve tried to instill (Psalm 78:3-7) and watch them discover God’s plan for their lives.
Recommended Books -Available from the Faith @ Home Center
Half Time (by Bob Buford) Reaching midlife doesn’t have to be a crisis. It is actually an opportunity to begin the better half of life.
Second Half of Marriage (by David and Claudia Arp) addresses eight challenges of the empty-nest years.
Going Further – Church Support
Life Group Ministry: Authentic Christian community and mentoring is available through Riverview’s Life Group ministry. Contact our Life Groups pastor Michael Beene at Michael@rbclake.org for more info.
Faith @ Home Mentoring: Mentors who can offer biblical advice and support are available. Talk with a faith @ home team-member at the faith @ home center to learn more.
Pastoral Counseling: Pastors are available to counsel those who would like more Godly wisdom on this issue. Please call the church office for more info: 573-348-3515