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Watching From the Sidelines

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Kathy's Faith Walk takes her to the sidelines of other lives

A few years ago I began the process of letting go of my grown children. They were all leaving home for the first time and they chose to all go the same year. Actually moving away… out of the area… out of ear shot or eye shot. They were gone from the grasp of my hand and the protection of my arms. They were going to be meeting people I did not know and making decisions I didn’t get to approve first. I was being sidelined in the most profound manner. And those kids just waved good bye and made sure I had their cell phone numbers which it turns out by the way, they can choose to answer… or not. 

I thought that would be the worst of it. I stood stoically in the driveway unwilling to let the tears show, waving goodbye to each one like a patriot in the presence of Old Glory. “I can get through this. I am a grown woman, after all. I am stronger than this. I have a ton of projects to keep myself busy. These kids will be back soon enough.”

Wow. How many wrong thoughts can a person have in one year’s time? 

This week my son is home for the first time in two and a half years. Three years if we don’t count the time we all pitched in to buy him a plane ticket home for Christmas when he really just wasn’t supposed to be here. He came because he was afraid we had already told the dog he was coming. He didn’t want to disappoint the dog.  That’s the kind of humor we have in our family. And I bring it up because I had to learn a valuable lesson which stung a little: My kids will come home for a visit when they decide to and not a moment before. 

It has now been three years and I have learned quite a lot about letting go. I really just had to get back to the basics of relationship to accomplish a task that for me was all about becoming a new kind of servant. 

When I was a new mother it was easy to serve my family. The ground rules had been laid by thousands of women before me: When it comes to children just feed them, cuddle with them, read them stories and bind up wounds of both body and heart. Teach them about Jesus and his love for them, and when they grow up just turn them loose like the butterflies that they are… fly, fly away.

It’s a nice thought but in practical application it left me a little unprepared. I didn’t know that I was going to look at my grown children and still see toddlers. I didn’t know that they would develop their own relationships with people, some of whom would hurt them and I would need to stay out of it. I didn’t know that I would cry from time to time because the empty nest syndrome is not a syndrome at all when you are standing in the doorway of an empty bedroom. It is an empty place and it does hurt.

It has now been three years and at this stage of the game we serve our grown children in a very important but very different manner. They are not so much our children now as they are fellow servants in Christ Jesus. They have gifts and talents we were blessed to foster for years. We benefited from the exposure to those gifts. They were ours to treasure but not to keep. The clock is always ticking with a thing like that. So now these amazing young people come and go in our lives. Our home that seemed so empty the day they left now houses memories and blessings connected to the good reports we hear of how they are making a difference in people’s lives. My daughter can’t make an impact for Christ in the life of an orphan half way around the world if I insist she not wander too far from home. My son cannot become the man of God he needs to be to serve thousands through music, if I demand he remain a little boy, dependent on me and his dad. And my worship leader baby girl will never lovingly woo new believers into the deep places of God if I insist she listen to only my voice. 

Yes, it is true. In this game as parents we have been sidelined for now. But oh the joy of knowing we do get to watch.

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Author info

Kathy Osborne Kathy Osborne is the editor of the Co Op Country Store's newspaper, the Co Op Round-Up. In her spare time she checks in on her three grown children, or listens to her husband play music.

Tagged as:

empty nest, Kathys Faith Walk

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