Yesterday I watched four baby wrens and a doting mother who chirped her little lungs out for most of the afternoon. I’m emotionally invested in the family because Mama built her nest in our garage, taking advantage of a plastic shoebox securely positioned on a shelf. The garage door was a bit of an issue, but everyone knows you make adjustments for family.

The Empty NestThe babies hatched early last week and four sets of startled eyes peered at me when I took a cautious peek. Yesterday, she kicked them out of the nest. I thought it was way too soon, but she didn’t ask my opinion.

Jim and I watched the family all afternoon. The babies hopped around in the grass, taking short flights from bush to tree and back again. Three of them seemed rather pleased with themselves, eager to fly a little higher. Number four was more hesitant, and actually hung out on our back porch for a while longer. He acted quite content, perched on the arm of the rocking chair. Mama prodded and called and finally he joined his siblings who were flitting across the yard.

I couldn’t help thinking about human families and how parents eventually work themselves out of a job. Although the “people process” takes a few more years, there are similarities. At some point it’s time for the little ones to fly. Good moms and dads demonstrate the appropriate behavior, apply strategic parental pressure when necessary, and then stand close by with lots of support and encouragement.

My own kids left the nest a few years ago. I admit the transition was bittersweet — I wanted them to soar but I also liked my role as mama bird. “The launch” is a challenging time for most parents and even when we appear calm on the surface the emotions rumble underneath. At first we are concerned about our brood, but sooner or later we realize the kids are fine and we’re the ones who are struggling.

Yesterday my pastor, Josh Copron, made an insightful point. (I wanted to cheer but settled for a subdued “Amen.”) I can’t quote him exactly (sorry, Josh) but I’ll attempt to paraphrase. When we get our fulfillment from our profession, our physical appearance or even our family, we will struggle with meaning. Situations change. Sooner or later we realize that the identity we had as boss, beauty queen, or mom is fleeting.

We do damage to ourselves, and even our family when we attempt to cling to a role from the past instead of focusing on becoming the person God created us to be.  We are designed to make God known by loving and serving other people. When we embrace our purpose we can celebrate our kids’ milestones, and the passage of time, without the sense that we are losing ourselves. We will find the fulfillment we crave as we give our lives away in ways that uniquely suit our gifts and experiences.

I looked for Mama Bird this morning but I see no signs of her or the family. I’d love to watch another day but I’m confident she’s already busy doing the next thing God made her to do.

 

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