The Emptying of Motherhood

Motherhood is filled with emptyings -- from the emptying of the womb in childbirth to the emptying of self in child-raising to the emptying of the nest, the ultimate goal. The stripping is hard, every step along the way.

And eventually, it may mean being alone on the day when moms have always been lauded and honored. This happened to me early on in the empty-nesting process. It could have shattered me were it not for my Abba Father's loving gifts to this hurting mama. 

So every year I post my account of this beginning of the launch of my children into adulthood. Why? In the hopes that it will be a comfort to those mamas who read and are hurting in what could be a very hard time in their mothering. 

Previously posted as...

Alone...on Mother's Day?

There are lots of emptyings in life.  There are deaths and losses of every kind.  There are ends of relationships...ends of jobs...ends of school-years...ends of eras...ends of phases of life.  Some of these are expected.  Some catch us by surprise! This Mother's Day, I think of an emptying that affects all mothers sooner or later...the emptying of the nest!

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I know!  This is what we have been preparing our children for, right?...the launch, the flight out of the safety, security, and nurturing of their childhood home...out into the excitement of what God has for them up ahead.   But who ever prepares us moms?

I've always been an independent person. So releasing my children into adulthood...to make their own way...has caught me by surprise.  It has been harder than I ever thought!  In fact, it's been one of the swords that have pierced this mom's heart.

My mind goes back to a Mothers' Day at the very start of the emptying.   The Lord in a unique way comforted this grieving mother's heart.  It was at a time when my children, who were young adults, had just gone through some serious health crises.  So I was drained emotionally.

At that time, there were significant others in the picture.  So the issue of celebrating Mothers' Day became somewhat of a dilemma.  John & I decided to defer to the other mothers and postpone our celebration to the following Sunday.

That should have taken care of it, right?  But to my surprise, being alone on the real Mothers' Day was a grief to me!  I was doing my best not to wallow in my sadness, when the Lord surprised me with three gifts...three delights for a hurting mama's heart!  Three God-winks that most likely would have gone unnoticed had we been celebrating that day.

The first gift was finding old cassette tapes of my babies' voices.  (Keep in mind that in the 1970's early 80's, that was the best you could do to record audio.)  There were tapes of Jeremy and Beth when each of them was just starting to talk.  Others, when they were very young.  One was even labeled "doing school and being obnoxious!"  I listened...I laughed...I cried...as the bitter-sweetness of those precious voices washed over me!

The second sacred wink was catching sight of a mama house finch launching her babies.  Talk about the perfect metaphor at the perfect time!  Here the mama of the little family of house-finches,that had nested in a bush next to our porch, was giving this sorrowing mama a lesson in the circle of life.  I imagined mama finch saying her good-byes as each left the safety of her nest.  Was she grieving the way I was, or was she more courageous than I?

And last but not least, I just happened to come across a monthly letter from Telling the Truth, a ministry I had begun to follow.  I had tossed it aside to join my stack of others to be read someday.  By God's grace, in that alone time, I picked it up and started reading.  It all came together...

Stuart Briscoe, describing how motherhood changed his wife Jill, wrote:

When the baby was born, I stood by helplessly and watched the transformation that took place in my wife.  Motherhood changed her irrevocably.  As she nursed her child I detected a mysterious gleam in her eyes--a certain glow, a knowing, a secret insight that she shared with the new arrival.  She and he knew something that I didn't know.  I could do nothing more than observe and wonder at the mystery of motherhood.

He went on to say...

It occurs to me that the unique bond between mother and child makes possible an intimate nurturing relationship that men never know for they, by definition, are removed--they stand at a distance from the mother-child phenomenon.  But hard as it can be for the father to make the adjustment to the beloved intruder, there is divine genius in the arrangement.
For the day comes---all too soon--when the child must spread his wings and take flight from the nest.  Guess who struggles at this point?  The mother, of course!  Releasing and relinquishing are not mother gifts.
Guess who knows how to handle distance?  The father, naturally.  So as the wise mother has steered the puzzled father through the mysteries of nurturing, so the wise father now steps forward to guide the fearful mother through the anxieties of relinquishment.
And the child receives what he needs -- a healthy balance of mother nurture and father freedom... (Stuart Briscoe, Telling the Truth newsletter, May 1999)

What a comfort these words were.  Having never gone through this phase of life before, I was struggling.  And as hard as it was and would continue to be for some time, I had to realize in my experience that it is God's way to move my children into responsible adulthood.  It's their turn to step up to the plate of life and fulfill the will of God in their generation.

Emptyings are never easy...

But God's intent in the emptying is never to leave us void.  He wants to fill us with a greater capacity for Himself...to fill us with a greater experience of WHO HE IS in every phase of life.

So dear mama-sister, if you are going through THE emptying of all emptyings (or so it seems at the time), open your eyes...there may be God-winks all around you, visitations from your Abba-Father to comfort a relinquishing mama's heart.