From the Newsletter: “The Empty Nest”

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Dear Friends of Second Church,

This week, a friend of ours is sending her youngest one off to college for the first time.

All summer long, she has been trying to prepare herself for the pride, excitement, and sadness of this moment.

The late-night wars over whose car is where in the driveway line-up are now over.

The SAT is behind them.

If our friend and her husband want to sit at the dinner table, looking at their phones and not talking, no impressionable person will be there to be ruined by their bad example.

They may even occasionally forego the dutiful trifecta of protein, starch, and vegetable that has ruled their dinners for over twenty years, or go to sleep before midnight on Friday or Saturday night.

More than that, of course, they feel they have raised a good person. A curious, kind person who looks before she leaps, but who isn’t afraid to leap. They’re excited to see where she goes—what she reads, the friends she makes, the path that opens up before her. They’re hoping she decides to study abroad somewhere they feel like visiting—Italy would be nice. But she’s ready to paddle her own canoe.

Even so, our friends says that the summer has been “one long, emotional vice-grip.”

Their older child was a bit more wash and wear.

Two days before he was due to leave for college for the first time, he asked if someone could take him to Target to pick up a few things…by which he meant toothpaste, shower slippers, a big towel, and a package of tube socks. That was the first time all summer that they talked about his leaving…and he was fine with that. For him, going to college wasn’t starting adulthood so much as it was solving a minor logistical issue.

Not so, the younger one. She’s had three solid months of leave-taking—emotional cookouts in the backyard with her oldest friends, taking out photo albums to peruse on the living room couch…at one point, even sitting with a few of her old dolls. Oh, the feelings!

It’s left our friend, her mother, a wreck.

As Ecclesiastes reminds us: “To everything there is a season, and a lifetime to every purpose under the heavens.”

It is hard for our friend to see her family traveling out of this season of childhood. But she is also grateful for the feelings, even if she has not quite mastered them just yet.

So often, people seem to be afraid of feelings—wary of feeling life in its complexity, even to the point of a faith crisis. Some seem to look to God as a way to avoid intense emotions across the seasons of our lives, as if faith should teach us to know better, somehow, or equip us to rise above all circumstances.

To me, faith should prompt us to enter into all circumstances, to feel all that life offers, quiet and loud, comic and tragic, light and dark, laughing and crying, with all the depth, sincerity and heart that is in us.

What makes us faithful is not that we rise above such moments. Faith comes from our belief that God is to be found in all of them, and from the strength we find in remembering other times—particularly those when at first, it may not have seemed that God was there to be found.

God is found in tears and grief, as well as joy and serenity—in saying goodbye to a wonderful season in the life of our family, as well as hello the beginning of a new one in the life of someone we love.

In these final weeks of summer, as you say your own goodbyes and hellos, I hope you will find a moment to be still and know that in all our joy and sadness, hope and fear, God holds all of us in the palm of his hand.
See you in church,

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