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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Nostalgia and Letting Go of Your Grown-up Children

Last weekend my 26 year old daughter married a handsome young man, as is the way of children. They grow up, move out, usually come back, move out again, and then most marry. They leave behind their boxes in storage down in the basement, if you're lucky enough to have one, and thousands of memories and pictures if you're like me. Everywhere I turn, I catch a glimpse of my daughter's impish smile, her rebellious stance and spirited attitude, even as she searched to please Jesus and do her devolutionals (devotions in kid language) and convert her trolls to Christianity!
Part of me grieves for the little girl splashing in the mud and putting her hand in mine as a teenager walking in the mall together. But that is the way of children. God gives them to us to raise but for a brief moment. Then they are returned to Him, all grown up, at least enough to venture into the world. We can become nostalgic or bitter like my mother did. She didn't have a good marriage and the kids meant everything to her, so when we moved out she said she had little to live for. This of course is not the attitude God would have for us. So have can we overcome empty nest syndrome and have a godly attitude?

For me the nest has been empty for a number of years, but I still struggle with getting nostalgic. Why? Because I'm looking back to the past, wishing I could freeze those days and what I romanticize as carefree years. I loved raising my children and we did a lot of great things together, which we still do, but I don't see them as frequently as I would like. Though I have many interests and a full time job teaching, I still miss my children's youth. I have to watch out that I don't look too much to the past for happiness or the future either, but enjoy what God has placed in front of me in the NOW.

If you struggle with this issue, then you know what I mean. We need to trust God with our children, but not look to them for our joy and happiness. That's a big mistake parents make today, putting too much emphasis on the children and not on the marriage. That's one reason why many long term marriages are ending in divorce. Once the kids are gone there's nothing holding them together. (So that's something we need to do. Work on our marriages, before, during and after having children.) Don't make your kids idols, and you'll still have a marriage when they leave.
So what else is the problem in letting go? Change. Change is hard for most of us, even the adventurous types. But God made a world in which everything is changing constantly, except for Him. Accepting change and what comes our way is a big part of letting go of children, and just about anything else that makes you sad, bitter or depressed. Entrusting your children to God and accepting change will help give you peace of mind or at least a piece of your mind!

But how can you keep your mind off all the memories that invade your mind every day? Put your hand to the plow, or in other words like the author of Ecclesiastes says, do what God puts before you to do, work. Do the job God has given you and look to minster to others. Inevitably when I'm feeling a little blue, God puts someone in my life who needs help or is going through a tough situation. This helps me to let go of whatever I'm holding onto, a daughter getting married or a kid's bad attitude at school. As a rule, helping others is probably one of the best cures for many of the emotional problems we face today. You don't usually have to look too far to find someone in need.

So the next time waves of nostalgia threaten to toss you around a bit, try looking outside yourself, first to God and then to others. Be happy for the memories you've had, enjoy the life you have now and trust God with the future. Spend time with your spouse if you're married and make new memories together. Let your children go and be happy for their new life. Look up. God knows what it's like to lose a grown up child and get Him back again!