Monday, May 19, 2008

Empty Nest- in Search of a Better Metaphor

Inspired by the graduation of my youngest child from high school, My wife and I are headed into the season when they are ready to be on their own but they can't yet be on their own. Their physical, emotional, and mental selves deign them ready, but their financial independence is still several years away.

For thirty years or so, the image for this transition in adolescence, when the kids first leave home for long periods (college) and finally move out and have their own place (career and possible family) has been described in a negative sense: empty nest. It assumes that everyone is just waiting around for the procession out of the house. Or that they are somehow pushed out of "the nest."

The more contemporary image of the launch is more positive. Its emphasis is on the adventure instead of a season of life coming to an end. We would rather think on the excitement of the journey than what is lost. Which brings up the idea of the journey as a spiritual quest.

The Celtic Christians of Europe's Dark Ages took on the journey as a spiritual call. Traveling long distances was apart of their cultural roots as Celts. As Christians, it became a dedication, a service to God. Columbanus taught that life is not a resting place, life is a road: “Let us concern ourselves with things divine, and as pilgrims ever sigh for and desire our homeland: let us ever ponder on the end of the road, that is of our life, for the end of the roadway is our home.” Seeking solitude for contemplation, monks traveled farther and farther away from their home in Ireland; some were never heard from again. This practice was called peregrinatio or “traveling for God.”

The launching phase for families is holy work and a journey for everyone- very difficult, rewarding, exciting, a struggle. And from Abraham to Paul, the movement toward God has always been WITH God. For this journey, the words from Moses of the Exodus are very appropriate: "The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms." Deuteronomy 33:27


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