By Sherye S. Green
God’s Never-Empty Nest
Perhaps those years of rearing your children, which earlier seemed like they’d never end, have somehow flittered away like leaves scattered by the wind. You’ve looked up and suddenly, those little girls and boys who used to run boisterously through your house, are now grown men and women, living independent lives of their own, making their way in the wider world. Some now enjoy the footfalls of their own little ones.
My husband, Mark, and I well remember long sleepless nights spent feeding our newborns or sitting up late waiting on our teenagers to arrive safely home from dates. Those memories are tucked safely away in our hearts. Unlike the twenty-two years or so, when both Mark and Lauren’s schedules dictated our calendars, we now have luxurious quantities of time to spend as we would like in this season of life many refer to as the empty nest.
The term empty nest conjures up all sorts of mental images. That season when all the chicks are ready to fly on their own and leave the nest. No more diapers to change or runny noses to wipe. No more carpool schedules to keep. An increase in the old pocketbook. Not having to go to the grocery store every other day. Finally, long, leisurely hours to be spent exactly as a parent pleases, not as the school calendar dictates.
Another idea conveyed by this term empty nest is that children, once grown and out of the house, are not to return home. One of the goals of raising well-adjusted, independent children is that they learn to live on their own, pay their own bills, and carry for themselves the weight created by responsibilities of adulthood. Parents generally don’t want their kids living with them until they’re forty years old, still emotionally and financially dependent.
Sometimes, though, life circumstances occur that require an adult child to once again reside with his or her parents, if only for a season. Since becoming empty nesters, our daughter has returned home once or twice, mainly during transition periods between jobs. Even though it was not at all the same as when she was a little girl, it was still wonderful to be able to have her with us. It was especially nice to have the time and the opportunity to get to know her in a new way, as an adult young woman.
The Bible often uses word pictures to describe God’s loving care of us, using the metaphor of a mother bird caring for her brood. You can almost see a protective hen on the nest, plumping up herself and spreading out her feathers protectively, when reading descriptive phrases such as “in the shadow of your wings” (Ruth 2:12, NASB) or “cover you with His pinions” (Psalm 91:4 NASB).
God’s protective wings, under which we may seek His protection, provide Christ-followers with many benefits, among them refuge, God’s faithfulness, protection, and hope. Many verses of Scripture, including Psalm 17:8 and Psalm 36:7, expound upon this idea. The Wycliffe Bible beautifully illustrates some of these blessings in Psalm 91:4, “Thou shalt have hope under his wings. His faithfulness shall surround thee like a shield.”
Unlike in the homes of humans and in the nests of birds, in which the normal progression of life development is for the young to become mature and leave the proverbial nest, God so desires that in our spiritual lives we never leave His nest. His great desire is for us to nestle close to Him each and every day, pressing our spiritual selves close to His heart and tucking our minds, hearts, and souls under the protection of His wings.
The Gospel of Luke records a heart-rending rebuke given the city of Jerusalem by Jesus, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!” (Luke 13:34, NASB). The New Living Translation of the end of that verse says it this way, “… but you would not let me.”
What is it in our lives that prevent us from letting God take care of us—from allowing Him to tuck us in safely under the shelter of His wings? The selfishness of wanting to live life our way rather than His? Pride that is preventing us from asking God’s forgiveness? Ignorance of what the Word really says? Believing the lies of the Deceiver telling us God doesn’t really love us and could never have our best interests at heart? Or worse, believing the lie that something we’ve done will forever prevent us from returning to God’s nest?
Don’t waste another day, not another second. There’s more than enough room in God’s nest of love. “You can go to him for protection. He will cover you like a bird spreading its wings over its babies. You can trust him to surround and protect you like a shield” (Psalm 91:4, ESV).
Let the truth of God’s promises sink deep into the soil of your heart. Don’t ever think that you can’t come home to God’s house; His porch light is always on. There’s always room in His nest.
Sherye S. Green is a Jacksonian, a teacher at Madison-Ridgeland Academy, and a wife, mother, and grandmother. Sherye and her husband, Mark, are members of First Baptist Church Jackson. She is also the author of Abandon Not My Soul.