Half a lifetime ago, during a traumatic period in my life, I began seeing a therapist once a week. After several months, he suggested inviting my parents to a session.
On the appointed day, the counselor explained to the three of us the negative aspects of unhealthy dependence. At 35, the normal time for me to assume responsibility for myself had long past. To keep relying on my parents for solutions stunted my maturity. My mother understood completely and expressed her wholehearted support.
After an awkward silence, Dad launched into a story about finding a cup-shaped hummingbird nest in one of the orange trees on the farm. He described the nest in detail, including the exquisite intricacy of its construction. In this perfect incubator, the mother bird laid two white eggs. Every day for several weeks, Dad tiptoed to the nest for a peek. Sometimes, in a frantic attempt to divert his attention, the startled mother darted off when he arrived. After a few weeks, two tiny, featherless creatures hatched. Their huge beaks unhinged and opened wide. For days the mother foraged for food to drop into their hungry mouths. The little birds grew feathers and plumped up until they soon crowded the tiny nest. Then one day, they were gone.
I kept thinking, where is he going with this story? But that was the end of it. No explanation. Deep within my soul, I heaved a great sigh. Dad was a pragmatist. He just didn't understand relationship stuff.
After I returned home he showed up at my house with a gift. He had carefully clipped the empty hummingbird nest from the tree branch--truly a work of art, just as he'd described.
Many months passed before I began to understand the message behind the hummingbird nest. Dad had no clue how to talk about feelings or connections between people, but he recognized my need to leave the nest. He offered this gift as his pledge to let me go.
My grown daughter is now grappling with tough issues. I'm consumed with sadness, overwhelmed by helplessness. The nest I carefully constructed for my precious children has been empty for many years, but this little one has always come back for feeding. We are equally dependent on this connection--co-dependent, I guess. I never dreamed that one day she would stop flying back for feeding from my "vast" supply of experience and wisdom. One day she would make a nest all her own without any help from me.
But, ready or not, my little one has flown away. Remembering my father's hummingbird nest reality dawns. I recreated the same dependent relationship with my daughter that I had with my parents. It's time to let her go. I can rejoice in a job well done. I will always be her mother, but my days of parenting have ended. This thought gives me peace.
Sure, I long to call her back to the nest. I grieve over the loss of this close connection. I want to mend her broken wings and bind her wounds with my love. I want her to seek my "brilliant" counsel. I want her to make choices I suggest, knowing that I will lead her rightly. I want her to need me. But God created each of us to be responsible for our own decisions, to construct our own lives. He wants to be Lord of our lives, for us to be dependent on only Him. What my daughter is doing is not only appropriate, but completely God-ordained. She is not an extention of me. So along with my sorrow at the loss, I'm proud of her strength to move forward into maturity and away from my nest.
Examining this process makes me ever more grateful that I am safe forever in the nest God constructed for me. Nothing dysfunctional about that relationship. Quite the opposite. God will never nudge me out of the nest to do life without Him. He longs to have me near where He can feed me. In the nest He constructed for me, I grow in spiritual maturity as I snuggle deeper into connection with Him. Even when the walls of my nest seem confining--more a prison than a nest--I can trust His character. He's monitoring the boundaries and He knows what He's doing. I don't have to feel Him there moment to moment because the Bible promises He will never leave me or forsake me. One of His names is Faithful and True. (Revelation 19:11)
How about you? Are you grieving over your own empty nest? Or because you feel powerless to change a relationship? Maybe you're struggling with some other trial today. God waits to feed you. In Him there is comfort, rest, and satisfaction. Will you trust Him to meet your needs today? Let Him "...shelter you with His wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection." Psalm 91:4
In my latest book, THE ROAD TO TERMINUS, Mabel Crowley's life has lost purpose and meaning. After the deaths of her son and her husband, her nest is truly empty. That is, until a street urchin named Styker turns Mabel's world upside down.