The Pain of Empty Fields

After serving the Lord for 8 years in the ministry in Bonney Lake, our family moved back to the Olympia area and purchased a piece of property, 5 acres in size near Tenino, WA. Here, for the last 4 years, and in some of the most formative years for our three children, this place has been our home. We have loved it, will likely never leave it, and have treasured this place and the fellowship we have had hear with great joy.

During these 4 years, we have watched all three of our children become grown young adult. Each of them  successful in their own right, each of them excelling in what they do best, and each of them – working through problems, emotions, joys, heartbreaks and homework, have run the gamut of emotions for both them and us. Through it all, the only lasting thing that has come from this is only an ever deeper love for these children, and a gratitude to our Father in Heaven for giving us the utter privilege of having raised His children in our home.

As Christians, the eternal perspective is ever present. Or at least should be. I know, intellectually, that our three children are not our own. I fully understand and recognize that our time here on this beautiful globe in these bodies is so very limited and eternity, rejoining all the Christian brothers and sisters we have seen go before us, will make this time look like the burning of a light-bulb in time.

But applicationally, that intellectual knowledge doesn’t stop the hurt.

You see today, my youngest son, our “baby” has moved out. He just Friday graduated with high honors from our local community college, already has a profitable career-based job, pretty much the job of his dreams – and something he has worked towards for the last 5 years. He has been hired as a Service Technician by Ferrari (yes, THAT Ferrari…), with the intent to train him to become the Department Head. And today, Sunday, just two days later, on Father’s Day of all days, he moves out of the house to begin his future as a young man on his own. I have no doubt that he will be successful in every sense of the word in this endeavor, and that he will not ever be back as a member of our household.

Any father that tells you he does not have regrets on how he raised his children is either lying to you, or a pathological sadist with no conscience. Do I have regrets, you bet. We learn as parents, often times too late, that the forms of discipline and discipleship that work on on child, will not be equally applicable to the next. Methods that worked to perfection with his older bother, made me look like both a fool and an ogre. Sadly, I replayed that roll many times before figuring, probably too late, that the problem was in the delivery, not the reception. Bottom line, I spent a lot of time sucking at what I should have been so much better at – for the sake of the children.

Thankfully, God’s grace is abundant. My children have all survived my attempts at proper parenting despite me.

Our goal as parents is to “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” Our goal is to take the lumps of clay, and mold them into christ-like young men and women, and to send them off to raise up the next generation of citizens of both our nation and of heaven. Again, in spite of me, and by the grace of God, I think my wife and i as a team, did a pretty good job of this. But today, as our work is accomplished, even celebrated in the success of our children growing up and moving on, I’ left with the sinking felling that our fields are empty. 

For the last 4 years, our property has been intermittently filled with with the thunderous sound of running feet. Cheers and clapping have filled the air. Frisbees, softballs and baseballs have been flying about, sometimes uncontrollably. Hordes of food eaters would come and graze upon our refrigerator. Bonfires would be lit, and many marshmallows, hot-dogs, brats and burgers would be consumed. Mountains of empty sparkling cider bottles would be piled up for recycle. Piles of shoes and coats would take up the entire entryway, and beds. Laughing, loud music sining and dancing would ensure sporadically, sometimes late into the night. Today I’m realizing that our fields are empty. No bonfires are scheduled. I’m realizing that the youthful madness that once made these 5 acres the most fun and LOVE FILLED places on the planet – are over.

What is success? I thought success was to be accompanied with joy and pleasure. Instead, tonight, on Father’s Day, I see a future of very little ‘fathering’ left. The frisbees are laying in the long grass, I’ve cut the lawn for the last major teen gathering that my children will host will host here at the farm – and quite frankly successful parenting feels awful crappy right now.

I know I’m overreacting. I freely admit that I’m currently running on raw emotion. I also know that in the moment I’m somewhat in the flesh and that I’m lacking eternal perspective. I also know that this eternal perspective will come, and that hopefully, this horrible feeling of the beginnings of empty-nesting will subside, maybe even pass. But today it hurts.

Empty fields are painful.


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