When I became a dad, everyone told me that I would come to understand God in new ways, that fatherhood would provide fresh perspective on how He relates to us as our Heavenly Father. They were right, and our child-raising years were rich with spiritual insight, some learned through laughter, some learned through tears.
But no one told me that the empty nest would bring similar experiences. These have come unexpectedly, and they are delightful.
Our first daughter Amy is a wife, a mother of two adorable little boys (objective fact, not just my opinion, ask anybody), and a much-loved High School French teacher. We moved away from her and her family last year when we moved to Arizona, by far the most painful downside of that decision. We dreaded the inevitable loss of contact with her.
That’s why we’re glad that she has developed the habit of calling one of us on her way to and from work. I tend to be her morning call, since I am up and about at that hour, and my wife Murf usually receives her evening call. There generally aren’t a lot of huge issues to talk about. She just wants to keep in touch. I love that.
And it makes me aware of the joy that it gives my heavenly Father when I make prayer an intentional part of my life. Even when there aren’t lots of earth-shattering issues to talk about, it matters when I turn to Him. As the perfect Father, why wouldn’t He take pleasure in hearing from me?
Our youngest daughter Minnie is putting her tender heart and warm smile to good use as a social worker in Spokane. She came to visit last week, in the midst of a fairly hectic season in her life. As we drove to pick her up at the airport in Phoenix, my wife said, “I can’t wait to hear her sigh and relax.” Sure enough, moments after she climbed into the car and finished the small talk about her flight, she leaned her head back on the seat and let out a huge sigh of relaxation. We were her oasis, a safe place of rest and refreshment, a role that gave me a surprisingly powerful sense of satisfaction. I still smile when I think about it.
That moment came to mind as I strolled through snowy aspen groves on a Sabbath hike above Flagstaff two days ago. I had preached and taught five times in the previous two days, had another Bible Study that night, and was preparing to leave tomorrow for a two-week international ministry trip to three continents. That relaxing, refreshing time with God was an oasis in a hectic season of my life. And as I enjoyed it, as I enjoyed Him, I had a sense that He was taking pleasure in providing those moments for me. Why wouldn’t He?
In this season of empty-nest parenting, I have a fresh understanding of the picture of God provided to Israel by the prophet Zechariah: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (3:17).
I am so glad that I have that kind of Father. I’m glad that He rejoices over me, that He quiets me when I need it, that He sings over me. Those ideas boggle my mind, but they are true.
My girls give me joy. I’m glad that I can do the same for Him.
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