FENTON, MI – Shar and I sat across the table from our youngest son Jon and his fiancé Bonnie. They were in their second year of college and we were glad to see them. Jon caught us completely off guard a few weeks earlier when he told us that he was getting an apartment. Between classes, work and time with Bonnie, we only caught glimpses of him coming and going. I was seriously not ready for him to move out. We helped him move, but as we left him at his apartment there was a loneliness in me that's hard to describe. As we drove away I realized I wasn't ready to be an empty nester.
I should have been. We had been through a similar situation when our oldest son, Christian, moved out. He was in college and engaged to Brooke. He bought a house and rented rooms to his buddies until just before he married Brooke. The rehearsal was emotionally draining. I could hardly say a word without crying. I blubbered through the whole evening. It was so bad I wondered if I could make it through the ceremony - so did everyone else. With God's help, I pulled myself together and the ceremony was beautiful.
Now we were sitting across from Jon and Bonnie. They dated through much of high school and Bonnie was already a part of our lives. I could hardly believe what Jon was saying. He had just moved out in May, gotten engaged in June, and now he was telling us that they were getting married in August. I thought we were just going to have dinner! I sat there with a blank look on my face as I tried to process it all. My head was spinning. I'm so grateful for my wife. Shar responded with incredible joy at the news. Her response pulled me out of my shock, and helped me respond with the support I had deep in my heart for them. I was honored when they asked me to perform the wedding ceremony.
Two and a half decades of our lives had been wrapped up in parenting. We struggled for a while with infertility and a miscarriage of our first child, but God blessed us with two incredible boys. Now we were entering a new phase of life as our youngest son moved out and got married. We were living the reality of God's plan: "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24).
It's been ten years since Jon and Bonnie were married and 12 for Christian and Brooke. Tears of gratitude rolled down my cheeks several times as I thought about these events. It was hard to see them leave home, but we watched two men follow God's plan and two parents' prayers for strength, guidance, and wisdom answered.
God was going to take me through another growing season in my life.
What felt like loss at the time ushered us into a new phase of life. God was taking us to a new place where He would teach us new truths and help us experience joys we never imagined. We didn't lose two sons. We gained two daughters. Brooke is a totally devoted mother and doing an incredible job raising our grandchildren. I couldn't be more proud of the father Christian has become. Our eight-year-old granddaughter, Iris, just had her first dance recital. Her six-year-old brother, Ethan, gave her a bouquet of flowers. Bonnie is in Cambodia for two weeks working with the underprivileged, and Jon just helped the company he works for through a successful merger.
As for the empty nest......if I had only known!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Durbin is the State Evangelism Director for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before joining the state convention staff, Mike served as Church Planting Catalyst and Director of Missions in Metro Detroit since 2007. He also has served as a pastor and bi-vocational pastor in Michigan, as well as International Missionary to Brazil.