Friday, May 15, 2009

#39 Leaving the Nest

Genesis 2:24 "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother,and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh."

One of the most fascinating workings in nature is that of baby birds. When baby birds are born they, like all other animals and even humans, are dependent upon mom and dad to take care of them. The parents are responsible for ensuring that food is provided. They must provide security for their little ones. It would be hard for any of us to not be touched by the scene of small beaks stretched skyward in anticipation of receiving food from the mouth of a parent. If you have ever had the blessing of witnessing this first-hand then you know how quickly the young birds gobble up their meal. Feeding is not the only service provided of course.

Every aspect of the young chicks' lives is dependent upon the parents. Their protection and warmth come from the parents as well as training them how to stretch the wings in preparation for their first flight. Eventually, the young chicks will grow into adulthood and they will then leave the nest. It is then up to them to be responsible for their own safety. It becomes their job to search for food, to make a nest, and search for a mate. The role of the parents is greatly diminished once they leave the nest. In some species the parents never even interact with their children after they leave.

So how does this relate to us? As I have had the opportunity to do quite a bit of counseling over the past few years I have run across a lot of scenarios that breed trouble within a marriage and our other relationships. One of the scenarios that causes a lot of frustration and contention is when a mother or father will not let go and let their son or daughter make their own decisions. Many times the parents attempt to control the lives of their children even after they move out and begin their own families. This causes major problems within the marriage. If the new wife is always having to compete with mom then it builds resentment and unnecessary anxiety. If dad is always there second guessing what his son does then that too causes tension. So how do we find the balance of supporting our children as they grow into adulthood and allowing them to make some mistakes by which to learn?

This is not always easy, but it must always happen. There is a very good reason that the Lord said that a man shall leave his parents and be joined to his wife. There has to be a separation that occurs so that the new couple can grow together and make their own way in life. Am I trying to say that parents should totally abandon their children? No, of course not,but I am saying that parents should respect the autonomy of their children who have left the nest and let them live their lives. I am saying that at some point we have to let our children grow up and function as adults without hovering over them. If we do not allow them to grow and make some mistakes then we are setting them up for a co-dependent lifestyle that inhibits them from learning to make good decisions when the parents are not around. Certainly if children are wise then they will turn to their parents for advice and counsel instead of always trying to reinvent the wheel, but the parents should be careful not to drown their children in an incessant stream of free advice and unwanted invasions of privacy.

As a parent with three somewhat-small children, I recognize the desire to want my children to succeed and to live a life committed to following Christ. However; we try to let them make choices along the way so that we are training them to be free thinkers capable of sorting out life matters on their own as they mature. We attempt to do this while letting them know that we are willing to help them at any time. God knew what He was talking about when He said that there has to be a separation that occurs. For us to violate that says to God that we know better than He does, and I think we would all agree that surely God knows best. It is my goal to encourage you all to think about how you interact with your children; both those that have left the nest and those that may still live in your home.

I encourage you to ask yourself whether or not you are training your children to be able to think for themselves or are you creating a bond of co-dependency that will cause your children to have trouble in every relationship they experience from now on.

Lastly, I want you to consider how you can be supportive without being intrusive. We all want to see our children succeed and we significantly reduce the possibility of that happening when we smother them and fail to train them to think on their own.

Dear Heavenly Father,

We thank You that both the Bible and nature teach us that we have to learn how to support our children without continuing to mother over them. We thank You that the Bible tells us about the need for a man and his wife to have a separate existence while still functioning within the family community. We pray that You will teach us how best to train and support our children. May each of us humbly submit our will for Yours is our prayer in Jesus' name, Amen.

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