They used to talk about women going through “the change.” It was a huge deal back in the seventies when All in the Family portrayed Edith Bunker’s hormonal swings related to menopause. I guess it really wasn’t talked about, but I was only a teenager and believe me, menopause was the last thing on our minds. That said, now that I am on the other side of it, the change that takes place is all-encompassing. The shift from mothering young children to enjoying their adulthood (and anticipating grandparenthood) is both delightful and perplexing. If mothering is what you do, then the absence of children in the home poses some occupational challenges.
Once I read about a woman who was probably around the age I am now. She didn’t know quite what to do with her life – how best to serve God. As I recall, on this particular day, she stopped into the church to pray. She begged the Holy Spirit to give her direction, to show her a sign – anything that would point her in the right direction. As she left the church, she felt comforted and inspired. Just a few steps away, she noticed some trouble brewing on the street. A couple of gangs had encountered each other by chance and they were on the verge of violence. The woman ran back into the church and, with each hand, grabbed the sponges out of the holy water fonts. Filled with the Spirit, she headed straight into the gathering crowd, sprinkling everyone in sight and forcefully proclaiming, “By the power of Christ, I command you to disperse!” Both sides of the dispute stopped what they were doing and stared in disbelief, as she repeated her commands and sprayed the holy water everywhere. Indeed, she did save the day, at least until the police arrived moments later.
I hope the poor woman found her way. Breaking up gang fights is not a job for older ladies, filled with the Spirit or not.
I sympathize with her, though. In our lives – and this may be particularly true for women – everything has its season. Knowing that helps to get through the tough days of small children underfoot and having vague memories of what it’s like to read a book longer than twenty pages. When we look back, the piles of laundry and unmade beds fade in our memories and only the adorable children, innocent and loving, remain – kind of the way we forget labor pains!
I have learned that the “empty nest syndrome” is not about loss. I am happy for my children’s independence and success. They are born to fly the nest. That is our job as parents: to teach them to fly well. What is difficult is simply trying to figure out what to do next. Like a young person readying for the work force, the new retiree must also inventory their likes and dislikes, talents and weaknesses, and so forth. And, like the lady above, what does God ask of me now?
That is something we need to ask ourselves throughout our lives. Our situations change according to our family life, work obligations, and so forth. And, just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, someone gets sick, or your employer offers a transfer, or perhaps a surprise pregnancy brings you back to the drawing board. It’s never dull, is it?
We need to maintain the lines of communication open — in this case, prayer. We should observe the signs of the changing seasons of our life and listen for God’s voice — often just a whisper — to help us discern how best to serve Him.