Soon he will clean the dining room table.
I know he’ll finally do it, even though I’ve asked him a thousand times before. His room will be straightened too. And there’ll be less stuff crowding the mudroom. I won’t find his socks on the floor or random bits of paper filled with math equations.
I know what it will mean.
He’ll be gone.
All the years I’ve spent asking him to pick up, clean up, and straighten up will one day be answered by the silence of sparkling cleanliness. The sorrowful sign of his absence representing the truth of Solomon’s wisdom: “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean” (Prov. 14:4).
These children we love, we raise, we teach, we catechize, we hug, we train—one day they grow up and go away. It’s the goal for which we’ve planned, prepared, and prayed. And then graduation swoops upon us suddenly and surprisingly like a hurricane that’s been in the news for a week but we didn’t really believe would hit.
Motherhood always involves sacrifice. Morning sickness is just the first hint, and labor a necessary beginning. Our bodies bear our children in preparation for the load our hearts will carry. We spend our early days singing songs, reading books, combing hair, changing diapers. We endure interruptions to our sleep, our schedules, and our attempts to use the bathroom on our own.
Our bodies bear our children in preparation for the load our hearts will carry.
As our children age, the sacrifices continue. We nervously put keys in their hands and move to the passenger side so they can take the wheel. We stay up late waiting for them to come home, and we stay up even later to listen as they recount the details of their evening out. We speak less and pray more. Our concerns for our children only grow as they grow—we understand more clearly how little we can control. We once carried them safely in our arms; we now bear the weight of holding them in our prayers.
From Death to Life
We tend to think of the word “sacrifice” only in negative terms, but Scripture explains it as a life-giving exchange. Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice, endured the cross “for the joy that was set before him” (Heb. 12:2). His sacrifice won our redemption. His death brought life.
As I watch my son walk out of my door for his last day of school, as I watch him walk across the stage at graduation, as I watch him walk into his dorm room for the first time, I know there will be tears. I know what it will mean for me. I’ll have one less goodbye hug each morning. There will be one less plate at the dinner table. I won’t get to hear about his day and discuss his latest ideas about rockets or what new tree we need to plant in the backyard.
It’s a new invitation to sacrifice—the sacrifice of letting him go.
He’ll move on to new people, new places, new ideas, new adventures. I let go, knowing the loss I feel is an emptiness that God can fill with his fullness.
We once carried them safely in our arms; we now bear the weight of holding them in our prayers.
Motherhood—the wonderful opportunity to lay down our life for another—calls us to different sacrifices in different seasons. It also opens us up to different joys. Just as sleepless nights were also filled with delightful smiles and chunky thighs, this new season of letting go will have its own gifts to enjoy. Tears of joy combine with tears of grief, paradoxically coexisting.
In the letting go of today, there is hope for tomorrow. I look forward to the joy of watching him become who God has created him to be. I pray that as my influence decreases in his life, Jesus’s will increase (John 3:30). I hope he comes home telling me stories of new friends, new studies, and new ideas. I’ll be there, waiting, hoping, and praying.
And I’ll have his favorite dinner ready to be served—on my clean dining room table.