For us, this may have been a bigger change than when we welcomed our first baby home. Oh, we longed for a quiet house and an evening of adult conversation—just the two of us.
Nine thousand, two hundred twenty-six days: that’s how long we invested in the daily responsibilities of our three kids.
We spent over 13 million responsible minutes with a kid in our space. Looking back, it seems like most of that time was in our minivan.
Then it happened. We achieved the apex of adulthood: E-M-P-T-Y N-E-S-T!
We had dreamt of those days, but not prepared for them. Much had changed between the ages of 25 and 55.
But what now?
Would we focus this next phase on us? Or would we give our life away?
One promotional attempt to attract us to live in a 55+ “active adult community” asked, “Looking to live life to the fullest?” Then, the ad described all of the fun daily activities offered in this development. It sounded more like summer camp than real life.
However, for us, living life to the fullest looks more like giving yourself away for Kingdom work, following Jesus’ model.
After coping with the empty chair(s) at the table, how does a couple envision the future?
We want to help empty nesters think through what it looks to live life to the fullest by providing three reflections from our empty nest. As God prompts us to call back to a younger generation, take a look at these thought-provoking insights from Psalm 78:
1. “Declare Wise Sayings … ” (Ps. 78:2a)
Future generations need wisdom. But where does wisdom come from?
“For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Prov. 2:6).
We can help the younger generation navigate life by sharing some of our own wisdom and experience. But we must enter their world and see life through their eyes, all the while being led by the Holy Spirit.
We must consider them as more important than ourselves. Philippians 2:3-4 reminds us to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.“
2. “Speak Mysteries From the Past …” (Ps. 78:2b)
Recently I (Byron) was looking for something in our attic, and I came across a box that my mom gave me. In it were my “valuables” from growing up. I found a scrapbook and a letterman jacket from my senior year in high school—the 1980 football season—ohhhh! As I glanced through the scrapbook, I got excited reminiscing about the good ol’ days. I love to tell my kids stories from high school. However, my daughter calls them my “glory days that nobody cares about.”
We must be cautious not to make conversations with the younger generation solely about our past experiences.
As we interact with the younger generation, please know they don’t need you to wear your letterman jacket and relive the glory days. But, they do want to hear about the puzzling moments in your life where a powerful God showed up and made sense for you.
We should “speak mysteries from the past—things we have heard and known and that our fathers have passed down to us” (Ps. 78:2b-3). Don’t hide behind a letterman jacket. Tell about the praiseworthy deeds of Almighty God as He has worked in your life.
Tips from the younger generation: Invite us into your life—the real you, not the polished silver you. Let us see the tarnish. Through your vulnerability, we get to see more of God. Empower us to take risks, work hard, and care for others, all the while expecting God to mysteriously untie the knots that seem so complicated in life, church, and family.
3. “Teach … So [They] Might Know” (Ps. 78:5-6)
Two years ago, our church had many young believers new to the faith. God was doing something special. We were holding on. It was exciting until we realized little was in place to teach and instruct them to follow biblical principles daily over the long haul.
Our bright and talented staff decided to hit pause on a new building campaign to make room for more. We then spent a year focused on what we called “patient discipleship.”
Thus, we extended a call to action for members to give God space and time to help us follow Jesus better. Our emphasis was “it takes time” for spiritual formation, for God to do His work.
In our instant, digital world, helping someone slow down to recognize that God is faithfully transforming our lives might be some of our best work. We all need reassurance to hang in there long enough for the Holy Spirit to transform.
Titus 2:7-8a reminds the older to teach the younger by making themselves “an example of good works with integrity and dignity in [their] teaching. Your message is to be sound beyond reproach.”
We invest from an overflow of all God is teaching us.
You may be saying, “But I am not a teacher!”
Well, to borrow a phrase from Parker Palmer, then “let your life speak.” You have experience that others don’t have. But keep in mind, nobody has time (or interest) for a 25-minute story detailing your glory days.
Tips from the younger generation: Just put your hand on our shoulders, empathize, and help us look forward by reassuring us it’s worth it to follow Jesus. As you come alongside us, teach us to fish; don’t just give us a fish.
As you coach younger folks through adversity or ask questions that help them re-center, be sure to encourage them to be patient. Salvation may be immediate, but sanctification takes a lifetime—remember, patient discipleship.
The empty nest years can bring invaluable resources of time, money, and wisdom. While we have enjoyed our time together, we have also been challenged by the caregiving role and isolation that accompanies this season.
As we envision our future, we have found it rewarding to invest in the younger generation.
As you are looking to live life to the fullest, may you join us in passing on biblical principles from one generation to the next.
Our hope is “that they might put their confidence in God and not forget God’s works” (Ps. 78:7).
Leave a legacy!
Byron and Carla are the Co-Founders/Executive Directors of Legacy Family Ministries. They are the authors of To Have and To Hold: Preparing for a Godly Marriage—a marriage prep Bible Study workbook. They have written and developed various marriage prep resources the past 25 years while working directly with pre-engaged and engaged couples. They live in Waco, Texas.