This blog is written by friends of the ministry, Will and Cindy Goff.
Reflecting on how to keep a marriage vibrant after the kids are gone has the benefit of time, since we have been empty nesters for 20 years! We’re older in years, but not in our hearts. As we reflect on these monumental changes in our marriage, we can’t help but stop and thank God (and our adult children) for the grace that has been extended to us! Missteps were made of course. We sometimes wonder why we weren’t given a manual which had chapters with indented tabs stating, “Do not read until the age of; fill in the blank.” Not really. What newlywed couple wants to know what skills will be needed for future events? Events such as child rearing, midlife changes, empty nesters or retirement at the time of their wedding! Newlyweds have many years to prepare for those occasions!
Well, here we are, now in our 70’s … how did we get here so quickly?
One of Cindy’s favorite passages is from Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken”. It begins, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both”. Being at the crossroads of life can be difficult. Note that the title of the poem is “The Road Not Taken”. This indicates that there is a focus on the “what if’s” of life. We spend so much emotional energy second guessing our choices, looking back, or worrying about the future. These reactions are often triggered by a critical life event such as being alone as a couple in the house with the children all grown and gone.
‘‘Now what?”, we say as we look at each other across the BIG EMPTY LIVING ROOM. “What do we do now”? What if it is a wrong choice? There is going to be so much free time now that the children are gone. How do we navigate this change? Where does my help come from? It comes from God’s word. Psalm 121:2 “My help comes from the Lord who made the heavens and the earth”. As a Christian couple, we know where the answers are. Again, the scriptures give us incredible advice. “This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look: ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls’”. (Jeremiah 6:16) God was saying the ancient paths are the eternal way, the good way of righteousness which leads to peace and health.
We are always faced with choices and, as we all know so well, every choice has its consequences. The Bible reveals results of choices that humans make; I mean, check out the Israelites! As a couple, we desire amity and harmony in all circumstances. This is wishful thinking, and we know this is not the case. However, PEACE is possible in all circumstances. Peace results when our first choice is God. Seeking God’s will leads to more good choices. They pay benefits when they become habits; attitudes and behaviors established over time.
A vibrant marriage is a choice! When God is an integral part of that choice, peace will follow and that will benefit our mind, body and soul. If you find yourself reading this and saying, “I haven’t developed a healthy relationship with God or my spouse”, take heart! We did so many things to negatively impact our marriage (a story for another time), but God not only rescued our marriage, He restored it.
Restoration takes commitment to Christ, acknowledging the power of the Holy Spirit and, here is a huge choice, practicing good communication with your spouse. Especially throughout this journey into the unknown empty-nester arena.
There are no quick fixes to adjusting to being empty nesters. It takes time, more so for some couples than others. There may even be a grieving process for both parents. If you haven’t figured it out yet, you each respond to emotional situations, especially having your children leave home, quite differently. What an opportunity to practice good communication and grace! More than that it is the opportunity to consider the road to take. It’s the one that leads to peace and joy and the road sign has FAITH clearly marked on it.
Our next blog will address some specific activities which definitely have helped us and other empty nesters along with those couples who are now enjoying retirement (which has its own set of challenges). In the meantime, remember that you are not alone! As addressed in the marriage study, Two Becoming One, God wants to provide the foundation for your marriage. When these changes in life occur, you will remain strong. This season of your life is such an opportunity to choose the road which God has set out before you.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will never leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
Check out more from Will and Cindy on our podcast here!