“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” ~ Seneca
We are in the final days of another school year. We’ve been here before, many times, but this year marks a significant milestone: Seth’s high school graduation. As I name it, my heart swells, and I can’t tell whether it is ready to burst or to break. I am so deeply proud of my oldest son, yet I find I am nearly overcome with tears. The mutual presence of both joy and grief creates an ongoing tension that feels like a sustained trigger, signaling “fight, flight, or freeze.”
If I choose to fight, I am choosing to name this extraordinary event and the emotions it raises as “enemy.” My one-two punch is to diminish its significance and dismiss the changes it will bring. My hope is that this attempt at self-protection will restore a sense of safety; yet, in the end, I know it will only serve to delay the inevitable: a new chapter in our story is coming.
God enters the ring and invites me to lower my fists for a moment. He asks me to pause and to reflect on our story thus far. In doing so, I can see many chapters that have unfolded. “This is another one,” He assures me, “and I have a new chapter that I am ready to write with you.”
“Will you stop fighting?” He asks.
“Flight” feels like a painfully ironic term. I envision the four of us gathered cozily and contentedly in our nest, yet Seth will soon fly. It’s the reality of this milestone, and for him, it is time. My flight is not so courageous; instead, it is inspired by fear. I am afraid of the upcoming changes. Rather than soaring on strong wings, I am tempted to run from reality.
God comes to me in my hiding place and beckons me into the light. He asks me to look into the future—including the way my “mothering” of Seth will change—without giving into fear. He urges me to stop running, and He invites me to consider that I am meant to fly too.
“Will you trust that your wings are strong enough to carry you?” He asks.
My third choice—to freeze—is probably the easiest for me and the most tempting from moment to moment. For me, freezing looks a lot like numbing. When my heart hurts or the tears won’t stop falling, I do whatever I can to dull the ache. To Tim and the boys, I appear to be present and engaged, but I know the truth: I have disconnected from my heart in a desperate effort to cope with the forthcoming changes.
God rouses me from my slumber. He tells me that I need to be present and engaged to experience the joy and delight of this moment. He reminds me that I am needed—fully present, fully engaged—by Tim and the boys. “Your heart is stronger than you think,” He assures me. “It will not break.”
“Will you engage this experience with your whole heart?” He asks.
I cannot always answer these questions with a confident “yes.” For as long as I can remember, I longed to be a mother. One of the most profound moments of my life was when, after a year of infertility, we discovered we were pregnant with Seth. In mothering both Seth and Reed, I have been poured out and filled up in ways that have been staggering, stunning, and oh-so-satisfying. Now, this chapter is closing, and my “yes” sounds like a feeble assent uttered through trembling lips.
In this tender space, God reminds me that in the disappointing days of infertility, He comforted me. During long, sleepless nights spent rocking my newborns, He sustained me. In the busy, chaotic elementary years, He energized me. In the trying days of surging adolescent hormones, He calmed me. And in the turbulent years spent raising teens, He faithfully directed me. These precious reminders give me confidence for the next chapter in our story.
The faithful God who has directed me through eighteen years of motherhood promises to guide me through the mystery of what is to come.
Yet, rather than fighting, running, or numbing, He asks me to enter in, to surrender, and to give Him my “yes.” When I do, I feel the page turning and a new chapter beginning. I believe it is going to be good.
Susan Tucker spends her days mothering her two teenage sons, teaching middle school English, and savoring rare moments of quiet and solitude. She lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, with her sons and her husband of 23 years. Susan finds life in a beautiful story, an authentic conversation, worship music, and ultimately, in Jesus, the giver of all good gifts.
Congratulations on reaching this mothering milestone and on honoring your heart in the process. Prayers for presence in all of the “lasts” and celebrations and as you enter the “firsts” of what is next. Here’s to the good kind of flight! I love your words and heart. Thank you for sharing both.
Thank you Julie for your kind, encouraging words and your dear prayers for me during this season. I’m grateful for them.
You are strong and able. Sometimes pain and peace can be partners in our stories. Thank you for sharing a part of your heart and a part of your story.
I am coming to recognize the “tensions” that can coexist in our stories – including pain and peace. Thank you for seeing and naming my strength. I appreciate your comment.
Dear Susan, I did not know about your infertility. So very sorry. I love this: “The faithful God who has directed me through eighteen years of motherhood promises to guide me through the mystery of what is to come.” Yes, yes and yes!!!
I receive your “yes” as the affirmation of a wise woman who has walked this path three times before me and can testify that my words are true. There’s such hope found there. Thank you.
My heart is with yours as you celebrate your son and begin this new chapter. Love your tender heart and your courage to share the struggle and the hope in God’s faithfulness. Thank you!
Ellen, graduation was this past Saturday, and I felt you and the many others who were holding my heart in prayer for this milestone moment. It was a day of great joy. Thank you. Now, a new chapter begins to unfold…
Graduation, letting them go, wondering what comes next…such familiar emotions for me. Each time I walk through the graduation process with one of my kids I feel it all again. Choosing to keep my heart open to all the joy, loss, pride, gratitude, and ache of change is a moment by moment experience! Thanks for sharing your heart with us Susan.
Graduation was this past Saturday, and I experienced what you named above–there was a choosing to keep my heart open. I was so afraid that it would break under the weight of the emotion; however, instead, I found strength to hold it all. Yes, such an ache, but also such joy. I’m deeply grateful.
Thanks for sharing this beautiful post, Susan. I cannot image what it’s like to see your child graduate! My guess is that it’s pretty bittersweet. My kids are ages 10, 7, and 6, and that day feels like an eternity away, though everyone keeps assuring me how fast the time goes, haha. I am grateful for the wise and eloquent mothers who are journeying the path before me, sharing their story along the way!
Thanks Libby. Earlier this year I turned to mothers who have walked this path before me and asked for their words of wisdom. I have been so blessed to receive letters and emails conveying such wisdom, encouragement, and hope for this journey. I’m hopeful that what I write can offer the same to you and others when your time comes. I will say that graduation was this past Saturday, and it was one of the most holy, joyful days of my life. I was not expecting that! Thank you Jesus.