This Christmas was a foretaste of what it will be like when the kids all are on their own and Mark and I end up spending the holidays alone together – just the two of us. Our older children had work and other commitments so we were only together as the Fenelon Clan for a short while on Christmas Day. It felt strange to be split up and there were moments I caught myself in teary-eyed moping. However, I know it’s a good thing because it’s a sign that the children we’ve worked so hard to raise are growing into their adulthood and forming lives separate from ours. That’s what’s supposed to happen.
But it doesn’t make it any easier.
At one point, I half-jokingly ribbed Mark that before we know it, we’ll find ourselves teetering back and forth on our his-and-hers rocking chairs, sipping on our matching mugs of hot chocolate and trying to remember details about Christmases gone by. “How many kids did we have, again? What were their names? Hey! That ring you’re wearing looks just like the one I gave my husband for our 10th anniversary. Wait a minute! You ARE my husband. Oh, hi there. Merry Christmas, Honey, and Happy New Year…uh, what year is it?”
Okay, so I’m exaggerating. Still, I’m not that far off track. This past holiday season has got me contemplating what our lives are all about, and they sure aren't about us. Oh, sure. We could cling desperately to our children, begging them not to leave us. The soft-hearted ones would probably give in to our neediness and the strong-hearted ones likely would run faster in rebellion (that goes for our spiritual children, too, by the way). In the end, we’d only be dead weight working against the fulfillment of God’s will.
Isn’t this the way it’s supposed to be with everything in our lives? We’re not here for our own good; we never were nor will we ever be. We’re here for God’s greater good and to be instruments in his hands, holy stewards of all that he has created. That includes our possessions, our work, our creative endeavors, and the people in our lives. Everything we hold onto is meant to be let go. Along the way, we have the profound privilege to be his children and to benefit from his love and mercy. In the end, we get it all back again – transformed and beautiful. All that, and more.
Jesus promised us this, and St. Paul assured us of it in his Letter to the Colossians:
“Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ” (Col 3:23-24).
As bosses, leaders, co-workers, neighbors, friends, family members, spouses and, yes, even as parents, we’re called to serve the Lord. Of course we serve our children in that we give them our love, nurturing, guidance, affection, security, protection, education, material necessities, support, and prayers. However, we work heartily, as St. Paul puts it, for God’s sake – we serve him in and through the situations and people in our lives. We serve, and then let go, knowing our reward lies in heaven, not here on earth.
So when we’re old and crotchety, teetering back and forth on our rocking chairs and sipping away at our mugs of hot chocolate, we can think back on all the wonderful moments God has given us and all incredible opportunities we’ve had to be part of his plan, grateful and content in knowing that we’ve worked heartily and served the Lord.