I emptied my nest early last week and then I spent the rest of the week cleaning it out. If you know me respectably well, you might be thinking, “Um, Wendy, you don’t have a nest.” Traditionally speaking, you’re right. But sometimes God gives people like me (single with no kids) a different kind of nest.
Late in 1999 I started graduate school with no good idea what it would mean or where it would go. I thought I was on a two-year adventure; I had no idea God had assembled a nest and put something in it. I carefully watched over what was growing there and nurtured it the best I could – unsure at many points what it was becoming. What it became was a PhD program that consumed the majority of my 30-something energies and challenged the tenacity of my 40-something perseverance.
In the waning hours of last weekend, I sent my fledgling dissertation out of the nest and on its way to the examining committee. I had officially done everything I could to make it ready. When it was gone, I swept up the mess it left behind – I spent the week sorting files, a process that generated lots of memories, piles of scrap paper, and three file drawers of things I very well may never look at again. All that’s left to do is wait and see if my fledgling will fly.
If you have flesh-and-blood children, my metaphor might sound overstated to you. Seriously, comparing a dissertation and a series of graduate degrees to children? Clearly I need a life. You’re probably right, but God marks out different races for each of us – and all we can do is run the one He puts before us with all the passion, strength, and humility we have. He didn’t happen to put “childrearing” in my race, but He did put “PhD” in it. I can’t say why He did this, but I can assure you it’s required intense devotion and dogged perseverance, and it’s generated its own kind of disappointments and even despair. From the beginning there have been no guarantees that it would turn out all right in the end (and, technically, it hasn’t yet).
And so my nest is empty. I’m glad and a bit sad all at the same time – after all, I have lived and breathed this life for twelve years. I’m not entirely sure what’s been going on outside my nest for so many years, and I expect it will take some time to get used to looking up and out instead of focusing on the growing thing in my nest. In this season of thanks I’m thankful for so much – not the least of which is the way that growing thing made me grow too.