Darn you, Little Debbie

Imagine the scene. I am walking down the aisles in the local Kroger, minding my own business. It is early September, many years ago, and I have ten thousand things running through my brain as I shop. “Get broccoli/what time is that meeting tomorrow/don’t forget cream cheese/need to work on my sermon tonight…and BAM. I am suddenly in the Little Debbie snack aisle, and my unconscious brain is chanting, “Oatmeal Creams for Jamie, Swiss Rolls for Sarah”.

I stop my cart to search for these items, and suddenly I am overwhelmed with a tidal wave of grief. I literally burst into tears as I realize that there are no kids at my house that require stocking up on school lunch items anymore. My youngest has just joined her sister at college, and I am….wait for it…..an EMPTY NESTER. Lord, I detest that label.

These life transitions for parents can be extraordinarily painful. The journey from preschool to Kindergarten, (oh my gosh, the bus with the big kids? NO!) then leaving the security of Elementary School for the wildness of Middle School, (Lord, have mercy!) through High School, (ride that river of denial!) to college, (which goes so fast, it actually lasts 2.3 months in mom-time) is hard.

Then they have the nerve to leave home forever to start a career, marry someone and live in another state…..had I fully understood that having children would be a series of letting go that gets harder each time, I might have just skipped over having kids and gone right to being a Nana. Oh, wait…

This time of year brings back all those tender ‘see-ya’s” and ‘come home soons’. I’m watching parents of seniors every Sunday as they move slowly into the reality of their impending September. It’s like watching a car wreck in slow motion. I see the impact coming, I want to warn them away, but I can’t stop looking, and I can’t do anything to help them.

And they are sitting on the same pew as a man who is desperately gripping the back of the pew in front of him, hoping to remain standing on the first Sunday in 61 years that his wife will no longer be sitting beside him. Across the aisle is a young mother soothing her two young children and wondering how in the world they will survive her husband’s sudden and abrupt departure from their marriage and their home. I see the woman behind her tearing up at the mention of losing a loved one; it is the seventh anniversary of her father’s death.

Everyone has lost someone. Life is a process of saying goodbye to places, things and people we love. Where can we go when our hearts are broken?

Psalm 147

The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
    he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars
    and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
    his understanding has no limit.

Sing to the Lord with grateful praise;
    make music to our God on the harp.

The Psalmist make a bold and life-sustaining claim that the God who ORDERED THE NUMBER OF STARS IN THE SKY sees your hurt and knows your pain.

What does that mean to you today? We are invited to take every wound to the Wounded Healer, Jesus. He will bind up those wounds and gather you up, no matter what exile or dessert you are walking through.

This may actually be the greatest power of the incarnation. By becoming human, God as Jesus walked the painful paths that we walk. He experienced hurt and his heart was also broken. He watched Judas, whom he loved, leave him, and then he left people he loved. He GETS IT. He GETS US. Glory to God, we are known and understood by our great and powerful God.

And parents of seniors, you’ll get through it. And soon enough it will be December, and they’ll be back, with a ton of stories, experiences, and laundry.

Photo by Brian Moore.

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