Our Last Child Leaves Home

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Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Our last child — our only daughter, our only adopted one — just graduated from high school. As you may imagine, this is a time for reflection. We have had children in our home — in our marriage — for 42 years. Now, in a matter of weeks, we will not. That is massive.

The last time I lived with my wife without children was in Germany in the middle of graduate studies. Noël was 24. I was 26. Now I am 68. We are not the same people. We have never lived alone with each other as the people we have become. Now we will.

Great Promises for Tomorrow

Perhaps I will write about it someday, and tell you how it’s going. I believe with all my heart in the all-sufficiency of future grace. I wrote a book about it to get myself ready. Beyond all doubt there will be grace perfectly designed for sixty-something, first-time empty-nesters.

  • “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)
  • “The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials.” (2 Peter 2:9)
  • “They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock.” (Psalms 92:14–15)

With promises like these, my expectations are high. Who knows? We may revert to our mid-twenties just to “find ourselves.” Sweet.

But that is not what this post is about. When I said, “this is a time for reflection,” I meant reflection about this one last, leaving, female, adopted child — now become a woman. Her name is Talitha because she was raised up and given to us as if from the dead when she was eight weeks old. “Talitha cumi . . . Little girl, I say to you, arise” (Mark 5:41).

It is a great danger in your sixties to lapse into excessive nostalgia — excessive living in the past. But shame on us, at any age, if we do not remember the past grace of God and recount the deeds of the Lord.

I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. (Psalms 77:11–12)

Remember and Dream

All of you will come to turning points in your lives that call for reflection on the past works of God. Thousands of students are graduating this month. It is a moment to pause and remember, as well as dream. For both students and parents. I encourage you to sit alone, take a pencil, and start jotting notes about God’s faithfulness. The very jotting will jolt your memory. You will be glad you did.

May I open a small window on my meditations at Talitha’s finishing high school? It might stir you up to do your own remembering. I wrote this for her graduation, and read it to her at her graduation party. That is, I tried to read it, but made quite the blubbering mess of it, what with emotion and allergies. But she was gracious and thanked me anyway. May God set you to reflecting as you read (or listen).

For Talitha
On Her Graduation from High School
May, 2014 

Beneath the sanctuary
   of the now-demolished church,
just outside the conference room,
opposite the boiler,
   that almost sent our loved custodian to heaven,
      but only burned his hair,
in the confluence of halls
   carpeted with threadbare, brownish orange,
beside the trophy shelf
   testifying to a once great softball church,
after supper,
with Abraham pacing back and forth,
and Barnabas sitting on the carpet-colored couch,
and Noël standing by the plastic plants
   growing in the church library window,
      as if pregnant with a dream,
and I, waiting,
   as a child on Christmas eve,

you appeared

   folded like a doll, motionless,
      in Phoebe’s angel arms,
         wearing a frilly white Easter dress
             in December,
awake and watching,
   peaceful, loved,
with hair like midnight gossamer,
   or baby chicks before the feathers grow,
and eyes so dark and wide
   as if your roots went down a thousand years
             into America,
and fingers, long and thin,
   as if destined for piano or the violin,
      or, perhaps, a ring,
and ears exquisite by the hand of God,
   and waiting for a thousand nights
      to hear your father’s lullaby:

        Come, rest your head, and nestle gently
           And do not fear the dark of night.
        Almighty God keeps watch intently,
           And guards your life with all his might.
        Doubt not his love nor power to keep.
           He never fails nor does he sleep.

a mind alert, alive,
   ready to be loved,
      ready to learn ten thousand things
         about the world,
a heart tender, ready to believe, chosen,
   waiting for the well-timed call,
a will forged for steady work,
   ready to stay with every task
      till it is done.

And now another task is done,
and we will send you out amazed,
   for surely, surely, it was yesterday
      when you arrived.

But while we live
   we will not cease to pray,
      nor cease to thank our God
         that he would give us such a gift.

Family photo of John, Talitha, and Noel Piper with mountains in the background