A mother’s lesson on letting go

Published 8:30 pm Friday, April 22, 2011

My friend called in a panic the other day.

She’d been watching a mother bird and her three babies outside the kitchen window for more than week.

Only days before, the eggs that rested in the nest had hatched, and she’d watched as the Mama Bird tirelessly brought food back to the squawking, hungry little creatures.

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“But this morning, when I looked out the window, two of them were gone. Just gone,” she said, her voice rising to a fever pitch.

“I ran outside to see if they’d fallen from the nest and they weren’t on the ground. I guess they flew away.”

It is, after all what birds do, I told her.

“But no, they weren’t ready,” she protested. “They just weren’t ready.”

To make matters worse, the Mama Bird was squawking and jibbering at the final fledgling in her nest. “She was pushing him out, yelling at him.”

My friend was yelling too. “I kept yelling at that bird, telling her that baby wasn’t ready yet. But she kept pushing him out.”

And with tears welling in her eyes, my friend’s voice broke.

“It just made me think of my own children.”

Now, my friend is the mother of triplets. And in that early morning encounter with the birds outside her window, she found an allegory for her own children who are newly minted teenagers. Two strong, adventurers will leave the nest one day, perhaps sooner than she is ready to face, to head to college, careers, to the world ahead. Her third child, a loving and thoughtful son, says he plans to live at home, until further notice.

“I’m going to be pushing him out of the nest,” she said through her tears. “I’m just not ready for all of this.”

But are we ever really ready as parents? We embark on parenthood naively thinking we know what lies ahead; and we never really do. We face bumps and bruises, heartaches and pains, all the while knowing that our ultimate responsibility is to nurture and build up, so that we can send our children out into the world.

Certainly that Mama Bird understood her responsibility.

I’ve pondered parenthood in the past 40 days, as we’ve moved through the season of Lent to its culmination this weekend – parenthood from the perspective of Mary, mother of Jesus.

Surely, Mary wasn’t ready for what would lie ahead when she was told by an angel that she would become the mother of God. And surely, she loved Jesus as both her son and as her God.

Yet, she was foremost his mother. And even though Simeon had warned her many years before that a sword would pierce her heart, could she have been prepared for the pain that she must have endured watching her innocent son beaten, mocked and crucified? How could anyone prepare for that, or endure it, without grace given by God and without a deep and immense love?

I read once that having children is like watching your heart walk around outside your body, and it’s probably the most apt description I’ve ever heard. I wonder if Mary knew, like that Mama Bird, that her role was to let go, not hold on.

Mary had to let go of her son, to allow Jesus to take up His cross and fulfill His purpose, so that we would have the opportunity to gain life over death and eternal grace and forgiveness.

It is His gift to us that we celebrate this Easter weekend. And it is truly the greatest gift of all.

Stacy Graning is publisher of The Messenger. Email her at stacy.graning@troymessenger.com