By Rondi Lauterbach
Our nest is empty. The last child flew the coop on her wedding day almost four years ago, even though we got a little practice when our youngest went off to college.
After we had moved her into the dorm, I remember wandering around our empty house with the vague sense that I should be doing something. Laundry? Caught up. Errands? The list is shorter now. Start dinner? Why? Who cares?
Wait. I still have a husband to feed.
Leading to my first conscious decision after the last child moved out. My husband should benefit. It was finally his turn!
Now where did that friendship go?
Often many couples struggle with what to do with each other when their nest is finally empty. Years of tending to children can make even the best of friends forget why they became friends (or married) in the first place. Thankfully, our marriage began with friendship. Friends choose each other. It’s completely voluntary. They actually like to spend time together because they like the same things and they like each other. Friendship love is a great foundation for marriage.
When we began having children, our marriage incorporated. We needed more structure to handle the increased workload. Biblical roles of leadership and submission moved from theoretical to practical as we got organized for the task of raising our brood. Our friendship had morphed into a partnership. We now had a purpose bigger than ourselves.
It felt like our sense of purpose left the day our youngest child departed, and we were left wondering where we had put that friendship.
Old friends, new purpose
The day the kids leave is a great time to learn that marriage is more than roles, and roles are more than tasks. Mark and I began to realize that if you reduce marriage to roles and roles to tasks, you lose something important—you lose the glory of friendship, the love at the center of marriage. Namely, marriage amounts to far more than just getting the daily responsibilities done within a gender specific framework. It’s about a friendship, too.
For us, we realized that we were so busy raising the children, and were left wondering, are we just going to become busy doing something else? Or are we going to rediscover what it means to be friends? Nurturing our friendship turned out to be a lot of fun. Here are just a few of the things we did to rekindle the friendship that was the foundation of our marriage.
Love never fails
Every project is eventually completed or set aside—except one. The project of helping each other become more like Christ lasts until one of us crosses the finish line. This is the ultimate purpose of our covenant friendship.
Today our kids are grown. Someday our marriage will end. The day we step into eternity, we won’t be married anymore. We’ll hunt for each other and then we’ll gasp, “You? Like this? That’s what I’d always hoped!
And we’ll still be friends.
This is the vision I want to pass on to the younger women in my life. Friendship is an important, and necessary, part of every Christian marriage. It must be nurtured even in the busy years of raising children. And when they leave, like God intended them to do, it must be rekindled and cultivated once again. Marriage is a joyous work that God intends to use to make us more like Christ whether your nest is empty or full.
Rondi entered the Ivy League full of personal ambition and left under a new Master. Her passion is to help women see Jesus in the Word and be nourished by him. She has been a pastor’s wife for over thirty years, a mother of three for even longer, and now a very happy grandmother. Rondi and her husband Mark live in San Diego where she blogs at feastingonchrist.com
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