We dropped our second born off at college today and my heart is hemorrhaging already. I’ve been through this before with our first born so you’d think it might be a little easier this time around. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I’m finding just the opposite is true. I know what’s coming this time. I know how quiet the house will be and how empty it will seem without him. I know how big our dining table will feel with only 3 of us sitting around it. I am all too familiar with the ache at night knowing he won’t be walking through my door anytime soon.
And here’s the thing. I know all the platitudes. I can recite them backwards and forwards. He will do great and there are amazing adventures ahead for him. This is exactly what I have hoped and prayed for. He is finding his place and his purpose and spreading his wings to soar. In fact, this journey to college has been nothing short of providential. The way God threw open doors to get him to this point is something I’ve rarely witnessed in my life. I asked God to prepare a place for him and God did that, and so much more. And after all, this is my job as a parent, is it not? My goal, as a mom, is to prepare him and launch him and celebrate him as he forges his own path.
All this is true. I don’t dispute that. But true doesn’t mean easy. And true certainly doesn’t mean painless. Today, as I drove away from him, my heart just hurt.
And what I really need right now, more than reminders of truth I already know, is to be seen. What I need is someone sitting with me, seeing my grieving heart and assuring me, not just that my son will be okay, but that I will be okay.
Mercifully, in this season of loss and change, there is a beautiful truth found in the interactions of Jesus. One of my very favorite things about my Savior is His dealings with women. In a culture where women lacked value and position, Jesus consistently, purposefully, and graciously recognizes them and redeems them. One such incident occurs in Luke 7.
“Soon afterward Jesus went to a city called Nain; and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd. Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her and said to her, ‘Do not go on weeping.’ And he came up and touch the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And he said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise!’ And the dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother.”
To best understand the full effect of Jesus’ actions and words, we need a bit of cultural background. While we’ve already established that women in this culture lacked any power or position, it’s important to know that any value or provision they did experience was entirely through men. Before marriage, a woman’s father brought worth and security to her. Once married, her husband took the mantle and cared for her, even bringing her to live in his familial home. After that, a woman’s value came through her sons, particularly if she was widowed. While she was eligible for remarriage, for an older woman, this would be unlikely, making a son’s role even more essential. It was understood that a widow’s sons were the ones to house, provide and care for her. Without this line of men stepping into a provisional role, a woman’s life was difficult at best.
So here we have a widow with only one adult son. And now her son has died. And she has nothing. Since all ownership and finances went through the men in her life, she has no wealth, no home, and no land. I can only imagine the depth of her grief when Jesus happened upon her. The loss of a son compounded by the loss of her value. The burial of a child along with the burial of her worth.
And then this simple but profound phrase in verse 13. “When the Lord saw her…”
There are a few different Greek words for see. Vlepo is a literal, physical seeing, the opposite of being blind. But the word used here is quite different. Luke chooses the word horao. Although we read the word in English as “see” or “saw”, the closer interpretation is “know” or “understand”. Horao is far more than looking with one’s eyes. It is perceiving spiritually or grasping the true meaning of something.
Jesus SAW her. He knew her. He understood her. He looked at her with his physical eyes but saw beyond her appearance to behold all of who she was. He knew her fears, perceived her loss and understood her grief. Gazing past the obvious, Jesus recognized every bit of heartache and every moment of raw, desperate anguish living under the surface. And seeing her, he had compassion on her.
Likewise, my Savior sees me. In this loneliness, in this sadness, I am seen and I am known. And during a season when everything seems hazy, that brings great comfort. It’s hard for me to see what’s around the corner. For over two decades my days and my purpose have been intrinsically linked to my children. Right now, I can’t see what’s next and I feel a bit lost and alone. But mostly, I’m just going to miss my son. I will miss the evening piano serenades and the midnight chat sessions. I will miss the renaming of our pets every other week. I will miss his comedic commentaries on spatulas and coffee mugs. I will miss his jokes, his laugh and his world’s best chocolate chip cookies. I will miss his presence and his heart.
This will take some time. And some tears. But through the uncertainty, I will rest in the gracious truth that my Savior sees me. That when I am the most vulnerable and the most broken, I am seen and I am known and my God has compassion on me.