They never told me why the empty nest hurts so badly. If I had had any imagination I would have known for myself: When there was still a bird or two in the roost, you were busy and needed and distracted from thinking too much about the one that is flown.
I also understand now the expression "having your heart in your throat." I am swallowing a lot these days, and the act feels like pushing my heart back down from my gullet to my chest where it belongs.
My other three children all left rather gradually, so it was different. They seemed to be going somewhere just for a week or two-hitchhiking in Costa Rica, staying in a friend's apartment-so that I didn't realize that what I was seeing was actually the end. It's like when we were teenagers getting our driver's license and first driving off in a car: We didn't know that on that very day our bike-riding days with our friends were finished, for all practical purposes.
God was an "empty nester" for 33 years, too. One doesn't tend to think of that aspect of the Trinity's suffering, but I get a sense of a quivering lip in the account where God talks to Abraham about his son:
"Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love …" (Genesis 22:2).
Jesus was in touch with the Father always during His consensual separation among the earthlings, of course. But no one is pretending that it was the same kind of being in touch with the Father as He enjoyed in heaven:
"… while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:6).
It was part of the overall deprivation and emptying (Philippians 2) and laying aside the perquisites of heaven that He willingly experienced for our sakes. He had to sometimes get away from it all to seek the sweet presence of his Father alone while His disciples slept. But no one ever talks about the Father's own deprivation and His own broken heart. When Jesus said to the 12 before he left:
"I am ascending to my Father" (John 20:17).
As great as was His eagerness to rejoin the Father, I cannot imagine it was greater than the Father's.