Last week our nation paused as families gathered together to fellowship and give thanks to God. Our family was no different. My family joined my brothers and their families in the home of my parents for a time of feasting and fellowship. My brothers do not often see each other so the time of fellowship is also a time to get reacquainted with families; the year passes and babies become toddlers, children grow and change, teens grow into young adults, and adults – both young and old alike – grow older and hopefully wiser. The holiday is a time to share in one another’s trials and rejoice in their victories. It is a time to talk about the things the Lord is doing in our lives and in our hearts.
In our family we take this opportunity to not only pause and thank the Lord for the freedoms we enjoy in our country, but we pause before our meal to take communion together and remember the body and the blood that was shed so that we could have true freedom. To come together as both family and believers makes the time spent together in fellowship truly sweet.
However, there is also a bitter sweetness in our hearts as the absence of those not with us is felt more deeply when all are gathered together in one place. We long for the one who, due to circumstance, is not able to make it home, and in the midst of our joyful fellowship there is an absence and an emptiness left by those who are no longer with us.
As I watch my nephews and my own children grow into young adults, I envision Justin still among us. When I think about the handicapped son whose body heaved with each breath, unable to sit up straight or feed himself, unable to communicate his wants, needs or pain and the memory of his suffering, I am filled with a suffocating sorrow and I would never wish to return to those days. But also I remember the little boy who could run and play with red hair and smiling blue eyes, and I try to picture how he would look as a young man of 24 with wavy dark auburn hair and probably close to the same size and body build as his younger brothers.
Such thoughts along with the joyful fellowship of family make me wonder what it will be like when we all meet again in paradise. I know I am not alone in these thoughts as many of our old hymns and gospel songs are written about that joyful reunion.
However, I think it was C.S. Lewis who wrote about longing for heaven because we are longing for those we miss, and he said that our longing for our Father, for Christ who purchased us with this blood, should be so strong that it overshadows all else. We should long for God so much that there is no room in our hearts for other longing.
Oh Father, fill my heart with a longing for you that is so strong that I long for none other. Help me as I walk this earth to follow so hard and so fully after you that the passage from this life into the next is merely another step towards you.