“Do I really have to go to the cookie swap?” I complained to my friend Jordan. He laughed and I shook my head. In many ways, I am starting over relationally. Life has been about saying goodbye and starting over. Mostly due to the fact that I worked with college students for 17 years and that’s the nature of the job. “Hello” and “Goodbye” became the norm. New staff teams, new students, new summer missions teams, new summer missions students and then goodbye. Rinse and repeat. College, grad school, deaths, church – hello, goodbye.
I want permanence. Anyone?
Last week I was in England with a group of missionaries serving all over Europe. We wrestled with the theme of Home and Away (thanks to Pastor Craig Brown for the language). This is not my Home. I am living in the Away. In the Away I keep longing for things of Home. Permanence, conflict-free relationships, conversations that touch the soul in ways that matter, no cancer, desires to be fulfilled, the perfect body, struggle-free life and a person who is waiting on me at the end of the day. Instead, in this Away, I have conflict in my relationships, struggles, sin which reveals my strong commitment to myself and no person waiting at the end of the day. However, if I stopped writing it would not accurately portray what is deeper, it would just be a sad short story with no compelling plot. The fact that God is changing my perspective and heart about these things feels miraculous. Instead of fighting them so hard, I am learning to see that He is in it all, using it all.
He’s pointing me Home.
Each year the Holy Spirit highlights a Christmas carol for me that I cannot quit listening to and pondering. This year it is Leslie Odom’s version of The First Noel. I imagine what it must have been like to be a shepherd the night Jesus was born. There had been 400 years of silence and waiting on a Savior. Imagine you are lying in a field at night wrestling with life in the Away. All your desires, frustrations, weariness, hurt, sickness, and questions are interrupted by an angel of the Lord. “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
3 groups of words stand out to me:
FOR UNTO YOU (That means YOU too)
THIS DAY (Finally)
A SAVIOR (We need a Savior)
The Chief Shepherd was born. He left Home and came to the Away.
Jesus knows about the Away. He knows suffering, death, singleness, relational conflict, disappointment, sadness, and the longing to do the will of the Father.
Jesus also knows and holds the promise of Home. He has been there and is there and He is in us through the promised Holy Spirit. We see glimpses of Home here in the Away and for that I am grateful. My prayer for all you readers is for God to help us live here in the Away. Help us as we go to cookie swaps, mourn, dance at weddings, take communion next to people we would rather punch (thank you, Brene Brown), and as we learn what it is to love.
Lead us Home, Jesus.
The First Noel the angel did say was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay
In fields as they lay keeping their sheep on a cold winters night that was so deep
Born is the King of Israel
They all looked up and saw a star shining in the east beyond them far
And to the earth it gave great light and so it continued both day and by night
Born is the King of Israel