(Originally published 6/27/16)
After almost three years in Texas I have found a Saturday morning running group that meets relatively close to where we live and runs through a nice area, with small-town charm, finishing at a sweet little coffee shop. Among these folks I can talk easily about various things that runners talk about without getting blank stares or being mistaken for a show-off. I am, after all, the slowest person out there each Saturday to run the four-mile loop, but I can converse knowledgeably about running gear, various races, and the pros and cons of pre-run breakfast choices. Runners don’t care if you are fast or slow; they are a friendly and welcoming bunch. When we are standing around afterwards, sweating profusely, having covered the same pavement and been cheered in to the finish by those who arrived first, we have that much in common, and it’s enough. I belong.
And yet, this past Saturday, after I finished, purchased my post-run iced-Chai latte, and pulled up a chair to join the group, I sat in a tiny island of isolation.
*Note: This post is intended to be read without the “Pity-Party” filter. Should you be reading this in “Pity-Party,” please exit the blog, close “Pity-Party,” and restart the blog in “Reporting the Facts” mode. Thank you*
A little background information may be helpful at this point. I am an Extroverted Introvert. In my case, this means that while I am perfectly happy for the most part to be alone and I cherish only a few, but deep, close friendships, I do enjoy being around people on occasion and may at times appear to be rather extroverted. This usually isn’t an act for me, it is genuine,… when it’s genuine. There are times though, when I must be with a crowd, that I am merely acting the part. I have learned that carrying a camera can be a wonderful cover at those times, so that I have something behind which I can hide while still appearing to interact. To quote private detective Adrian Monk, “It’s a blessing,… and a curse.”
So, back to Saturday. Having no camera behind which to hide, chair placement came to my aid. I didn’t realize as I did it, initially, but I managed to cleverly seat myself exactly between two different conversations. So while I could listen and smile and nod with each of them, I contributed nothing. I was able to cool down, finish my Chai, and relax with the group, all without expending the energy to participate in conversation. So, really, I sort of didn’t belong for that bit of the morning.
See, my heart and mind were hundreds of miles away.
Saturday was the day that, back in Pennsylvania, family and friends from across the country were gathering to celebrate the marriage of two dear children, now grown. My daughter Kate was going, but we had declined our invitation, since the travel was too much for us at this time. I had been watching Facebook as the excitement built all week and cousins were arriving in PA. It was neat to get a glimpse from this distance, but that was all it was, a glimpse.
Sitting in Cibolo, Texas, among this group with whom I have one thing in common, it would have been fruitless to smile and say, “How about those Nelsons? So exciting, right?!” We don’t have this family in common, so the distant wedding celebration held no joy for them the way it did for me.
As the day progressed and I checked Facebook periodically for photos of the celebration, I realized that the person I was longing most to see was not the focus for most of the photographers at the event. I was blessed to see many pictures of the precious bride and groom, both of them absolutely glowing with joy, radiant with love—their own and the love of the family and friends around them.
But, I was looking for photos of my daughter.
My sweet girl lives hundreds of miles away, and our phone conversations once a week are delightful. Now and then she shoots me a photo through a text or even on Facebook, but she’s not the continuous-selfie type, (which is fine by me) so I don’t see her face as often as I’d like. I realized as I trolled through the various pics that I was searching for my girl, surrounded by family who love her, smiling, laughing, and enjoying herself.
Finally, (FINALLY!) near the end of the evening, a cousin sent me a video of her on the dance floor, clearly enjoying herself with her endearingly goofy moves. Jim and Isaac sat with me as we watched it over and again. I sent it to a friend who also loves my Kate and she delighted in the video with me. I watched it many times that evening and the next day, trying by imagination to insert myself into the party.
My heart was longing for a glimpse of one of my favorite people on the planet, far from home, dearly beloved and cherished by me.
It occurs to me that this is precisely the situation that I find described in Scripture for Believers in Christ.
As Christians, this world is not our home. Peter calls us sojourners and exiles, and our life in this world he calls the time of our exile. While it may be familiar, we can’t be entirely comfortable here and now, because, “our citizenship is in Heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20) We are far from home.
Yet, though we are exiles, we are not merely aimless wanderers because we are, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for (God’s) own possession”
And what did I do, indeed, what did any Believer do to join this chosen race/ royal priesthood/ holy nation? Not a thing! For,
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you…” (1 Peter 1:3-4)
God himself caused me to be born again into this hope. So my ultimate longing, the longing which goes deeper than that for the sight of a familiar, dearly loved face, has real substance, a “living hope,” the resurrected Christ! And there are promised blessings which are secured for me against a future day, which date I do not know, but is certain even still. My Savior will call me to himself on that day, and then, at last, I will behold him face to face, and I will know him, because,
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and full of glory….” (1 Peter 1:8)
In the meantime, I will suffer gladly my periodic social awkwardness, knowing that this world is not my home, because I don’t fully belong here, even though I have much in common with many folks. But in my re-birth I have had a glimpse of glory, merely a glimpse. There is coming a day when my longing will be fulfilled in a manner beyond that which my imagination can comprehend. And on that day, my friend, Believers in Christ will celebrate at The Wedding Feast, given for us, who are dearly beloved and cherished by our Lord, absolutely glowing with magnificent joy and radiant love.