“I know;” a moment’s pause and then, “we have to let them go.”
My bride was responding to my wistful comment, “I miss our kids.”
It was one o’clock in the afternoon and we had been driving since 5 AM. The occasion was the last day of a 30thanniversary celebration vacation in New England. It had been a relaxing, enjoyable time visiting Vermont and Maine and basking in the glow of my wife’s smile, connecting with a trusted friend, briefly visiting with my youngest brother and otherwise just basking in “relax”. We stayed in three Bed and Breakfast places, met some fun people, bragged about our kids and grandkids, held hands and walked, hiked some mountain trails, ate good food and had some beautiful locations the majesty hand of our Creators hand.
We also celebrated the release of my son’s new book, Captain Tomahawk and the Sky-Lion and lots of time to give thanks to God for all our children and the joy they have brought us.
There was nothing about the time I didn’t enjoy, including the long drives at the front and back ends of the trip.
But now we were at a rest stop in Indiana, two hours from home. Stretching our legs, we walked the loop of the sidewalk and suddenly, I recognized the place. We had stopped at this same rest stop years before with three children in tow and walked this same loop when they were much younger.
That’s when it hit.
A wave of longing and love and nostalgia and heartache that filled my chest with a sigh and my eyes with water and my mouth with those four words:
“I miss our kids.”
Because she knows my heart, my bride of 30 years said,
“I know; . . . we have to let them go. That’s the way it is. They need to leave us and move on.”
“I know;” [now it was my turn to pause,] “that doesn’t mean I can’t long for more.”
“We didn’t see our parents either. Maybe once a year,” she said.
I had to think about that. It was true of course. I went to college at 18 and never lived at “home” again for more than two months. At 24, I moved nearly 3,000 miles to southern California from the gentle hills of eastern Pennsylvania and never again spent more than a week at “home” in Pennsylvania. Check that. I did stay in the mountains of Pennsylvania for a month writing and thinking and praying while on a sabbatical one year about a dozen years ago.
Mom and Dad, who live with Jesus now (thank you God for them and for saving them) never moved further than 10 miles away from my childhood home, a place so filled with thick and pleasant memories for me that even two-day visits to the area include at least a drive through of the old neighborhood. I’m a sentimental nostalgic fool. I love my family. My brothers and sisters are treasures. My high school friends hold a special place in my heart. I pray for them often and try to keep in touch with them as much as I can.
Maybe it’s because I am getting older. Maybe it is because I’m a sentimental fool. Maybe it was because I was tired. Or maybe, it’s because God wanted to teach me something.
Something about longing and contentment.
Something about regret and hopes.
Something about idolatry and worship.
Something about . . . something about something I can’t quite put my finger on, or my mind around.
Maybe it is something about resilience. Like moss on a rock at low tide. For approximately 18 hours a day the rock pictured here is underwater from just a few inches to about 10 feet of saltwater.
But it survives.
Despite all that must be overcome, it continues. It finds a way to thrive.
Sometimes, I feel like that. The weight that I carry in leading a church in the midst of a dying culture, the burden of leading a staff team against the backdrop of all my weaknesses and idiosyncrasies (and their’s, I suppose), the work yet to be done on the doctoral studies, … the next message to prepare and preach, the next ministry challenge for the church. I need to find a way to thrive and to help those in my care to thrive, no matter what is going on around me.
And I need to be content. Even while I long for more.
Maybe that’s the “something”?
Maybe missing my kids in the midst of all the joys, and blessings, and demands of life, is God whispering to my spirit that he wants me to long for the more that is Him while I remain content with the challenges and transitions of life.
I think I’m a very slow learner.