Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Missing the Presence of a Friend
The last week has been such a blessing to me. Best friend Heather Tipton came and spent Thanksgiving with me and my family. Little did I realize the week would turn into a vacation—a much needed vacation—for me as well. We ate turkey together, bought a Christmas tree, and transformed our home from a cozy fall decor to full blown Christmas red and green. I loved sharing all of it with her. I loved sharing my family with her. I loved sharing details of my life with her. And we laughed—a lot.
Today she went home, and I'm keenly feeling her absence. Amazing how we can be comforted by the presence of another. I read again recently about the disciples after the death of Christ and it suddenly struck me how bereft they must have felt at the loss of their Rabbi and friend. They'd spent three years with Jesus.
Three years of sharing a common goal. Three years of learning at his feet. Three years of friendship with the greatest friend of all. Then in one day, He was gone. As far as the disciples could see, they'd lost their best friend, their teacher, their mentor...their hope.
I know the gap I feel at this moment, yet its poignancy is diminised in knowing I can talk to my friend on the phone, that I will see her next year sometime (I better!), that she's alive and well—just not here. I can barely imagine the grief these men experienced. The huge (and I mean HUGE) gap left by Christ's presence.
No wonder they went back to what they knew. Their grief had to be enormous. They did the only thing they could at that moment. Fish. (see John 21:3) The comfort of the known—no matter how miniscule—undoubtedly was the only thing keeping them from overwhelming despair. I can imagine Peter's thoughts as he returned to the familiar. His hands doing what they'd long remembered. The feel of the roping, the flexing of muscle as he tossed the net over the side. The pull of the water, the repetive motion as he sent the empty net back to the deep. Did he notice he caught nothing? Did he care?
I can imagine his thoughts. Had the last three years meant nothing? Had he been deceived? What did he do now? And I can imagine the enemy feeding these desparaging moments with hopeless thoughts of failure and waste. Just as he labored in vain to catch fish, Peter's thoughts could have turned to seeing his life as a labor in vain as well. He'd lost everything.
And in the midst of their pain and despair, Christ appeared to them—real and alive. In his third appearance to the disciples, He proved his presence as He prepared breakfast and dined with them (implied). He'd leave no doubts in the minds of his disciples that He was present just as He'd always been. Yet now the circumstances had changed. After Pentecost, Christ would be with them forever and always. Not as they had come to expect, but indwelt and filled with the presence of the one they'd come to so revere. No matter where they went, Christ would be with them always. Time and distance no longer had any relevance. Nor did death.
I can't imagine my life without my friends. Especially those closest to me. And I especially can't imagine my life without Christ. The thought is almost inconceivable. The more I learn of him, the more I hunger to know and love him better.
Distance may separate us from our friends, but the bond is still there, however tenuous. And just as sin once separated us from God, Jesus became our bond. And He's always, always, right there with us.