Bridging the Gulf of Separation
Most of you have treasured relationships with not a few others; family and friends you want to be with if time and location were not such inveterate obstacles. Bridging the gulf of separation at times can be a challenge that seems insurmountable. We simply are not omnipresent beings, unrestricted by time and energy. But we often wish we could be, for we miss seeing children, grandchildren, parents or dear friends on a much more frequent basis. Not only are separate and distant locations hindrances, but the limitations of time and energy keep us even from those relatively “nearby. Unlike previous centuries we have modern “marvels like Facebook and smart-phones to keep in touch with many distant friends and family, but even with this remarkable, recent technology we cannot match the satisfaction of face to face, non-skyped interaction.
I just read the blog of a friend who was bemoaning being away from his young granddaughter for a month. Many have to endure separation for much longer periods, as soldiers who a year or longer at a time are away from wife, children, family and friends. Missionaries often are separated from loved ones for months, years, a lifetime, and before modern transportation their first goodbye was frequently their last. In our life experience we come to understand the nature of such reality, but we surely wish it were different and we yearn, like the Apostle Paul, for the time to get “caught up even while we bemoan the fact that we can’t recapture all we have missed in-between.
Paul’s letters are filled with references to his eager desire to be with many loved friends and family of the household of God. Paul was not married, but his children in the faith numbered in the thousands. Just to see them he had to brave long, arduous and dangerous trips by ship and on his own two legs; and then he had to part all too soon, knowing he might not see them again for a long time, if ever in this life. Such separation produced real pain and sorrow that pierced his heart and he wasn’t reticent in telling us about it in his epistles.
There are many illusions that keep our perspective and our hearts earth-bound. This should not be one of them. Paul’s vision of heaven was not so muddied as ours when it prompted him to say he desired to depart and be with Christ; for he was utterly convinced that this meant he would more quickly be reunited with what he called his joy and crown: his brothers and sisters and sons and daughters in the faith, for whose presence, but also for whose eternity he yearned. I do not know the specific nature of getting “caught up (as we so often say to one another) in heaven, or in recapturing the years of relationship and personal interaction missed on earth, but I am sure God has it well thought through. Timeless eternity removes the obstacle of time-bound fallen-earth, opening all kinds of imaginable and unimaginable interaction and relationship in the new heavens and new earth (more than we can ask or think!)
I doubt you or I are done bemoaning our separation from those we would love to be with so much more than is now possible. But every occasion of remembering and bemoaning their absence ought to be compelling reminders of what lies ahead, restoring and fulfilling what we think we missed. The very thought of those for whom Paul yearned compelled his prayers (night and day) and his actions to do all he was able, even at a distance, to supply what was lacking in their faith, to the end that they may be “established in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, with all his saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:9-13) Paul’s goal in writing this is that it might also be your personal mind-set every time the sorrow of absence strikes? You can make it so; and if you do, like Paul, your joy and crown will be greatly enlarged when The Day arrives and the shadows flee away.
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