So many thoughts in my head this morning. It’s like I can see words swirling all around inside of my brain and the one that sticks out the most is hope.
Now, as one who has been tossed about in the sea of depression on and off for most of life, hope is the flotation device that I cling to. When hope gets submerged, I start to sink.
Had enough of my analogy? Ok, I will leave it alone for a moment.
Why am I thinking about hope this morning? I’m not entirely sure, so let’s look back over the last couple of days. Let’s have a little Story time with Mrs. Rathje.
On Friday afternoon, my husband and I drove to my hometown in the ‘geographical center of lower Michigan’ to attend the homecoming parade and football game. We parked the car behind a shop at one end of the main drag and walked through a swarm (ok, it’s a small town, but for St. Louis, Michigan, it was a swarm) of people toward the restaurant/bar where some of my high school classmates had planned to meet. When I was in high school, I thought I knew everybody in this town of 4,000 people, but walking through the crowd, I didn’t recognize anyone. In fact, I told my husband that my fear was that someone would recognize me and I would not recognize them at all. I mean, I did graduate (gasp) thirty years ago. But before I knew it, I saw a face I recognized. I said his name, and he immediately hugged me. I said, “I’m Kristin Rathje, I mean Kristin Kolb!” He said, “I know who you are!”
Isn’t that something? This guy and I weren’t best friends in school. We really didn’t even run in the same circle, but we knew each other. We went to middle school and high school together. We had a shared experience, and those words, “I know who you are!” were so powerful to me.
As I left his embrace and turned to enter the bar, another former classmate stepped through the door and said, “Hey, that’s who I was looking for!” He hugged me, too, introduced me to his kids, and chatted for a few moments. Guys, I had not seen this man in thirty years and he was looking for me!
Now let’s take a little trip back in time and meet high school aged Kristin. I was voted ‘moodiest’ for the yearbook superlatives. No, I am not kidding. I was on an emotional roller coaster most of my childhood and even into adulthood. I was grasping through most of those years at hope, but it was eluding me. I could see it bobbing in the distance, and I was reaching for it, but I just couldn’t grasp it. So, what did I do? I flailed about, grasping at other things, and yelled when I couldn’t reach them, or when they let me down. I was not entirely pleasant to be around. I was demanding, emotional, and unpredictable.
So, why, on Friday night, did I meet so many people who were willing to hug me? to smile? to welcome me?
We were watching the parade and one of my best buddies from high school snuck up behind me like he always did in high school and tried to startle me! Just like old times! We hugged, he pointed out the children of school mates in the parade, and made me laugh. Later, my best friend from high school and her best guy, also a classmate, joined us. It was one reunion after another. With a dozen or more of us around a table, I didn’t stop smiling for hours.
It was like their memories were clouded and they didn’t remember the bad stuff. They only remembered the good. They didn’t remember my bad days, they remembered our connection, our relationship, our shared experience. No matter how long it had been, I belonged.
This morning I was reading my Bible study, and we were focused on I Thessalonians 4:13 where Paul says, “we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” Now, I realize that Paul was talking about people who have died, ‘those who are asleep’, and that is not lost on me since my good friend, Twila, finished her fight with cancer last week. I am grieving because she is no longer here, and because I haven’t seen her in so long, and because I didn’t get to properly tell her how much she meant to me. But, I do have hope. I am confident that Twila was reunited with Jesus, and her parents, and all the hospice patients that she cared for. I am confident that she walked through the swarm only to be embraced by friends she hadn’t seen in years who said, “I know who you are!” or “That’s who I was looking for!” They didn’t remember any human shortcoming or flaw, they just knew she belonged.
And I know that one day, after many more earthly reunions with those who I have connected with throughout my life, I too, will find my way through the crowds of heaven to be embraced by my grandparents, Twila, and Jesus. They will say, “We’ve been waiting for you to get here.”
Thanks to my St. Louis High School classmates for giving me a taste of that this weekend. It gave me a tangible picture of hope and reminded me of how blessed I am.
How blessed is [s]he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God.