One of the blessings of moving back to Michigan has been the chance to reunite with people we hadn’t seen in a long time, or at least hadn’t seen as often as we would’ve liked to for a long time.
When we lived in St. Louis, a trip to see our parents, any of our parents, took thoughtful planning, time off from work, and lots of time in the car. Now that we are in Michigan, we can be with parents in as little as 2, 3, or 4 hours. Any of those trips can be done at the drop of a hat. And often, when we visit our parents, we get to see siblings as well. In fact, we have four siblings living in Michigan, plus five nephews and their families and two nieces! In the past year we have been able to attend birthday celebrations, family reunions, and informal gatherings with all of them! We’ve also been able to visit with aunts, uncles, and cousins on many occasions. After ten years in another state, we are truly enjoying the ability to see our family so frequently.
Additionally, we have been able to reunite with friends. Proximity has allowed us the privilege of seeing friends we hadn’t seen for, in some cases, as many as twenty years or more! Several months ago, my husband preached at the church where we were married — there we saw friends who remembered us from when we were dating. Some of them had actually helped us with the details of our wedding. A few weeks ago, my husband participated in the wedding of a young man who was part of the congregation where we served before moving to St. Louis. Last month, we attended my high school homecoming festivities and laughed with friends I have known most of my life. Just two weeks ago some old friends brought their son for a campus visit and ended up joining us for dinner. Even after a year of living in Michigan, I keep getting pleasantly surprised by seeing people I haven’t seen in years.
You know, I don’t remember being so happy to see these people before I couldn’t see them whenever I wanted to. When I was around them every day, I’m sure that I took their presence for granted. I know that I brushed people off, moved past them in haste, and was even annoyed by them fairly regularly. But after having been away for so long, every reunion — yes, every reunion — is filled with smiles, hugs, joy, and gratitude.
This past weekend, my sister, who lives in Texas, flew into Detroit, picked me up, and drove me to our mother’s house. There, our brothers joined us for a weekend of eating, laughing, and casually hanging out together. We didn’t go to any events. We had no milestone to celebrate. We just had time to sit together. We poked fun at one another. We hugged each other. We shared stories to make one another laugh. We were impressed with one another. We enjoyed one another.
When I was a little girl, I would sometimes lay in bed at night and think about heaven. I think since I said my prayers in bed, I was under the assumption that God lived in my bedroom. So, when my prayers were finished I would often think about what would happen when I die. Little-girl-me often got very scared — what if I didn’t like it there? what if all we did was sing and worship? forever is a very long time! I would get myself totally terrified of the unknown and be afraid to fall asleep.
Sometimes still today I think about heaven and I get a little worried. It’s still unknown territory, isn’t it? But all the reunions of the past year, including the one that I just finished this weekend, make me picture that heaven is going to be one big reunion. I will see my great grandmother who probably is in charge of one wing of a particular mansion. She’s got it spotlessly clean — the beds are made with freshly pressed 100% cotton sheets, and the smell of freshly baked cookies is wafting through the hallways. I’ll see my grandfather who is very happy to be singing in four different choirs in between coffee and donut sessions with all of his friends. My grandmother will probably greet me, unassumingly, at the gates. She’ll smile her sweet smile, hug me, and ask what she can get for me. I’m pretty sure I’ll find my friend John telling colorful stories to his buddies. Twila will be buzzing around, smiling, laughing, and looking into the eyes of everyone in her path. My dear friend, Win, will look over her glasses at me and utter sarcastically, “What took you so long?”
There will be so. much. hugging. And smiling. And laughing.
And I haven’t even mentioned the reunion that I will have with Christ. Although I haven’t me Him face to face, I know I will know Him the minute I see Him. He’ll be the one running to meet me, arms outstretched, smile wide, eyes sparkling. He will wrap me in His arms, and all my childhood (and adulthood) fears will fall away. The tears will be wiped from my eyes.
That doesn’t sound scary at all.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.