It's been quite the weekend. I just got back from a trip to Albuquerque NM with Caitlyn, Charlie, and Ryan. It was one of the best weekends I've had in a long time. We saw a whole lot of hot air balloons, sat in a car a lot, fell asleep in movies a lot, and all kinds of other things. And all those hours in the car (especially at night, when I wasn't allowed to drive because of my poor night vision) gave me time to think. So here's the fruit of that.
I've been thinking about missing people. Not people on the back of milk cartons, but how two people are separated for whatever reason, so the resulting emotion is that they miss one another, generally. Usually, we think of this as a negative thing. Whether it be a friend that moves away, a girlfriend that goes to college out of state, or a parent that dies, we miss those dear to us when they're not around. We know that things aren't as they're supposed to be. They're not as we would have them be.
Understandably, we don't like this. It's not fun to miss people. We want them to come back. And so what do we do? We try to fill up the vacuum created by their departure with something else that will distract us or make us feel better. We create a new relationship to take the place of the one that's been interrupted. We bury ourselves in music to drown out the silence. We sit comatose in front of a TV to keep our brain for focusing on what's missing. And to a point, I guess that's all useful, and necessary even. We obviously can't just wallow in pity because of changed relationships. But we shouldn't necessarily do whatever we can to keep these feelings away. Basically, we loathe the negative emotions that come with missing someone, so we do whatever we can to eliminate them.
Maybe we shouldn't run from "the missing feeling" the way that we do. Maybe it's good for us to miss people. Maybe it's an emotion that can can be used and should not be only avoided. Maybe God wants us to feel this in our guts. Maybe it can push us closer to him.
Do you miss God when you've wandered away from him? I mean, we freak out if we go two days without talking our sweetheart, but we don't even blink if we don't spend time with God for a month. When we miss a person, we often do what we can to fix it. We'll call each other or plan a trip to visit or whatever else. But when we don't spend time with God, and don't miss him, we just keep going as we are. I imagine he probably misses us during such times more than we can fathom. So if you have been distant from God, GET BACK TO HIM!
There's another way that I think how we miss people relates to how we miss God. Even if we are nurturing a close relationship with God in our everyday lives, there is a sense that things are not as they should be right now. Even though we can talk to God any time and we have the Spirit living within us, there's still more to come in a fuller sense. We can look forward to a day when we'll be face-to-face with God, and the gulf that exists between us, though bridged through Christ, will be erased completely. So while we're living here now, we should be missing God. Missing someone connotes a feeling of yearning. Our insides ache because we want so much to be with that other person. And that's how we should feel toward God.
I was reading Philippians 1 yesterday, where Paul is talking about how being in prison has given him a chance to witness to all kinds of people, and then he starts going off about whether or not it is better for him to go on living and serving the church, or to die and be with Christ. He writes, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain...I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body" (Php. 1:21; 23-24). Paul feels that yearning. He misses Christ. His desire is that he can leave the world behind and be united with God as he is meant to be. Do we miss God like that? I'd say most of the time, no. And that's not good.
I miss people. I miss my family back in Topeka. I miss my friends that live across the country. I miss my Ozark people during breaks. I miss my family members that have died. And that's ok, I think. It's alright to miss people. God teaches us through it. It doesn't have to be something that we bury deep down, but it can be something that we experience and deal with. Let it bring us closer to God.