A Journey Home

It must come with being a sexagenarian (sounds more perky than “senior citizen”)… but reunions have suddenly become appealing to me. For years I attended multi-generational gatherings more out of duty than desire. But this summer my husband and I cheerfully travelled over 8 hours to attend such a get-together. It was a reuniting of people who had attended the same church clear back in the 1960’s.

Interesting how 40+ years changes some people a LOT and others just a little. There were many in attendance whom I would have recognized immediately, had I run into them on the street. However there were others that looked so drastically different from my memory of them, that I had difficulty believing them when they gave their names. They seemed like imposters assuming the identities of my old friends. Obviously, we had all aged… but the years had seemed to take more of a toll on some than others.

Judging from the fact that I noticed the eyes of several people sneaking a glance at my name-tag, I had to conclude that I don’t look like I did at age 16. Of course back then I had the parted-in-the-middle, long, straight, hippy-type hair style and didn’t need glasses. I was also 20 pounds lighter. Without a doubt we were a roomful of “mature” adults. It was obvious from our appearance. It brought new understanding to the term, “ripe old age.” Some definitely looked like they had passed ripe and were starting to shrivel!

But it occurred to me that the years had matured us all in other ways. As we chatted with one another, asking about where life’s roads had taken us, a couple of things stood out. First, was the importance of family. Almost everyone’s first question after, “I’m sorry, you’ll have to tell me who you are,” was “tell me about your family.”

A second observation… sobering really… was the shared experience of pain and suffering. My mother-in-law used to say, “You haven’t had pain or problems in your life yet? Just be patient. They will come!” In that crowded room of old friends and acquaintances, behind the laughter there were stories of loss and grief, challenge and heartache. Life does that… to everyone… sooner or later.

Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Soon after returning from our trip down memory lane, I found myself sitting by the hospital bedside of an elderly aunt. Almost every morning when I entered her room, she would look up and say, “Oh, I’m so glad you’re here!” It wasn’t that I did much… the nurses and doctors and aides provided the primary care… but evidently there was something very comforting about a loved one’s presence that made the whole ordeal much more peaceful.

I’ve often wondered why the Lord doesn’t spare us from the ordeals of life… but the reunion stories, plus my own experience tell me that it is in the tempests of life we cling tightest to Jesus. My favorite New Testament story is the account of Peter and his attempt to walk on water. He figured, if Jesus was walking on water, why couldn’t he? He got out of the boat and did okay for a few steps. But when he heard the wind and saw the waves kicking up, he got scared and began to sink. Jesus reached out and grabbed him. At that point I envision Peter clinging desperately to His Rescuer. Then together they walked back to the boat. And after they climbed into the boat, the storm died down.

Most sermons based on this text emphasize the need to keep our eyes on Jesus and off the tumultuous circumstances around us. That’s a great lesson. But what really impacts me from this story is the fact that even when we are clinging desperately to Jesus, we may still have to walk a distance with Him IN THE STORM… before arriving safely home. In other words, He doesn’t always eliminate the tough stuff from my life, just because I’m hanging onto Him. But He does keep me afloat. He sticks with me, no matter what!

To me… Jesus’ presence on life’s journey… is what has come to count most to me. It’s waking up in the morning and being able to say, “Oh, Jesus, I’m so glad You’re here!” Actually, He never left me for a minute… He doesn’t even sleep, but is by my side even in the darkest of nights, or roughest of circumstances. Someday my current storm will die down and my world will be crisis-free for a bit. For awhile I’ll enjoy smooth sailing. But when I find myself out on life’s sea, with my world howling around me, I’ll be glad that I’m not alone on my journey home… and that makes for peace at any stage of ripeness!