I leave tomorrow for a 10 day trip into Asia. While I am excited for the opportunity, I really dislike leaving my family behind. It is nice that I leave my sweet kids in the hands of a very loving, competent father. And, it is really good to know that he wants me to go. He often encourages me to step-out and actually sometimes gives me a "kick in the rear" to get me to go to events such as these.
But, all that said, it is extremely difficult to leave my family. I will think of them, pray for them and write them often. I might even hear their voices on the other end of a telephone. But, there is just nothing that can replace the beauty of being with them. Presence. To be in the presence of my husband and my kids is what I long for when I am away. I want to just be with them.
Having lived overseas for most of my adult life, I know this urge and desire well. I feel we are constantly leaving the presence of someone we love. When we leave our home here to go back to the States, ...we are leaving the presence of people we love. We miss them. We long for them. When we are here, we have left significantly important relationships behind in the States. There is a longing to just be with these that we love. I just simply want to be with my sister. Nothing more than presence. I want to sit in her home and see her smile. I want to sit on her comfy couch and talk with her face to face. Presence.
I was just reading in my Lent study, the story of the repentant thief on the cross. (Luke 23)This thief asks to be remembered in Jesus' kingdom. He asks to be remembered. That is what I will do when I am away from my family this next week. I will remember them. But, Jesus answers him not with a promise of remembrance, but instead a promise of Presence. "I tell you the truth, you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:42)
This is what we long for when we are away... to be with those we love. And, this is what Jesus promises this repentant sinner. And, this is what he promises me.
Jesus doesn't just promise Paradise. Paradise would be nice in and of itself, of course. It is only "paradise" that the Muslims of the world are hoping for in the end. No, Jesus doesn't only promise Paradise. He promises we will be with Him in Paradise. He promises us Himself, with us, in Paradise!
And, even more than that... He doesn't just promise we will be with Him in Paradise. He promises we will be with Him now. Now! "And surely I promise you, I will be with you from now until the end of the age" (Matthew 28)
Through the very real Presence of Christ's Spirit, the Holy Spirit, our God is with us! Even now.
Jesus says, "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever--the Spirit of Truth" (John 14). Forever Presence.
Throughout the Old Testament, God Almighty told His people of His Presence. He promised He would never leave them or forsake them (Duet. 31:26). He reminds us of this Promise again and again in the New Testament; a promise fulfilled completely in the death and resurrection of His Son, and the sending of His Spirit. God said, "Never will I leave you or forsake you!" (Hebrews 13:5)
What a thought! What a promise! We don't just have His letters, His thoughts, His intercession or even just His voice. We have all those and so much more!! We have His very real Presence. We have Him. We have Him with us. Now!
He is always near. He is always Present. He is always with us.
For about 8 months I have had a ringing in my ear. Pretty much constant, to varied degree of pitch and strength, I suffer with tinnitus. About a month ago, as I was feeling the annoyance of the sound during a quiet moment. I was struck with the fact that the ringing is clearly always there. I don't always hear it. The noises of every day life and busy-ness sometimes make me unaware. It is really only in those quiet moments that I can hear it and am aware of it so significantly.
I began to pray that God would teach me through this ringing to know that He is always there, as well. The noises of every day life and the business of life keep me from being always aware of His Presence. But, He is always Present. So, now when I hear the ringing (as I do right now!), I simply ask that God would make my heart aware of His very real Presence always. He is always here, near, within and around.
Just yesterday, I settled down for a quiet moment and the ringing had subsided significantly (for whatever reason). And, instantly I almost became sad. Can you believe it!? It was as if the ringing in my ear has become such a sweet reminder of His Presence, that I didn't want to loose it quite yet. I want to learn more about His very real Presence. I need more awareness. ... Well, no worries... it is back today! And, I will keep praying that until He takes it away and heals it, it will be a wonderful prayer trigger to remind me of Him, His always-with-me very real Presence.
So, tomorrow I leave my precious family. For 10 days I can't be with them. But, never... never ... do I leave my precious friend, brother, and Savior. I can always be with Him, because He is always with me. This fills my heart with a sense of security and a foundation that is solid, deep and wide.