Thursday marked the 40th day since Easter, which give or take a couple millennia was the day Jesus left for Heaven. And since that event stretches over the same weekend as many graduations, one might look for the parallels.
There were the disciples, thinking that against all odds they had made it, that their teacher and friend and loved one had SURVIVED and that everything was going to be OK. Things were looking up, ushering in decades of living and working together. They were ready. But just when they thought they had arrived, Jesus ascended to glory. One day he was there, and then next thing they knew it was clouds and distance and obscurity.
Which is a lot like a graduation for us parents. You can’t believe it all worked out, that those exams and papers and late nights and dangerous drivers and bureaucratic snafus (and for some of us, those accidents and illnesses and wars and heartaches) are all behind us now. Your niece or your son, someone you care deeply about, made it. They came through the challenge and they passed the test and now they are ready to live a life of creativity and service. Honored. Prepared. YES! Only just as the diploma is handed over, the reality ascends. For most of us, this milestone means more distance. We Myhres have been at this goodbye-kids thing for 8 years now. Graduation means separation. Into the clouds, literally, for many flying off to new homes or jobs or training.
But the primary idea tied to Jesus’ ascension in Scripture is the victory of a King who rules in ways never before possible, for our good. The Spirit’s coming was promised that day, and fulfilled about ten days later. The one whose form was marred now stands in dazzling wounded glory, a sure victor. And sends us help, presence, guidance, gifts. Love, joy, peace. The intangibles that make life rich, the very things for which we long.
OK, I know I’d rather have all four of my kids at arm’s length, and Jesus in the living room too.
But that’s not the way it works. We’re all working together and loving each other, and we all get glimpses of the final goal, and sometimes we can revel in each other’s tangible form. But most of life plods on out in that time when those we love most are also following their calling from God in their own spheres. We are not alone. The Holy Spirit and group texts keep reminding us of that truth. But there’s still a fracturing of the heart that Mary was warned about, and since it’s also Mother’s Day, that seems to be a good place to end. Birth begins the gradual graduation of another being, a separation that is good and necessary, that we work towards and affirm. And yet mourn. Birth, death, ascension, Mary felt her heart tear those three times, as we all do in the uncountable micro-sorrows that mar our days as well as in the milestones of independence that we celebrate with photos and parties. But we wouldn’t have it any other way.