Post-parting blues may be the theme of life. Humanity left the garden of peace, harmony, purpose, community (the photo from our beach retreat above reminds us of Eden) for a life marked by fracturing. Our hearts were created for continuity and presence; they feel crushed by the reality of partings. I don't think I expected to be hit with this so hard as we returned to Naivasha this week, but in retrospect it makes sense. We pray over and pour into the people we serve, and one thing I've learned about prayer this year is how it catches one up on another's story, how it cultivates tenderness towards them. So after a week of intense immersion in actual palpable relationship (not just virtual or spiritual) with 140 people we love, the parting was rough. And augmented by saying goodbye to Jack (AGAIN). He had an amazingly rich summer with our Kibuye team working on engineering projects, and the gift of an intersection point between family and work is no small gift. His work also enabled him to serve as the 5-to-7 year old kid program leader at the retreat, and have meals and talks and fun with us. I'm so thankful. But the taste of the old days when our Serge life and family life went hand in hand makes this post-parting week even harder.
So. . . since that aching pit-of-the-stomach emptiness is part and parcel of August for many in the world, schools starting, kids leaving, vacations ending, new jobs and programs . . here are some ways that we see God giving us grounding to make it through those blues.
1. A theology of parting and hope. This book Every Moment Holy (thanks to friends) is a beautiful collection of bringing meaning into the every day moments of life, the behind-the-veil deeper realities. I've been reading the section about missing someone, which reminds us that even that sorrow can make room in our hearts to invite God to change us, to fill us, to make something new, to open space to love others. We don't deny the missing, but we do expect redemption even in this. And we do see that Jesus walked this path, and continues to walk it with us.
2. A discipline of meaningful work. Truly our days of hands-on concrete patient care and teaching do give us a sense of rootedness and place, of being part of a community of good. The partings are not meaningless, they serve for the good of someone. Teaching our interns, performing surgery, attending to fragile patients, all fill our days.
3. Inviting others into the space. What a treat that Alyssa, one of our Burundi Team Leaders, was able to spend some time with us in Naivasha this weekend. The Ickes family next door, our church friends and worship team. God continues to send us others even as we miss many. The emptiness can be an opportunity of sorts.
4. Phone calls and photos. The wonders of technology, seeing Jack reunite with Caleb whom he had not seen for well over a year, and climb mountains in Alaska. Talking to Julia and Luke on the phone. Hearing from our moms. Emails from many others. Don't let me ever take for granted the fact that I can text Utah while writing a blog post in Kenya.
5. The long term view. Ultimately we know that all these partings are temporary. The great cloud of witnesses still wait in another dimension. And in this world, time will carry us back to most of the people we miss today.
As always, this is a pep talk to ourselves, but let's remember the ones we love and encourage each other to press on with hope.