Gifts come in all shapes and sizes and the size of the package doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the size of the gift or it's value. Some of the most valuable gifts come in the most unlikely looking packages and those are really the best kind, aren't they? Friends are kinds of like that too.
I had a special evening last night with friends who are gifts to me. When Murrayville Church closed down last November, a group of 5 women continued to meet somewhat regularly for several weeks while we transitioned into finding new church homes. Friendships aren't just tied off and needs don't go away just because a particular church no longer meets in a particular location. And there were some pretty pressing needs represented by our group that we wanted to pray for. We no longer meet regularly, we're all attending different churches, some of the requests we originally prayed for have been answered and others are still ongoing. One of our group couldn't make it last night because of an answer to one of those ongoing requests but we still get together occasionally to re-connect and catch up. Nothing beats having these conversations in person - no matter how convenient technology makes things for us.
We talked about the challenges of getting connected in new churches without having little ones to open those friendship doors for you, how to fit in to established friendship circles and how our kids have been gypped from having the connections with meaningful adults in their formative years now gone. Our new church families don't know our adult children. When those adult children come home to visit, there's no past Sunday School teacher or youth group sponsor, or their best friend's mom or dad who's glad to see them and ask how university's going or the new job or the new relationship. And there is still sadness around that loss. We know God is bigger than that and that He is fully capable of surrounding our children with new church families and friends who will love them and care about their lives, but there is still a sense of loss from what used to be. (And I really hope no one interprets this as a criticism against any of our new church homes and friends because we're all grateful for the doors God has opened and for those stories that are still being written and developed, but this is simply a comment of the reality of our and our kids' experiences this past year.)
Have you ever reflected back on your friendships, thinking about how they started and how they continued to develop over time? It's quite fascinating. You just never know who God will bring into your life and how things might develop and it's often not who or what you expected. But isn't that just like God? Does He ever do things we expect? Well sometimes, but not necessarily. And Jesus' birth was like that too. It wasn't anything like what people were expecting but it changed the world. The season of advent is about expectancy, of waiting. What are you waiting for? Are you expecting God to work? Are you looking for His hand at work? Does it seem like nothing's happening? Are you waiting for Him to show up? Don't lose heart. God is still at work and from my own experience, what He's doing in the spiritual realm is vastly more important to His plan than what is visible to me in the physical realm.
Yesterday evening reminded me of something Dr. Tan said about spiritual community at the conference Larry & I attended back in September which I referenced at that time too. We need to be Sabbaths to each other - people who are an oasis for you and you for them. That's what it felt like last night. Thank you friends, for a wonderful Sabbath evening.