My heart is becoming more elastic these days – not tougher, I hope, but more willing to be stretched, more willing to love on less-than-ideal terms, to accept conditions that I would not prefer, and to take the risk of loving anyway. As happens so often, the Apostle Paul is leading the way, and I am falling in behind him through his first letter to the church in Thessalonica.
But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire, (I Thessalonians 2:17).
All of Paul’s fatherly (and even motherly!) instincts are being thwarted and throttled by sheer geography – the limitations of time and space. He was able to send Timothy in his place (3:2), but, reading the whole letter, I see that Paul was deeply concerned for this body of new believers. They were experiencing suffering, and Paul was eager to build into hearts a firm foundation so that their faith would not falter. He was grieving this separation, BUT . . . his grief was being tempered by his view of God and of ultimate things — which was made crystalline and clear the day he lost his sight on the Damascus Road.
In these days of growing-up boys, of empty bedrooms and full schedules, in these middle years of saying good-bye for good to loved ones who are populating heaven and exiting my Christmas card list at an alarming rate, I want to embrace Paul’s view of space and time. I want to let Paul’s three little prepositional phrases teach me how to love . . .
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