Friday night we attended our church’s service of shadows with Brian’s parents. It was tough for Reagan to get into church-mode after a day of fun and activities. The later start time and dark sanctuary made it even moreso. But she did okay, even if she burned 4361 calories in one hour due to massive doses of wiggling.
Saturday afternoon, more family started to roll in. First my Mom and my sister. Then my brother and his wife (Tom and Angie) and Angie’s whole family. Then my Dad. We grilled and had a nice informal supper together. We topped off the evening with a game of Balderdash which gave my Mom a serious case of the giggles.
Sunday morning I sped off to church to orchestrate a final praise team practice. Brian was in charge of wrestling Reagan into her fussy new Easter outfit. I must say he did a great job because when he got her to church, she looked very sweet. The service on Sunday morning went well and there were many goosebump moments for me. And to hear the story again - the story of how my life was redeemed - is always a powerful experience.
After church, we all gathered back at our house and had a fantastic meal. So much good food. We had the opportunity to relax and visit for a while longer before people started heading back home.
With the exception of my sister, we will all be gathering again on Saturday for Tom and Angie’s send-off. And I’m not sure it really hit me until I watched her say goodbye to them - how difficult it was going to be. Hugs just don’t seem long enough anymore.
Tom and Angie stayed after everyone else had left. And it was such fun to watch Reagan play with them. She had a ball. She giggled and screamed and laughed. It was just adorable. She gave them each a nice hug when it was time for them to go.
As I watched Reagan wave to them as they drove away, I started to cry. This is going to be a difficult week for all of us, I think. You start thinking about the cost and it becomes more and more painful. I consider not only the cost for myself, but also the cost for my daughter and her soon-to-be-sibling. Two years is a very long time.
Why does it hurt so much? Why does this sacrifice of giving up two years with Tom and Angie nearby cause such pain? Why do we ache over goodbyes when we have every belief and hope that they will return? Why do we struggle within ourselves to send them off to do a wonderful work? Why, when God sent his only Son to be rejected and to die on a cross, does it still feel like two years and an ocean apart is a lot to ask for a tightly knit family?
Love. It all comes down to love.
We love Tom and Angie. Reagan loves to play with them, yes. But even in her little mind and heart I can see how much she loves them. I know Brian loves them and cherishes their presence in our lives. And there is really no way I can begin to tell you just how much I love my brother. I’m so very glad that he has Angie and I have been so blessed to have a sister-in-law that I love just as much as I love my brother. We are a close family. There’s very little awkwardness or tension or competition. We rarely fight. And we really truly deeply want the very best for each other at all times - even if that is something better than what we have for ourselves. The love runs deep.
More than that, there is a different Love that binds us all together. We love the Lord, yes. But He first loved us and sent His son to die for us. I know Tom and Angie love the Lord and have a deep desire to spread the gospel. I know that they have loving, supportive, Christian families who have prayed for, supported and encouraged them as they prepare to leave for East Asia. I know that there will never be a day where they are not blanketed in the prayers of their loved ones. And I know my Redeemer, their Redeemer, lives. I know that He will walk with them and watch over them. I know He will give us peace - even amidst the heartache. I know that He loves them even more than I do. His love runs as deeply as the nails that were driven into his hands and feet.
So while it is still not easy, it is with a strange sense of joy that I think of sending them off to spread that same Love. I know there is no distance that Love cannot bridge. He saved a wretch like me. Even now, He is preparing to bridge the gap between people in East Asia and Himself...through Tom and Angie. The cost of Love? The cost would be greater were they not to go.