The Joys Of Visitors From Good Times Past

Jeff and I were blessed this weekend with a brief visit from our missionary friends, who serve the Lord Jesus in Mozambique, supporting the translation of the Word into the indigenous languages of the people there, and are now half way into a year-long furlough.

It’s been a long time since our house was filled with children, and their three little boys injected some serious joy and excitement into these empty-nesters lives.  Jeff bought the kids swimsuits and bathtub boys, turned the Jacuzzi down to 90, and had them whooping and hollering late into the night while he and Eric caught up on their lives.  Joan and I, never ones to interfere with male bonding, stole away to Gnosh.  The place was abuzz with activity, but, as is so often the case with a dear friend, we found ourselves in our own little world, calmed and eased by each other’s presence and equally stirred up and passionate about what’s been going on in our lives. 

It was a wonderful dinner — falafel with a dill aioli for the appetizer, wine for me, salmon for both of us, and, as a testimony to how much we have in common, lemon creme brulee’, doubled, for dessert.  A stroll downtown to Sisters’ Brew and a shot of strong coffee wrapped up our evening out.  The boys — adult ones included — had tuckered out, and Joan and I were tired, too. 

A few hours of pouring our hearts out to each other can have that effect.  But, as any of you who’ve enjoyed time with an old friend, someone you love even though you see her only once every several years, understands, what tires  the body energizes the soul.  Joan is one of the most remarkable women I’ve ever known, and I’ll admit that, as they prepare to head out for a visit with friends in the Boise area, I’ll have one of those stern, yearning talks with my God about how it is that the people who really understand me, who really love me, and who can say the hard things to me –  like Joan, Lupita, and Tricia — are so far away.  Snohomish, Washington, sometimes feels as far away as Ciudad Juarez and Nampala in Mozambique, and particularly now, it’s hard.

But a heart filled with gratitude for Joan is a heart able to expand through time and space with love for her.  I know she feels the same.  So, as we start to say our goodbyes this morning, the tears I’ll shed will be not only because my friend is going away again, but because I have in Joan a friend who, across the continents and throughout a decade and a half, has proved faithful — faithful to the Lord Jesus, faithful to her family, and faithful to me, a friend who, as remarkable as this may sound, is vastly, terrifically, imperfect.

Loving, loyal, steadfast . . . and stubborn, strident, and lunkheaded.  But she loves me; in loving me, and in liking me, Joan has so many times shown me a glimpse of the love of God.  I’m in a time of real conflict these days, and this visit — this scent of the aroma of agape love in human bonds — is just what I needed. 

And isn’t that just like our God?  Cold, fresh water when I’m in the desert and soothing warmth and the laughter of little kids when I’m feeling cold and hardened.  Indeed, God is beyond good.  He’s my friend, and he’s the maker of my dearest friendships.

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