In recent years, I have traveled a considerable amount, and for a time, was away from my family on a weekly basis. Also in recent years, a number of friends and family members have passed away. What is it we actually miss when we aren't near those that matter to us? Is it their words? Their humor? Their hugs? Their smiles? Their wisdom? Those are all components of a person's personality, character or attributes that certainly do endear us to one another.
My personal journey and experience has made me reflect about something more subtle, but no less palpable- their presence. What I miss when I travel away from my wife or children or other family members is their presence. The sense of being in the room with them, watching them be themselves, hearing their voices, understanding the cadence of their lives, bodies and personalities. And something perhaps even more subtle- knowing they know I am there. That they want me in their company, in their lives, and in their day.
CS Lewis famously said of our deepest desire, that we long to be "welcomed into the heart of things". This is it.
What I miss is the acknowledgement and invitation that is the heartfelt inclusion of one human into another's life. As we crowd through this world we live in, the voices and people that resound clearest are those from whom we sense the deepest welcome, the warmest invitation, the desire and gift to be present for its very sake. Not just accommodation, not just permission, not just plausible acceptance.
But serious and profoundly joyful welcome. The gift of arms-thrown-open, coming-to-hug-you, smile-filled, heartfelt and active welcome. Like a father and mother of the most gregarious kind unashamedly showering their returning child with that embarrassing public display of happy joy. And it isn't just those actions- it is the depth of relational integrity that goes with them that confirms those actions represent the true heart of things.
What is it that I miss about others when I am away from them? Their presence. And their generous welcome of my life into theirs. That they desire to be in my presence as much as I do theirs.
Someone once said that the heart of all love is the knowledge (or sometimes even just the hope) that you are desired. Perhaps this is what I am pointing to. That missing the presence of those I care about is missing the physical reminder of their love.
We are, after all, physical creatures. But that physicality is part of a larger reality. A reality where we are satisfied only as "we live and move and have our being" within not just the love of others, but in the very presence of the person of Love. We miss others not just because of the love we share with them, but because even that love points to our invitation, our welcome, our full participation open to us from the living God of love.
And in recognizing this, we come full circle to seeing our center of life and love is never actually missing. We are in His presence at every moment, every location, every circumstance.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Romans 13:38-39