Monday, December 14, 2015

singing, in the meantime

A ten month old is playing happily on the floor, and mom gets up to get a cup of coffee. The boy explodes. Terror! Tears! Panic! How could mama just leave him like that?

Separation anxiety. I remember those days.
I remember going to the bathroom, and even while sitting there, I’d be jabbering away to the little guy, just so he could keep hearing my voice, reassuring him I was still nearby.

Separation can be tough.

Sunday, as I sat in the pew, I sang quietly like I always do. I like to listen to others sing, the ones with the gift for it. The words of grace surrounded me, sung by God’s people, and I was blessed. But I did not recognize the voices. And I began to ache.

I miss the voices I know so well. I miss the way Auntie would sing, usually with a child of mine on her lap, always knowing the hymns better than I do. And her voice, every time it was heard in my home, would cause the children to come running to the door, yelling “Aunt Mary Anne!” at the top of their voices.
I miss the voices withe heavy southern accents. I miss the little ones who would come running to me smiling “Em-WY!” and their arms around my neck. I miss the one who would laugh too loudly during sermons or at the babies playing, with the squeak in her giggle, with the joy that was fresh air to all of us. I miss the voices that cheered with me at games, when we all knew the words, where our daughters had been together for years. I miss having a houseful of children I’ve known since their birth, most of them Baptized by my husband, who I’ve watched learn to crawl and walk and praise and read and fold their hands in prayer.
I miss the smell of the cows and the roar of the combines. I miss the walks to the pond, and I miss the little hands I held while we hunted for frogs and gathered “wal-marts.” (walnuts.)
My favorite elderly people from Indiana called me on my birthday. They sang “Happy Birthday” on my voicemail. Oh, how wonderful it was to hear their sweet voices. As I listened to Don’s song and encouragement on my message, I closed my eyes so I could soak up his voice.

There is something about the voice of a loved one; the way it reawakens that part of your heart that has loved them always.

Separation can be tough.

“Eternal life is a gift we have begun to enjoy now,” pastor reminds us. If we were in a video game, we’d have “unlimited lives.” I remember the freedom of unlimited lives, playing my Nintendo. Having unlimited lives freed me to take risks, to be bold, knowing nothing could really hurt me, nothing could cause a true “game over.”

We have unlimited lives. Alive in Christ for all time, we raise our deathless voices in song. We aren’t always singing together these days, and we ache for the missing ones. Our choirs are too small, and the holes loom large. But that is only today, only for a little while longer.

Because of the gift of God in Christ, we can sing even in our separation. Whether we are separated by distance or by death itself, in God, all distances are small. We are like that baby, whose mama has only gone to the other room for a moment. We are like children, missing grandma, but she’s really only taking a little nap. It will not always be this way.

Shout with joy oh deathless voices,
child of God lift up your head!

Deathless voices: those voices I miss, those voices and songs and stories are truly deathless, even now. I will indeed hear those voices again. Our parting seems epic, the separation seems enormous, but from the perspective of eternity we are really just in the ohter room, really just around the corner, waiting for grandma to finish the turkey, and call us to the great banquet where we will sit together and join in those hymns to our God once again and for all eternity.

Life eternal! heav'n rejoices; 
Jesus lives, who once was dead.
Shout with joy, O deathless voices!
Child of God, lift up your head!
Life eternal! O what wonders
crowd on faith; what joy unknown,
when, amidst earth's closing thunders,
saints shall stand before the throne! 

(Sing with all the saints in glory, LSB 671)

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