Oswald Chamber’s devotional My Utmost for His Highest has been a source of counsel, wisdom, and insight for us over the years. It is uncanny how often it seems that just what we needed for the situation of the present moment is found on the page of that day’s reading. It was once again true of November 11: “If God has made your cup sweet, drink it with grace; if He has made it bitter, drink it in communion with Him. If the providential order of God for you is a hard time of difficulty, go through with it, but never choose the scene of your own martyrdom. …If you are not living in touch with Him, it is easy to pass a crude verdict on God. You must go through the crucible before you have any right to pronounce a verdict, because in the crucible you learn to know God better. God is working for His highest ends until His purpose and man’s purpose become one.”
11p.m. Wednesday evening our younger son and his wife and two young children boarded an airplane for Australia, not just to visit, but to take up residence. This was a bitter cup for us to drink. Last year when I was so sick in Israel, my heavenly Abba came to me in a moment of sweetness and whispered, “Your life is a parable, do you understand that?” There were some things I immediately understood of my life by looking through that lens, but mostly the understanding that has come is to drink what’s in the cup in communion with Him, and generally drinking the cup is difficult. They announced to us months ago that they were planning on relocating to Australia, we knew this time was coming, but how can you think about something like that? Then the shipping company showed up Monday morning and by Tuesday evening the container was packed and on its way to the port and the ship that would carry their household goods so far away. Our 2 1/2 year old granddaughter was dancing through the house squealing with glee over the prospects of “camping” again, as pillows were arranged on the floor for her makeshift bed and mommy and daddy moved their air mattress into her room. She patted the pillows and said, “here grandma, you sleep here by me.” And I, knowing that this was the last night I would read her a story and say prayers with her and tuck her in bed and lay my head next to hers, my sadness I swallowed in the presence of her innocent joy. Her 6 month old little brother wakes from his nap and I go to take him from his bed and when he sees me his eyes light up like diamonds and that big, toothless grin splits his face, how can I bear not to see that look of recognition again? Oh, this cup is bitter!
Every mother who raises a son dreams of the girl her son will marry. My son’s wife has become like my own daughter, as we pack the bags that will go on the plane with them how can I bear this separation? We walk through the airport together, our arms around each other, tears streaming down our faces, you’re the daughter-in-law every mother dreams about, I say to her as I kiss her cheek.
Our son, so tall and strong and handsome is wiping his eyes as his dad blesses him. They’ve spent countless hours together, working, talking, sharing dreams, how can I bear not to see them together, to watch our son cuddle his son to sleep or toss his daughter over his shoulder and hear her squeals of pure enjoyment as she calls out, “gain daddy, gain.”
We’ve let each other go as they have a plane to catch, we’ve waited and embraced each other as long as we possibly dare, the last whiff of baby’s breath has been caught and the last press of small hands has been grasped and then they are no longer in our reach, the security people have them. “What’s the matta,” the little girl asks, concern in her voice as she sees her mother’s tear-stained face. “Mommy’s sad,” her mother answers, but the little girl is too excited about the plane ride to spend more than a few seconds on everyone’s sad, tear-stained faces. “Come here,” daddy calls as he lifts the carry-on bags onto the conveyor belt and then strips himself of belt and coins and watch and every other item that may set off the screening device. Shoes come off, the computer is out of the bag, baby is in mommy’s arms, and the little girl runs ahead, it’s such a grand adventure. We blow kisses and wave hands at each other until we can’t see them anymore and still Steve and I stand just behind the security fence waiting, hoping for just one more glimpse and yes, there it is the last wave. Our son, on the other side, through the crowd sees us and we see him and he lifts his hand high in the air – a final salute, we lift ours back to him, a moment, our eyes lock, we see his face is set, then he turns and he is gone. In that moment I think, is this anything like what YHVH feels as he watches us walk through the gate of time wondering will they come back, will they remember me, when will I see them again? Does His heart break, is this a bitter cup for Him to drink?
“Your life is a parable.” The cup is bitter, but He is drinking it with us and that is how we get through the difficult times. And the end of the story is… the prodigal comes home. We are all prodigals, we have all left home. And The Father is waiting and watching for the return of His beloved children. He never stops waiting, He never stops watching. He has the ring and the new clothes and a party is ready – waiting, just for you.