Our visiting family left today. Beve and E drove them down the freeway (which reminds me: in other parts of this country, such behemoth roadways aren't called freeways, but merely referred to by their designated numbers. "Take the 3 to the 28, then hop over to the 90...etc"--though, please, don't ask me if that's even a possible route! Being so non-number-oriented, I'm grateful that I don't have to think in those terms. It'd make my head explode, for sure!) for some last minute shopping for the larger-by-a-country-mile-than-Beve giant (Nordstrom is not a luxury when you're 6'9", and wear a XXLT. It's the only show in town! If the clouds clear, they'll hit the Space Needle to view the city from a different vantage point, eat a little Indian food (or will it be Sushi?) before heading to the SeaTac area where Beve's brother and his lovely daughter, M, will spend the night before an early flight back to their motherland, Suomi. Finland, for you English-speakers (like me!).
We've spent more than a few mornings like this one. Pulling out the large, non-digital scale we bought years ago for exactly this purpose, which wasn't to check MY weight, God definitely knows. It's all about weight limit around here. So many people have visited and left with such large bags that this old scale has earned its weight in gold, to be punny. Happy is the moment when that bag comes in at 35 pounds when we were certain it would be over 50. Terrible is the one when it hits the 50 on the first try. We go flinging out clothes and shoes and make-up with such alacrity, you'd think we were about to be arrested for that overage, rather than merely charged extra money. Ah but, you forget, to the Beve, paying extra money for anything is just about the biggest crime he can imagine.
Once, weighed (the bags today were fine--both under 40lbs, though their carry-ons made up for it!), they were out the door with a flurry of goodbyes and thanks and "I'll see you when I move to Vancouver," (from M, who fell in love with the BC city when E and SK took her up there Wednesday). Our pups sat quietly, very sad, watching from the doorway. Their least favorite activity around here is suitcase-packing and car-loading. It's like they're never quite certain that those they love will return. Every time, every single sad time, it seems to break their hearts that any one of us could be leaving them behind. Jamaica sits up so straight it's like she's taken a class in decorum, like she's saying, "I'll be good, I promise I will, just don't leave me!" And Jackson lays flat on his stomach, his head down, mourning our absence before we've even gone. And the very worst person to leave, the one they absolutely cannot live without is Beve. Any of the rest of us is hard enough, but when he puts a bag on our bed and begins to throw his clothes into it (and trust me, that's about what it looks like from where I sit!), Maica stands on her hind legs, puts her head on the bed and simply watches him. So sorrowful you'd think the world was ending. Today he merely carried M's suitcase out to the car and both dogs, who'd been asleep the instant before, were up and staring at him like he'd betrayed their trust. Or something.
Our dogs don't understand that Beve won't return. Sure, he leaves every morning. They understand that rhythm, but still react like it's their long-lost hero coming home every night. You'd think he'd been gone a thousand days, rather than 8 hours (or 12--let's be honest here!). They want the whole world to know that he's back, he's really back. So when he comes home from a trip, well, when any of us do, it's like roll out the red carpet, kill the fatted calf, cook up a feast, pull out the best china and party all night long (and, of course, play fetch the tennis ball until it's a gooey mess). It's about the best thing that could ever happen. In a million years.
We're so much like our dogs. I know that will strike some of you as weird, but we are. Right now, across the ocean, M's mother is thinking of how glad she'll be to see her daughter when she gets off the plane. R's wife can hardly wait for him to get home. They're both readying their homes for celebration of one sort or another. That's the way it always is at the end of trips. Or the way it should be.
And then there's this: Jesus, whom we love, we wait for. He tells us He will return one day. "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." (John 14:3) In the meantime, every generation is a little like our dogs, sitting up straight, hoping against hope that if we sit just right and are reading the signs, this will be the time. From Peter and John all the way to you and me, we believe it will be NOW. In this day. However, the last thing Jesus said before He ascended was, "It is not for you to know the times of dates the Father has set by His own authority (emphasis mine)." We can't know when He'll return. No more than our dogs, with their lovely but inadequate canine brains can understand our doings, can we understand God's. That's the truth of it. He's that far above us. At least that far. (In fact, CS Lewis compares us to a gnat in relation to God, so me comparing us to a dog is probably giving us more credit than we're due.)
It is a good thing, a proper and wholly, holy occupation to have one's ear cocked (like our Spaniel's) toward the sound of our Lord's footsteps, so that we can hear Him coming. If He comes. However, it is a better occupation to be moving with that attentive ear. To be living in His present Kingdom, to be aware of His presence today, where He moves and how He moves. This is something only humans can do. Only those made in His image can understand His voice and presence and Kingdom already come in this world. We might say, as all the saints through-out history have said, "Marantha--Our Lord, Come!" And want that moment with all the keen keening of a human heart. But at the same time, be thankful that He did not leave us alone, that when He left us, to prepare that place for us, we "received power when the Holy Spirit came upon us. We ARE His witnesses, in our hometowns, our countries and to the ends of the earth."