Jonathan Wesley Hall

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

By the Rev. Jonathan Wesley Hall,
Pastor of First UMC Frackville, PA

“Enjoy life with your dearly loved spouse all the days of your pointless life that God gives you under the sun – all the days of your pointless life! –because that’s your part to play in this life and in your hard work under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 9:9 CEB

Ten years ago this January I had to leave Katie and Olivia for three weeks. It was a seminary requirement to go on a cross cultural experience, and the class which I was a part of was going to Turkey for two weeks then to Beirut in Lebanon for one week. I had never been away from Katie that long before, nor since. Not only was this requirement difficult because I was leaving Katie for three weeks, but at the time Olivia was six months old, and I knew that children do a lot of growing in just three short weeks.

My emotions were running high when the bus pulled out of the seminary to go to New York for the flight. I was scared, nervous, apprehensive, and perhaps more importantly, I was already missing Katie and Olivia. A lot of things happened to me in those three weeks. Decisions were made and friendships forged and broken. The whole time, though, my thoughts would turn to home.

In scripture we learn that God is constantly yearning for a relationship with us. God desires to spend time with us, grow with us and love us. There are a lot of things that get in the way of our relationship with God, our own choices being the prime issues typically. Yet in spite of all that, God still desires a relationship with us.

If we are honest with ourselves, sometimes we take breaks from our relationships with God. That’s okay; space in a relationship is sometimes a good and healthy thing to have. God desires a two-way, healthy relationship, not an unhealthy dependence.

When the bus pulled into the seminary after the trip I could see Katie with Olivia standing outside, waiting for me. It was all I could do to not push my fellow classmates out of the way to get out to them. When I finally stepped off the bus we ran to one another and hugged. Somehow I got my bag; I don’t remember getting it. I didn’t say goodbye to any of my class mates. I just left with Katie and Olivia to go back home.

The next few days passed in a haze. I was just so happy to be home with them. When we come back to God we remember and value the relationship we have. We see where that relationship can grow and how it can change. We see the relationship in a new light.

A new year is the perfect time to take stock of where your relationship with God is. Like in any relationship, you need to spend time in it. You need to work on it, to spend time together especially if you have spent time apart.

Take a moment to evaluate your relationship with God. See what you need to work on. Perhaps you need to commit to spending more time in worship, prayer, and Bible study. Perhaps you need to spend more time in silence and listen to what God is trying to say to you.

God just wants to be with you. You are a part of God’s family.

Republished with permission from “News from the Pews” (January 2016), the monthly newsletter of First UMC Frackville (PA).