“Oh mom,” my college aged daughter said, and could it be I heard a tiny bit of impatience in her voice? “Half the kids I know in college live in the same town as their parents and they aren’t as close as we are living across the ocean from each other.”
My whining stopped.
As missionaries, we often lived lives separated by distance. Big long across the globe distances. Our children knew how to maneuver airports and luggage on their own. They were familiar with new situations and old ones that changed without warning. And new languages with their indecipherable sounds just made things more interesting. Their lines crossed boundaries, splashed across the map and roosted, still somehow connected with each other.
So, as a daughter, Mom and now Grandma often separated by miles, oceans and years from all the pieces of my heart, I gotta admit, sometimes the whining of Covid-19 separations (are you telling me your grandkids live 15 minutes down the road?) make me want to say with the same tone as my once college-aged daughter, “Oh, get a grip.”
The disciple Thomas, remembered for doubting, had a real problem with the devastating separation from his Master. He’d seen Jesus die on the cross. His emotions must have been a tsunami of grief, raw and overwhelming.
The latest development drove tempestuous waves through his very being. The other ten disciples claimed they’d seen Jesus. They said Jesus rose from the dead and that He had appeared to them. But, their exuberance did not sway Thomas.
“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe,” he declared. John 20:24-25 (NIV)
I’ve often wondered what the next week was like for Thomas. He had drawn a line in the sand between himself and the others. The closeness of the disciples had been tested by their Master’s death. An earth shattering experience the other disciples shared, he didn’t. Stories swirled throughout Jerusalem of a resurrected Christ, but he doubted.
He knew what he’d seen. He couldn’t put faith in what he hadn’t. It must have been a long week of lonely separation for Thomas.
“A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said;
‘Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ John 20:26-27; (NIV)
It was Jesus’ invitation to break the distance, to reach out and touch up close and personal. Jesus broke the separation Thomas must have keenly felt.
In the last few months, when our world turned upside down, our hearts have known the yearning of close. It’s a good one. It reminds us how blessed we are to have people we miss, because close has more to do with heart than either distance or time.
“Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Like my daughter said, you can be in the same city but not as close as an ocean away. Jesus invites close. Closeness reaches out even when touching is impossible. Closeness cares even when there is a lot of space in between. It concerns itself with the welfare of another, and moves souls together even while distance separates.
Today I drove past a store with a sign, “We are open.” It was a happy declaration, a celebration that we won’t always be behind closed doors, obstacles will be removed.
“Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”