Today and tomorrow (the 26th and the 27th) are both anniversaries for me. One is an anniversary of “leaving” and one is an anniversary of “arriving”.
Nineteen years ago I left California for Ireland. This time, it wasn’t a vision trip. I didn’t have a return ticket. I had given away, sold, thrown out, or packed up everything I owned. I met with friends and said good-bye. I made notebooks for my nieces and nephews, something I could add pages to as my life unfolded.
Nineteen years ago, my family came together at Mom’s house. It had been a rough year, and we were still grieving the loss of my dad. We were floundering a little as we struggled to find equilibrium without him.
Just a few months after Dad died, my maternal grandma also died. And while my family was very supportive and encouraging to me, I know my leaving was another loss. It was a loss for me as well.
We ate together. They gathered around me and prayed for me. We cried.
And I am thankful. I am thankful that saying good-bye is hard. I am thankful that it doesn’t really get easier. This speaks to the love between us.
If I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:9, 10
And that’s what I did. I settled on the far side of the sea…
There is a beautiful phrase in Galatians 2:9… Paul and Barnabas went out among the Gentiles, and the church at Jerusalem was unsure about what that meant for them.
But the passage says that when Paul and Barnabas returned, they offered to them “the right hand of fellowship.”
Today is Thanksgiving Day (for U.S. citizens), and all around the world today there are people still doing this. They are holding out their hands to others, offering the right hand of fellowship; inviting them to a seat at the table.
(Today you have done this for me – you know who you are. Psalm 68:6 says, “God sets the lonely in families…” You have walked with me and messaged me and offered me the “right hand of fellowship”. You have honoured a day that you don’t normally celebrate, because it matters to me. Thank you.)
The Pharisees are concerned that Jesus “welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:2) They don’t see that it is this generous grace that opens up a place at the table for them, and for each one of us. To love God’s people on earth is to see Christ in them.
(You have made space for me here in Ireland. You have offered me generous friendship and generous grace.)
Inhale: There is room at the table for everyone.
Exhale: There is room at the table for me.
That’s what I would have said, if we were in the same room…