We spent a month in Hungary this summer for the first time in four years visiting family and friends. In many ways, our summer was full. We ate every single Hungarian dish we were missing in the States, and I have tighter pants to prove it. We hugged countless friends. I drank an unhealthy amount of coffee chatting with old friends at the café downtown and consistently stayed up past midnight–a feat in and of itself.
We spent hours cramming our bodies with desserts as we visited older family members, and in our sugar stupor we listened to their take on Hungarian politics and how we should be eating more honey cream dessert and they’ll get some more juice for us and when are we having kids. We road-tripped to other European countries, bowled, walked downtown at 2 AM after a World Cup watching party, took selfies with our friends at the Children’s Home. Time stood still.
We stayed up late talking to our brother and sister-in-law about their boys, family, faith, and how hard it is to be Hungarian, to be human. We let our nephews climb all over us and steal our dessert and then retaliated by tickle fights and games of tag. We made food together, one of the world’s oldest bonding tricks, and took naps in the afternoon with full bellies. We went on bike rides, bought approximately one hundred $1 scoops of ice cream on said bike rides, and felt the reverberations of Hungarian techno beats rattle our brain for weeks after our return.
But on the plane ride home as we ate packaged noodles and watched movies in between naps, we wistfully yearned for more time with our family and friends. One month is a long time, and yet not enough after 4 years of absence. We knew there was more to say. More hugging and reaching across the table for a hand. We felt a deep aching for a prolonged reunion.
As JD and I talked about this, I imagined Jesus feeling this way as he sat down to dinner that last night. Did he feel like there was more to say to his friends? Did he long for one more carefree fishing trip? Did he ache for more time?
I suppose that at times we are acutely aware of the temporal quality of things in this life: funerals, diagnoses, dreaded midnight phone calls, plane rides home. This was one of those times. During our trip, I read Marilynne Robinson’s book, Housekeeping, a story of impermanence and tragedy. She makes a meaningful observation of Christ’s humanity in the context of memories of loved ones and an aching for reunion that resonated in this aching part of my heart:
“Memory is the sense of loss, and loss pulls us after it. God Himself was pulled after us into the vortex we made when we fell, or so the story goes. And while He was on earth He mended families. He gave Lazarus back to his mother, and to the centurion he gave his daughter again. He even restored the severed ear of the soldier who came to arrest Him–a fact that allows us to hope the resurrection will reflect a considerable attention to detail….
There is so little to remember of anyone–an anecdote, a conversation at the table. But every memory is turned over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that memory will fulfill itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming habitual fondness, not having meant to keep us waiting long.”
p. 194-5 Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
This passage reminded me that in our missed family we are waiting for someone, that we do miss a person we’ve never seen face to face. That perhaps this longing for being reunited with loved ones is God-given. That the ache is a gift that points to a greater desire in our hearts. That one of the reasons we come to the table each week to drink some chilled grape juice and munch on the corner of a tasteless wafer is to wait for our Beloved, to wait for the ultimate reunion of our family, to say quietly, “Come, Lord Jesus. Soothe this ache in our hearts for each other and for you.”