I dreaded walking this morning. My usual route takes me by the Longs' house, or what, since Friday, used to be the Longs' house. Paula, Jimmy, and their two girls, Sarah and Anna, are the only church family that lives (used to live) in my neighborhood. While we saw each other much more at church than in the neighborhood, it was always nice to see them, to know they were there.
But we said our goodbyes last Thursday before their departure on Friday. Jimmy got his dream job in a town several states away. It's a good move for the whole family. I'm happy for them...but still. I'm sad, especially at the loss of the girls.
Not having children of our own, my husband and I take great delight in watching the children in our church grow up. We've watched Sarah and Anna grow from a 3 and 1 year old into fabulous-and faithful--young women of 10 and 8. Just a couple of weeks ago, 10 year old Sarah gave Allen and me a detailed drawing of a frog on a lily pad in a pond. Written beside the frog was the phrase, "Fully rely on God." ("F.R.O.G. Fully rely on God. Get it?" Sarah asked when she gave it to us.)
So, I was a bit melancholy as I finished my stretches this morning. In my sadness, I began considering routes that would avoid the Longs' former house. As I passed our mailbox on the way to the road, I noticed that, once again, the loose door had dropped down. As I moved to close the door, I noticed something at the back of the box. A holiday weekend, we hadn't checked the mail since early Friday.
From the back of the box, I pulled a small piece of brightly-decorated notebook paper, slightly damp from yesterday's rain. Pictured in bold orange and green was a cross with the words in red across the top: "Peace be with you." I turned the paper over and read: "To: Pastor Kim and Allen; From: Anna Long."
Wow. Not only had this rising third grader touched her pastor's heart, but I realized that, in her seven years at our church, quiet though she'd always seemed, she'd been soaking up and learning what it means to be a faithful person and to be part of a faithful community. At our church, Anna learned that when one person says, "Peace be with you," the other person is supposed to respond, "And also with you." Anna was inviting me to stay in touch.
Will Anna remember her old pastor, even past the third grade? Chances are, no. She will make new friends, find a new pastor, continue growing into the fine young woman she already is becoming. But for this moment--this moment, for me, of despair-- Anna is reminding me that in Christ we are always connected. She is reminding me that when we are part of God's family, we're never far away from each other. She is reminding me of everything I've ever tried to teach her about faith....
And look. Now she's teaching me.
Thanks be to God!