It happened again. I went on this amazing vacation, expecting excitement and beauty and awe. I was not disappointed; it had all that and more. After a brutal Midwest winter, the Caribbean cruise was a reminder that the White Witch really does not rule Narnia.
For five days, the paralysis of cold and gray gave way to warmth and life. My soul began to thaw.
But as I have found previously after a vacation like this, the real value of the experience was not in the weather or the activities or even in the content of the conference. It was in the community that was built, if only for a few days. A few intense but much-too-brief days.
Then there is the familiar ache I have come to expect, the ache unrelated to being back in the “real” world, but with leaving behind fresh new relationships, connections formed out of shared passions and common interests, and stories of hope and triumph. It felt like I was presented with a tall glass of true Christian community and then had it snatched away before I could drink it in fully.
This thirst for community is a common theme for me. My friend Wendy told me once that the grief I feel at this loss of community is from God; that it is the result of having been given a tiny glimpse of what we will experience in Heaven.
When the preview is over, as it is for me tonight, it makes our longing for Heaven more intense, and living without it that much harder. It is an exquisite thought – unending “fellowship” (as we used to say in the church of my youth) in an atmosphere of pure love.
But for now, I will have to enjoy the drop of cool water on my tongue that these earthly experiences provide. I’ll take the “almost slakes” and be grateful for the memories … and the preview of what is to come.