This past week, we hosted the Senior class for a potluck and I captured these two photos of just a few of the youth loving on our kids and it made me smile but, with that smile lingered a tinge of sadness. A tinge of relational loneliness. A bit of longing for the young men and women in Canada who are big brothers and sisters to our kids. The ones who sat with them in church, ran around with them, played with them, attended their school concerts and read stories to them before bed. A bit of an ache for the UIS Grads of 2018 who are now spread around the world, studying, learning and growing into the amazing plans God has for them but, who, at one point, were those people reading stories to our kids around the table, wrestling with them and chasing them around the yard. I feel both complete and incomplete.
When we left Canada to return to PNG, we left some amazing youth and young adults who we miss dearly. We left relationships that we cherish and treasure and we knew we were returning to existing friendships and relationships and the promise of new relationships to build into but it was still deeply difficult to leave our Canadian home.
Now, here we are, teaching students on this side of the world, having the privilege of spending time with these students and the opportunity to build relationships with them and just provide places for them to be together as they make memories as classes and friends. And, with each evening spent together, each lunchtime meeting, class taught, pep rally attended or potluck dinner planned, I am reminded that, though we will continue to miss the amazing youth and young adults who are living in Canada and spread out across the world, that my God is a God of AND and not a God of OR.
We don’t have to love one set of young people OR another. We don’t need to call Canada OR Papua New Guinea home. We don’t need to choose between loneliness OR relationship. God is a God of AND. He call us to love those in Canada AND those here in PNG. He gives us Canadian AND Papua New Guinean homes and He can give us the strength to live with loneliness AND relationship as we cycle between these two homes and seek to maintain relationships in both places.
And there are so many more “ANDS” in the Kingdom of God. We are home AND also not yet home until we get to Heaven. We are called to experience joy AND sorrow. We are given hard days AND easier ones. We are sometimes given the feeling of being known AND sometimes we feel the sorrow of broken relationships.
We are being made holy AND we are still broken but, more than any of this – the reason we have the ability to live with the AND’s – to accept the complexity of this life, is because of Christ’s sacrifice. Because of how, before we had to face any of the AND’s, that our forgiveness, our acceptance and our value was determined, decided and sealed with the incredible sacrifice of our perfect Saviour.
So, we can step forward into the AND’s with confidence – knowing who we are, knowing whose we are, knowing that, even when we miss those we love or we don’t know how our hearts can be left in so many places, that He knows. That He sees. That He loves and that He calls us to do the same, regardless of our inability, at times, to comprehend the AND’s. And, that in our being known, that we can be completely secure in the, sometimes overwhelming, ambiguity of the ‘AND’s.’
I am thankful that I don’t have to choose relationships. I am thankful that He sees my desire to maintain these relationships in a way that is honouring to Him and I am beyond thankful for His perfect sacrifice to cover any shortcomings I may have in living with the AND’s. Praise God for His sacrifice, His delight in human relationships and His generous kindness in giving us so many people to love in Canada AND Papua New Guinea.