I K.Oed around 6p.m. today and just woke up at 10:30p.m.. I didn’t realize I was that tired…oh dear. Now I hope I can go back to sleep at a decent hour…
Zibin’s sweet blog post came at the end of week in which the theme of relationships and growth had been constantly visited in my mind. Today was Ascension Sunday in the liturgical calendar, and all week during daily mass, the gospel readings had been around this event – the day when Jesus ascended into heaven 40 days after His resurrection.
Before leaving, Jesus speaks encouraging words to His apostles, including explaining to them that though it pains them, it is to their advantage that He leaves them at this point, because only if He leaves can He send them the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will reveal ‘the complete truth’ to the apostles, including things that Jesus still wants to tell them, but which they are not yet ready to hear. He promised them that the Holy Spirit would teach them everything they need to know, and remind them of all that He has already taught them. (Jn 14:26; Jn 16:7-12)
Throughout this week, I had been thinking of how the apostles must have felt. For three years, Jesus had lived and taught among them, changing their lives with His power and love. He was a teacher that never failed to give wise counsel, and a friend who loved them so much that He lay His life down for them. They have had to endure the pain of Jesus’ passion and death, and had rejoiced at His resurrection. Maybe they had hoped that there would be no more pain of separation. But a second parting was still to come, and this time, it would be much longer than three days before they could see Jesus again.
The priest who preached the homily this morning reflected on how much the apostles must have wished to cling to Jesus, and how sad and afraid they must have been at this parting. I wonder how encouraging Jesus’ assurances at this point in time could have felt to them. If I were in their shoes, I think that all I would be able to think about was the fact that I wouldn’t be able to be close to Him in the way we had been anymore. All He says about sending me His Holy Spirit would probably not assuage the sorrow in my heart at the impending parting. Perhaps I might be able to trust Him that this would be good for me, but I know that emotionally I would still desire to cling to Him and wish desperately that He did not have to go.
The priest commented that Jesus was challenging His apostles to a more mature relationship with Him…one that moves beyond the kind of physical presence and closeness that they have had with Him for three years. Though they did not realize it as yet, what they would have with Him from then on would be an even deeper relationship – one that communed at the level of spirit and which would enable them to go out into the world with even greater faith and courage than before.
I am reminded that this is a realization that I had made in my own faith journey, as well as in many of my human relationships. Who isn’t sad and a little fearful at separations? When I graduated from St. Nicks, I remembered wondering quite emotionally if the close friendships I had built would last through the years. When I left Singapore for Toronto, I remembered the sadness of friends who felt ‘left behind’ and who feared at least a little that I would forget them in my new life. When Zibin graduated and we had to begin our long-distance relationship, we were both so very, very sad. It wasn’t because we were fearful for our future, but having spent every single day in each other’s presence for two entire years, sharing as deeply as we had, the thought of such a long stretch of time without each other’s physical presence was almost too much to bear.
All these relationships have changed greatly in the last 10 years. Though I don’t ‘feel’ God’s presence in my life in the same emotional way as I used to, I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I have actually grown, not regressed, in my faith. My St. Nicks friends and I used to spend so many hours of everyday together, and our friendship then was built so much on physical time and presence. We have not had that for quite a few years now. But I am confident that every one of us would agree that our friendships, though with less ‘contact’ on the surface, is deeper now than it ever was before. Many things that in the past we were insecure about now truly go without saying and we have stopped worrying about the future of our friendships.
As for Zibin and I…sometimes we ourselves marvel at how well we do the ‘long-distance thing’, especially considering how we could never seem to spend enough time together in our first two years. We surprised ourselves in the first year apart, at how relatively easy it was. That gave us the confidence for me to stay another 5-6 years for my graduate studies, though it was still a difficult decision to make. We miss each other a lot of course, and it’s always hard when I have to leave Singapore after a visit. But the ‘missing’ is no longer painful. And we no longer feel the compulsion to spend every possible minute together. I think it is because we both now feel the connection in spirit, which is stronger and deeper than physical presence. We are never truly apart.
We both agree now that this time apart has been good for us, both personally, and for our relationship. During this time, we each had our own personal journeys to make which could only have taken place while we were apart. Yet, we always felt each other’s presence and support. Our communication, trust, and confidence in each other’s love and commitment have also grown by leaps and bounds because of the trials of being apart. Though we already knew even 6 years ago that we would get married, we will marry next year standing on foundation that is truly stronger and firmer because of our more mature faith in God and in each other.
These realizations are all retrospective. If I were to go back in time to the point of those partings, I know I would be no less anxious and sad. Still, the gospel readings this week remind me that where there is true love and a sincere desire to grow in relationship, time, distance and change are not the fearful adversaries they appear to be. They may be stronger allies than we could imagine. *musing smile*