When I graduated from junior high school and walked into the doors of Rock Bridge High School for the first time in 1996, I thought I was grown up. I had made one leap - a step from the doors of one school and into the doors of a school where people were making big decisions for their lives. I was "grown up."
I soon learned that there was a lot of pain associated with high school. People still teased me. I still struggled to fit in - to find a group of people where I could truly be myself. I was often left out of school dances. I was not invited to become a part of the club for popular girls. I ached at times, and I discovered that I was not as grown up as I thought. There were still times when I wanted nothing more than to crawl into the arms of my parents or simply sit at home.
When I graduated from Rock Bridge High School and went to college, I thought I was grown up. This was the milestone I had been waiting for - the one that would mark my becoming an adult. I loved college. College was a gift to me in so many ways. It is the place where I flourished. Still, there were times when I was hurt or lonely. There were times when I wanted nothing more than to go home and be in the all-embracing arms of my mother or father.
College graduation brought me to Washington. My time in Washington sent me to seminary. Seminary then sent me out into the world to proclaim the Good News. Throughout each step there have been times to buy a house and times to sell a house, times to enter a relationship and times to end a relationship, times to save money and times to ask for some assistance. There have been heart aches and body aches. It seems as though no matter how old we are, there are always times when life presents us with growth opportunities - whether we want them or not.
Last Wednesday we took our weekly morning Bible study from the church to a retirement community in Northern Virginia. The construction at the church has taken away our parking, making it very difficult for our older adults to get into the city during the week. We have therefore moved the group study to a place where three of the participants live and a place where everyone else can find a parking spot. Our Bible study that typically attracts six or seven people grew to eleven people on Wednesday morning. We were able to greet many new faces, welcoming them into the midst of our fold.
We studied the Bible for an hour, with Nathan leading us on a discussion of Jeremiah. We then got to the time where we ask everyone in the room, "How can we pray for you this week?" As each person shared, I was reminded that our "growing up" is never really over - that there are still aches and pains associated with life transitions no matter what age we are - whether we are 16 or 86.
One person asked for prayers for her husband who has Parkinson's and her mother who is 103, in addition to asking for comfort as she adjusts to life in her new community with her husband being cared for in another state.
One person asked that at the age of 85 he would be the man his mother wanted him to be.
Two people asked for prayers for their great-children who are caught in the seduction of alcohol or in the middle of a child custody battle.
And one person asked that he would be a better Christian.
No matter how old we are, we still have times when we want nothing more to be held by a parent who puts their arms around us and says, "Everything is going to be okay. Do not worry. I am with you, and I am going to remain with you through the storm."
While our parents may not alway be around to offer their arms of love and tender words of mercy, we do have a God who is both father and mother - a parent who will never ever leave us or forsake us. We have a God who is always far more ready to comfort us than we are able to ask for comfort. We have someone to whom we can always return.
Thanks be to God. Amen.