The Exhale of Heaven
"And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them,
'Receive the Holy Spirit'." John 20:22
The phone call was one I'll never forget. "Guess who is moving?" my husband asked. I was not prepared for his answer. I immediately hung up the phone and cried my eyes out when I found out he was referring to a senior couple in our congregation who are beloved to us as well as every single person in our church and community. These two have a vibrant, healthy marriage after 50 years. They are the life of the party everywhere they go, love my children as their own, and are faithful co-laborers in Christ. They still keep the nursery for Pete's sake! Though we have only known them two short years, I can not imagine my daily life without them in it. Their going will leave our church body with a limp much like the one Jacob had after wrestling with the angel. Jacob was able to function, but he never forgot. Neither will we.
Preparing to tell these dear ones goodbye has drawn my thoughts once again to the Cross and the devastation the Disciples and others who loved Jesus experienced when they had to part with their Beloved Savior. How do you let go of someone with whom you have shared so much? Who accepted you when no one else did? Forgave you when no one else would? Mary couldn't let go in the Garden after Jesus' resurrection which prompted His gentle rebuke, "Stop clinging to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father." (John 20:17) Do you blame her? Had it been me, I can just see Jesus trying to walk away, dragging me on His leg behind Him. What Mary did not understand at the time is that Jesus was not going to leave her or the Disciples. He had another kind of Presence in mind.
Since the Garden, God has longed for fellowship with His Creation. Even before sin caused the Great Separation, He had a plan in place for bridging that divide so that He could once again dwell among us. God first hovered above the Israelites in the desert in a pillar of cloud and fire. He then talked 'face to face' with Moses and His Presence filled the Tabernacle. He was getting closer, but not close enough for Him. He was aching to touch His creation again. To have them see Him and not die. To speak to them and not have them cover their ears or hide their faces. The joy of communion was destroyed in the Garden and He's been missing us ever since.
The next step in His drawing near is what captures my imagination. I think of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in Heaven just before Jesus came to Earth. I picture Jesus saying to the Father, "I'm going in". Just then, He inhales deeply of the Spirit before diving into the waters of humanity. With the breath of Heaven inside, Jesus plunged into our atmosphere in order to provide atonement and infuse us with the Spirit He possessed. And then, much like a swimmer just before he emerges out of the water, He exhaled. Jesus breathed the Spirit out. We breath the Spirit in. You can't get much closer than being indwelt.
Jesus never intended on leaving His creation alone yet there would be a new way of relating to Him after His ascension. John 16:7 says,
"But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you."
The Helper is the agent of conviction of sin and remembrance of God's Word when times of testing come. He guides in all Truth and glorifies God by disclosing His will to His children. He comforts, He teaches, He exhorts. No, we are not alone. We are empowered and full of Christ Jesus in a way we never could have been if He remained in human form self-limited in His Presence. Though we would love to have Jesus in the flesh before us, we all have to agree it is to our benefit to have an equal measure of Him dwelling inside.
So my thoughts return to our friends who will be leaving soon. I will treasure every moment still remaining and while doing this, I will also ponder How God blesses us with the ability to experience this mystery of relationship with Him and one another. When they go, I will turn my face towards the sky as the wind of His Spirit breezes into my face. And I will breathe deeply of the Exhale of Heaven for the comfort I can find in no other Name.
I will miss you terribly, S. and L.