The book came to an end just as my Florida vacation did the same. Days earlier I had been surprised and delighted to find it in the book section of my grocery store after wishing my favorite secular author would put out something new in time for my trip. I’m normally a library patron, not usually having the funds to spring for the hardcover version of the new releases on the bestseller list. I force myself to add my name to a waiting list there or postpone the read til it comes out in paperback. But not this time. With my trip just two days away, I laid my money on the counter, tucked the book under my arm and then in my carry-on bag, waiting til I was seated at the gate at the airport before cracking the cover. My anticipation of a great story and my excitement over my travel plans were both at fever pitch!
Thankfully the book didn’t disappoint me. As usual, I flipped through the pages relentlessly, staying up late after visiting all day to sneak in an extra chapter or two before falling asleep, and picking it up with delight when insomnia attacked in the middle of the night. Of all possible locations, the book was set in Italy, a place near and dear to my heart. Descriptions of the people, places and FOOD in the novel matched those I’d experienced myself in my one visit there several years ago, and catapulted what would normally have been just another good read to a literary experience of the highest caliber. I thoroughly enjoyed traveling anew to a favorite country with this writer who’s given me so many pleasurable literary vacations in the past. Truly it was a wonderful new experience with an old friend.
Those words likewise perfectly describe my Florida vacation, although perhaps in this instance the word “old” should be printed in capitals, italicized and possibly underlined, as well (just kidding, Mary!). Her birthday was the excuse I needed to visit her in far-away Florida. But it wasn’t just any birthday, mind you. This was her 40th, a biggie. How gracious of her to age to this extent, just so I could come and visit! I have fewer years to spare than she does, so if one of us had to sacrifice one for our reunion, she was definitely the one to do it. She didn’t seem to mind.
Surprisingly, I learned some things about Mary that I didn’t know before. And she discovered some new aspects to my personality, as well. Expecting me to comfort and support her as she entered her 4th decade, she was surprised that I instead took the opportunity to razz her every chance I got. I was finally honest about my feelings towards her favorite footwear, preferring the “crocs” you find in the water to the ones she wears on her feet. Surely she was also amazed that I didn’t take a single nap while in her company, despite the tedium of her senile ramblings at times. No, we were much too busy to waste time in sleep. There were sights to see, stores to shop, meals to eat, trails to hike, even alligators to find (from a distance, of course). There were movies to watch, people to meet, and of course, her birthday to celebrate. The days were packed full of new experiences with an old (OLD!) friend. I loved them all.
Those same words likewise describe my relationship with God. Our friendship dates back to a Sunday morning some 32 years ago now, and truly has become deeper and richer over time. Yet my experiences with Him are still as fresh as a new day breaking. He can still make me laugh or cry with a sentence or a look, and just one Word out of His mouth or in His Book can change my attitudes, my actions,… my life.
You know, a book is new only until you’ve traveled through its pages from cover to cover one time. My time with Mary was new only until we ran out of things to do (we didn’t) or until my return flight home eventually left the airport (it did). But my experiences with God can be new every day (Lamentations 3:23) – they never come to an end. Likewise I never have to say goodbye to Him or wait months for the next chance to see Him. He’s always available and I can walk in His Presence continually. He will never leave me nor forget the promises He’s made to me (Deuteronomy 4:31).
I love my favorite author because I trust him not to lace his characters’ conversations with profanity nor place them in lifestyle situations that would cause me to put his books aside. I likewise treasure my friendship with Mary because of its constancy. The love between us is not diminished by the difference in our ages, the miles betweens our homes nor the months in-between our chances to be together. How much more, then, do I trust God, the Author of Life, to do me good and not evil all the days of my life, to extend His mercies new to me each morning, and to be that Friend Who sticks closer than a brother…(or even an aging “sister”)?! Stories reach a conclusion, vacations come to a close, but truly a relationship with God can be a journey of joy that never comes to an end.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
(Lamentations 3:23-24 NIV)
(Lamentations 3:23-24 NIV)