A couple weeks ago, we met three other couples for dinner on a Saturday evening. We knew we wanted to have the opportunity to really visit, so we purposely chose a restaurant which is typically not very busy and does not play loud music.
The waitstaff pulled together a couple of tables right in the middle of the restaurant so we could all be seated together. We had all met previously, but all eight of us had never been together at the same time before, and most of us didn't know each other well at all. Nonetheless, as soon as we were seated, we began talking, and the waitress had to return a couple of times before we were ready to order because we were too busy visiting to look over the menus.
We had chosen the restaurant well, because it was quiet and uncrowded ... perfect for a relaxing dinner and conversation. The food was delicious, but secondary to the richness of the fellowship. It's a good thing there weren't very many people there that evening, because I'm afraid we might have disturbed them with our frequent outbursts of loud laughter.
Three hours later, we finally pushed our chairs back and prepared to leave. The restaurant would be closing soon, and we all needed to be getting home. We said our good-byes in the parking lot and headed our separate ways.
If you had asked any of the patrons in the restaurant that evening what our group was doing there, they might have thought we were there celebrating someone's birthday. Or maybe we were a group of lifelong friends enjoying an evening out on the town. Or perhaps we were members of the same extended family, reunited for the evening.
Actually, that final guess would have been the closest. Although the four of us couples were not related in any way, we were all part of the same family. First and foremost, we were all members of the family of God. But we were also members of another family ... a family no one wants to be a member of ... parents who are waiting to be reunited with their children in Heaven. All of us were at least three years along on the road of grief.
I'm pretty sure no one who observed us visiting and laughing in that restaurant that evening would have guessed that that was the bond between us!
But that's the way it is when Christian parents who have lost children get together. We have a bond that is instantaneous and incredibly strong. And what may be most mystifying to those looking on, we have a surprising ability to laugh together. Yes, we have a deep sadness ... yes, we miss our children ... but we have assurance that we will see them again. And because of that hope, we can still smile and laugh. And I think this is what our children would have us do while we're waiting.
Job 8:21 (NIV) -- "He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouts of joy."