It is that time of year when families gather for the annual reunion: aunts, uncles and cousins, some twice removed, and, to complicate things, some twice or thrice married. Reunions are a mixed bag. Some experience the thrill of familiar faces that frame the memories of their youth, and plunge into the pleasure of telling stories passed down through the years, embellished with each cycle of telling. “Do you remember when …?” The stories don’t even require a complete telling. Laughter fills the circle before the story can be told because everyone who is listening has either heard it or told it countless times.
Others hang back along the fringe, looking puzzled, trying to figure out who these people are and how they might be remotely related to them. The young and the newly added “in-laws” are usually in this number. Sometimes they seek each other and have their own make-shift reunion, sharing the common bond of amnesia regarding the inside jokes and familiar references to names not present, faceless people everyone else seems to know whose absence makes their presence even more pronounced.
The reunion has a strange mix of sorrow and laughter. Significant people are absent. Voices that once echoed at the tables of past reunions now lie silent beneath the earth. The same people who gather for the reunion gathered and wept at the funerals for those who no longer come. Their memories are like the deep colors that form the background for vivid paintings or the rich bass tones of the cello and the French horn that enrich the orchestra. At the same time, these sorrows are offset by giggling children who appear like bright colors that dance on the canvass and whose laughter picks up future melodies like the flute.
We somehow have confidence that Heaven is about reunions. We all look forward to seeing people who loved us, those we loved, when we get to Heaven. And, somehow, this earthly reunion helps us look forward to that day. We don’t know exactly how it will happen or how God could manage all the intertwined family relationships when we get to Heaven, but, somehow, family reunions portend the Heavenly event. When I was a child we sang, “Will the circle be unbroken?” It was a way to ask the question together and look forward to something more perfect that God has planned for us.
Jesus did not shy away from using this image to help us look forward to a more perfect day. He said, “In my Father’s House are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go and prepare a place for you that where I am, there you may be also.” The book of Hebrews uses this metaphor to spur us on to better living: “Seeing that we are surrounded by so great a host of witnesses, let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the originator and the finisher of the race.” It seems to me that God takes pleasure in our reunions, just as He takes pleasure in reuniting Himself with us through His Son.