We don’t normally take a Spring vacation, but Myra and I took a couple of weeks off, beginning on “tax day.” Our chief aim was to “retrieve” my mother, Grace, who had landed in Richmond, Virginia, after spending almost two months visiting her four daughters and their families. Rather than make a straight trip to Virginia, however, I wanted Myra to see some parts of the country she has never seen. I had seen Niagara Falls and Cape Cod as a teenager with my parents, camping throughout the northeast, but Myra has never been to those locations.
Traveling to Virginia via those points of interest gave us the perfect opportunity to see her brother, Rowe, who lives south of Boston (a city we planned to visit, but the Marathon bombing canceled that trip). With multiple health issues, including Parkinson’s disease, Rowe’s travel is limited, not even making it to his mother’s funeral in 2006. So, we determined that we needed to travel to him! It was a wonderful visit and good to renew connections with him, his wife and three children we had met and to finally meet the four children we had never seen in the flesh, since we had not seen Rowe in over 20 years.
I realize that it may seem foreign to many to think of never having met nieces and nephews or not seeing a sibling for so many years. However, circumstances sometimes necessitate that kind of physical separation. Though we have maintained communication with Rowe by phone, through mail and Facebook®, nothing beats the ability to shake hands, hug, and talk face to face.
Over the years, the nature of my vocation and the distance we are from family have limited our ability to spend time with our family. My side of the family was at one time spread out from Virginia to California. Only in recent years have we been able to gather annually in Florida, but even then we seldom see the entire extended family.
As I thought about our physical separation from family, the Apostle Paul’s desire for face to face encounters came to mind. In several letters, he expressed his intent and deep desire to visit those Christian brothers and sisters; some of whom he had personally discipled, but others with whom he had never spent “face time.” To the Romans, Paul said,
“For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine” (Romans 1:11-12, NASB).
Paul’s face to face time with them was not only for their benefit; he needed it, as well!
I can honestly say that I miss the church family when I am away on vacation. I need the fellowship, worship and encouragement from God and my Crest Baptist family. We need the touch of the Christ-life that resides in each believer, and others, who may not even know they need it, must see the love that we have for one another, so they may see what they are missing.
Many of you are as regular as clockwork in your commitment to meet with the saints in worship and small groups. However, if you feel a twinge of guilt, take that as the prompting of the Holy Spirit and make some adjustments in your life to include regular face to face time with the saints.
- Last Sunday, I preached from Romans 11:11-32. In that section, Paul said: “In view of the fact that I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if I can somehow make my own people jealous and save some of them” (vv. 13-14). His goal in his ministry to the Gentiles was that it would result in unbelieving Jews being made jealous…jealous in the sense of wanting the relationship with God that the Gentiles now had. When you think of your relationship with God and His Body (the church), is it so attractive to unbelievers that they are brought to the point of jealousy, seeing your relationship as one they long to have, too? Or put another way as one commentator said it, “Are the Jews [unbelievers] we meet provoked to jealousy or just provoked?” 
1. R. Kent Hughes, Romans – Righteousness from Heaven, 1991, Crossway, p. 197.