"Joy Or Grief"
One of the saddest moments of our family's lives occurred in 2001, two weeks after our son Noah left for Marine Corps recruit training at Parris Island, S.C.
Noah departed Mobile for Parris Island on a warm Sunday morning in late May. Family and friends gathered together to bid Noah farewell and safe passage. It seems like yesterday, and we can still feel the emotions of saying goodbye to Noah as he and his fellow recruits drove away. When we returned home, the letter writing began. Frances wrote Noah every day of his three month challenge at Parris Island. I wrote 3-4 letters a week, and as soon as the Post Office opened on the Monday morning after Noah's departure, Frances and I were there to drop off our first missives. We wanted him to receive them as soon as possible in the hope that letters from home would help Noah deal with the great challenges he faced.
We didn't hear from Noah for two weeks, despite sending him at least 20 letters during that time. Thinking this might be normal during the first period of training, we waited anxiously, checking the mail each day as soon as it arrived in the hope of hearing from our son. It seemed like forever, until one day the mailman came just as we were leaving to visit a friend who lived quite a distance from us. A letter from Noah was in the stack! Frances eagerly opened the envelope as we drove away, and we gratefully anticipated reading our son's first words from Parris Island. The sad moment to which I refer in my introduction, however, greeted us with shock and dismay. I do not recall Noah's exact words, but Frances read something like this:
"Dear Dad and Mom,
I'm doing ok, and hope you are. And I wonder why I haven't heard from you since I got here. The other recruits are getting mail every day from their families, but I haven't received anything."
We discovered later that a glitch in the address we had for Noah kept him from receiving his mail during the first few weeks. Our letters reached Parris Island, but didn't make it to his squad. Thus, for the first two weeks of one of the most difficult periods in Noah's life, he felt cut off from his family. As Frances read this, we both broke down and cried (I can't recall if I pulled the car over to the side of the road, but I must have). It literally tore our hearts from our chests to know how Noah must have felt. It also bewildered us because we had been so consistent in writing to Noah. How could such a thing have happened?! And how must Noah feel? It still hurts to think about that time, and "one of the saddest moments of our lives" definitely applies to the moment of receiving, opening, and reading that first shocking letter from Parris Island.
Several days later, we received another letter from Noah. "Mom, Dad, the mail thing is fixed! They brought me a huge stack of letters from you!" We shed more tears, these of joy, and of the knowledge that our son had received our communications. For the next two and a half months, no further problems occurred, and our correspondence with Noah during those times remains a cherished memory in all our hearts (and in our keepsakes. Frances has all of Noah's letters from those days, and he has all of ours).
I share this with you because this episode of a breach in communication with Noah always causes me to ponder how our Heavenly Father must feel when we wander from communing with Him. He loves our fellowship to the degree He gave His beloved Son to a terrible cross in order to make communication with Him possible. Moreover, His Word declares that "the prayer of the upright is His delight" (Proverbs 15:8). How it must pain His heart when no letters come, as it were. And how it should pain our hearts when we realize that, unlike the mail glitch I reference regarding Noah, we actually haven't contacted our Father. He loves us so dearly, our voices are sweet to Him, and He made and redeemed our hearts for loving and prayerful fellowship. King David understood this, and surely spoke for us all when he wrote, "He shall hear my voice" (Song of Solomon 2:14; Psalm 55:17).
The glitch of old leads to present glory in our hearts and minds. The mail problem was solved, and the recollection of the sadness we felt now reminds us of the precious nature of communication with our loved ones, including and especially God. Scripture teaches that we possess the capacity to both please and grieve Him. Certainly we long to avoid the latter and accomplish the former. So very much was sacrificed to make fellowship with our Father possible. And so very much of joy or grief hinges upon our response to the amazing wonder of our Lord's delight in our prayers.
"The Lord taketh pleasure in His people."
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"
Weekly Memory Verse
"In the world ye shall have tribulation. But be of good cheer. I have overcome the world."