The church buzzed with the sounds of Vacation Bible School: little children excitedly making crafts, the pastor's two-year-old laughing with glee as she played with her toys. Delight was everywhere. But it hadn't been so earlier - at least not for me.
A heaviness had been on my soul. For some reason, the darkness loomed large. I felt alone but didn't exactly know why. I couldn't tell what I lacked. There was an emptiness. There was searching. God felt distant.
But then, while at the VBS, I witnessed two encounters that broke the burden. Three of the college baseball players from our Alaska Baseball League team had volunteered to help with games for the children. They were outside waiting patiently. To my right, one of them was investing in the life of a young man from the church. The recent high school graduate was searching - like me. In compassionate love, the ball player reached out. He sat with the fellow and talked. He told him to seek God. To honor Him. To be like Him.
At the same moment, another ball player hung out with me. Tossing a ball back and forth, we talked about all manner of things. As we did so, I felt the heaviness lift. In both cases, I realized that we are never really alone - even in the times when we feel that way. Community is necessary for growth. One cannot live without it. In its absence, the heart grows lonely. The darkness descends. And, by not allowing community to happen, we can think our problem is too much for another to bear. It is better to carry the burden alone. And yet, aren't we told in the Bible that assisting one another in bearing the load is to our benefit? (Galations 6:2) Maybe, were we to reconsider, we might find our darkness a little more distant if we allowed the light of another to shine. Perhaps God might speak to us through a messenger of His selection. Hope might arrive from an unlikely source.
We must be open to those around us. We must be honest enough to let them in - to let them bring the Light of the World a bit closer to us. Everyday, we must resist the temptation to return to the hideout and leave the Grace-filled life. What reminds us of this choice are the people who surround us - those whose lives have been linked with ours, who feel the sting of our pain as their own, who love us unconditionally in spite of ourselves. These cause us to see that we do not journey this life on our own. We are joined to a larger community. We are part of something special. We are wanted. We have a place. We belong.
It was a simple game of catch. It was a quiet, personal conversation between two young men. But both experiences reminded me that Grace will always find a way to us. God will always speak. He never leaves us - even in our lonely moments. Because He chooses to love, we are never alone.