I Just Want to Be with You
When the Chicago Cubs come to play the Milwaukee Brewers, Miller Park is usually packed. I never pay my annual visit to watch the Brewers on such an occasion. However, recently a friend handed me a packet of tickets to a Brewers/Cubs game. They allowed us access to a luxury suite with seats for twenty people - and front row parking! So began fast and furious phone calls resulting in an impressive gathering of 18 Briscoes and in-laws - including my wife Jill.
After the game I teased my wife that she had found time, despite having to leave for England the next morning, to come and suggested, rather ungallantly, that it was amazing what influence the grandkids wielded! To my surprise - and shame! - she replied, "An old friend called me this week to say her husband had just died. She told me, ‘Don't assume you'll always have each other. You won't. So never miss an opportunity to spend time together.' I just wanted to be with you." My words stuck in my throat!
Jill and I have always lived busy lives and our ministry over the years has, at times, necessitated long absences. Since stepping down from pastoring to minister to the developing world, we have been known to say "goodbye" at Bangkok Airport as Jill flew to Croatia while I headed for Cambodia. I'm not complaining; neither is Jill. This is what we have been called and privileged to do. But it has not always been conducive to "time together." Perhaps Jill's friend, knowing this, was prompted to give her words of advice.
But on reflection, I have concluded that the issue is not simply that our calling has required us to be separate some of the time. It's not easy to be together apart! It's the consciousness that when we are together, we're often so busy that we don't have time to be together. I know that before her friend called, if I had asked Jill if she wanted to come to the ballgame knowing that she was leaving for England the next morning, the answer would have been, "I can't." And in similar circumstances, my response to her suggestion that we might go out for dinner would have been, "Can't we grab a bite at home? It will be much quicker." Consume food, but don't consume time. But what is time for? Surely it is a fleeting, precious gift in short supply that is granted to earthlings in order that they might invest in relational living, and there is no relationship more significant than the one that exists between two people who, through the wonderful purposes and power of God, have been made one.
When Jill spoke those simple words, "I just wanted to be with you," I realized how much I wanted to be with her, too. Even if it meant being together in a noisy stadium, in a suite full of lively grandkids - at least we could catch each other's eye in the constant movement and share an unspoken thought across the proverbial crowded room. Jill actually did leave for England the next day. And it was the day the plot was thwarted to blow up airliners bound from London to the U.S., creating consternation and chaos in London just as she arrived! I was watching the breaking news wondering where she was when the phone rang. Caller ID informed me it was my pal Jim Scheel. (Jim volunteered years ago to drive us anywhere we needed to go, which has meant endless trips in all weathers from Milwaukee to O'Hare and back.) He said it was part of his ministry. I picked up the phone and said, "Hi, Jim, how're you doing?" The voice answered, "This isn't Jim. He died a couple of hours ago."
I rushed over to Jim's home to be with Ina, his widow. She greeted me, incredibly, with the words, "You lost your ride," but my mind was not on rides. It was focused on a brave little lady who was suddenly living with the harsh reality that we don't always have each other! She told me how the Spirit of God had brought to her mind the words, "Be still and know that I am God," even as she tried to resuscitate Jim's lifeless body. We prayed, relatives began to arrive, and as I drove away from the house of mourning, my international cell phone rang. It was Jill - from London! She was fine and had spent the day recording and speaking live on the radio station which we broadcast to our homeland every day. "How are you?" she asked. "I'm hurting. My buddy Jim Scheel died." Sensing my sorrow she replied, "I'm sorry, Stu." Then she added, "I wish I could be with you."I wished it, too.