Stay with Me Forever

“Jesus, come into my heart and stay with me forever!” Bonnie Shaw links together joy, suffering, and life-sustaining friendships in this heartfelt reflection celebrating the great feast of Pentecost.

“My God is so BIG, so STRONG, and so MIGHTY, there’s NOTHING my God cannot do!” The chubby cheeked duet, my two-year old son and three-year old daughter, would belt out this song, replete with hand motions many days of their childhood. The simple truth of this song comes to mind as I contemplate the miracle of Pentecost.

The Music of Silence, a book written by Andrea Bocelli shared this visual about a precious encounter with music as he was losing his sight as a young boy. “It was a small hope which filled me with joy, a joy as great as my suffering, such joy as I have probably never felt since then and which perhaps you can only feel when you have paid the price of such profound pain.”

This line resonated with me, stirring emotion deep in my heart. I have a precious friendship with a woman I deeply love. We have shared a friendship of eighteen years, across several states and stages of life. This concept of profound pain is a physical agony in my heart, a memory imbedded within my soul of our parting as we moved away from Minnesota, my family’s home of 12 years. This memory includes a moonlit tearful good-bye in my driveway, following a wonderful birthday party for my youngest daughter. We would be moving away the next morning. As my friend’s minivan pulled away from the curb and I waved to her taillights, an anguished sob escaped my throat. I found myself doubled over, sobbing in the moonlight. Getting a hold of myself in the empty street, I pulled a deep draught of air into my lungs as my beloved choir director had taught, looking up to the cascade of stars strewn across the sky. I prayed right then, thanking the Lord for the blessings of this friendship and feeling the gaping hole in my heart, raw and wounded.

It was a painful parting because it had been a life-sustaining friendship. I can only imagine the special friendship shared among the apostles and Jesus. He called each one, He knew them, He fished with them, broke bread, showed them things they never knew. He loved them, uniquely! They were each aware of this. He was taken from them, violently, by events out of their control. He had warned them He must go, but they didn’t understand. I knew of our moving date, I was forewarned of our parting, my family’s pursuit of a zip code closer to where our families were. And yet, I was in no way prepared for the parting of hearts knit together. Neither were the apostles!

Of course, their story does not end with their parting after their last supper together. He returns, surprising them with his appearance, telling Thomas to put his fingers into his nail-scarred wounds. Joy! Together again. What a reunion that must have been!

I continue to be in touch with my friend. The marvels of technology allow us to text, share pictures, and another move has brought my zip code closer to hers once again. A few hours drive, a few weeks of calendar coordination, and we can hug and catch up on life. Both having sons graduate this spring, we were able to be part of their celebrations, our families reunited once more. Six teenagers and that youngest sister, celebrating each other, two couples still rooting on the other’s marriage and family life. It was a small hope of things to come – weddings, other graduations, joys we hope to continue to share together.

I wish to have this friendship forever, this companion of mine that knows me so well and loves me much better than I deserve. My little brother used to say his prayers at night, and there was one he never forgot. Sparkling eyes squeezed tight, little boy hands clasped, this prayer was practically whisper-shouted, “Jesus, come into my heart and stay with me forever!”

This is an echo through the ages. His apostles wanted the very same thing. He had come into their hearts when they accepted his offer of friendship. They never wanted him to leave. Not the first time, and I can even imagine, not the second!

Now they shouldn’t have been surprised that there was more to come. They knew Him, right? The one of whom it is said, “My God is abundantly able to do exceedingly more than all we can ask or imagine…” (Ephesians 3:20).

Even though He told them He would be with them forever, He had to prepare a place for them, He would send an Advocate, no doubt the loss of His physical presence was keenly felt. Loss can be aptly described as not understanding, grief an expression of the effort of seeking it.

Andrea Bocelli found one loss was returned as another, this time a forever friend, in music. I have found that one loss has been exchanged for a deeper friendship, rooted in the days past and the hope ahead.

At the time of Pentecost, when the apostles were all in one place together, the noise like a strong wind filled the home. Tongues of fire rested upon each one, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, according to the second chapter of Acts.

Understanding was like the dawn, on the edge of the horizon. The Holy Spirit gave it, and they understood that He was with them. Always. They never could have imagined this forever friendship, but their hearts could see Him because they knew He was with them. He returned their joy and peace while bringing them new gifts and aspects of His friendship. Their joy was as great as their suffering, a limitless capacity, one perhaps they could only feel because He and they had paid the price of profound pain.

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit offers us the same as the apostles: treasures untold, abiding peace, His advocacy. To encounter Him is profound, but to see Him as children – how precious! Offering joy and friendship, the Holy Spirit came to stay with us forever!

Copyright 2019 Bonnie Shaw

Bonnie Shaw is wife to Chris, mother of four perpetually hungry offspring, and in continual anticipation of summer and hot weather. An educator by degree and lifelong learner by habit, she consumes stacks of books, inhabiting both her imagination and contemplation as she seeks connection with truth, ideas, and the laughter of friends traveling the same road. In relentless pursuit of more perfectly trusting in the Lord’s divine mercy, she is so very thankful for His grace and the peace and shelter of His presence as well as the example of others who love Him.