There were six of us little Zockoll kids, sitting at the kitchen table in a rented house in Dallastown, Pennsylvania. Money was so scarce that Mom was making waffles for dinner for us. No syrup, just waffles. The house seemed cold and empty even though were all in attendance, and the house was fairly insulated against the outside snowfall.
It seemed empty because Dad wasn’t there. He had left my mother for another woman, something we children hadn’t fully comprehended yet … but we knew something was wrong. It was approaching Christmas but there was a yawing sadness about the little house.
Mom shuffled in from the kitchen with another batch of dry waffles. Little Gwen looked up from her dinner plate.
“Mom, when is Dad coming back home?”
Mom tried to stifle a sob. “He’s not coming back.”
“He’s never coming back.”
That’s when the reality struck. One by one each child took in the full impact of Mom’s words. One by one each child dissolved into tears. The little kitchen area was filled with sobbing, with each of us drowning in his or her own sorrow.
We loved Dad and wanted him to come back. We expected him to come back. But he wasn’t.
And he never did.
To be truthful, our sorrow hangs with us even to this day.
One of my favorite operas is Madame Butterfly, but I will admit that the final act is very hard on me. The final drama builds when the quiet and gentle Cio-Cio San, also known as Madam Butterfly, sings of her joy of finally getting an answer to her prayers. She has been waiting for three years for her husband, naval officer Pinkerton, to come back to claim her after the long absence. Cio-Cio-San has been offered to have another marriage arranged for her, but she turns the marriage down – she is waiting for the coming of her love. She has faced ridicule and mocking by her people for being so faithful, but still she remains unmoved.
The day arrives. Pinkerton’s ship is seen in the harbor, and she knows he is coming to meet her after all these years.
What a beautiful song she sings! She sings to the household the night before of how she will rejoice when he comes up the path to embrace her and her tiny son.
However, things have taken a wrong turn. A tragic wrong turn.
The next morning she is met with a horrifying reality: when he left, Pinkerton had married an American wife.
Cio-Cio-San meets the wife Kate with quiet resolve and politeness, but it is evident her heart is broken. When the household clears, she absorbs the full impact of what has happened; her long wait was nothing but a deep soul-wrenching disappointment. The final scene is a sorrowful one as Cio-Cio-San accepts that her waiting was a failure, that her long-lost love would never come to her. In an emotional goodbye in the silence of her home, Cio-Cio-San commits suicide.
It is tragic thing to have your hope taken away.
Thank God, thank God that does not happen in the life of a Believer.
2 Timothy 2:12 – “I am persuaded beyond any doubt that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day when I stand before Him.”
I won’t be disappointed as I hope and wait for Jesus.
Others who have waited for Him were not disappointed. I think of the human family of Jesus. Up close and personally they saw Jesus minister, heal, preach, suffer and die. They were stunned at His continual servanthood and obsession with leading people to the Kingdom; so much so that they thought Him insane.
They saw Him die, tortured to death.
He said He would be resurrected. They waited and hoped.
He said He would come back – would it happen? It did.
And what an impact it made. Two of His brothers, James and Jude were changed because of this. Remember James? He became a Christian leader and wrote the epistle called James. This wasn’t an egotistical thing either, because he opens his letter with “James, a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.” So does Jude. He also wrote a Bible epistle, and his starts the same: “Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ.” They were overjoyed at His promised return and were ready to serve while they headed to the Kingdom. They would head sooner than most; they both were martyred for the faith, but did so in full assurance of the final gathering in Heaven.
This is my faith. This is my joy. It’s not founded in large church attendance, snazzy speakers, musical concerts or rituals of service. It’s not left at mere friendships, although here on earth those are precious. It’s not complete with a large income or a widely-regarded reputation.
It’s in Jesus coming back and taking us Home, isn’t it? Yes, it is.