Summer strain

By Maria Sermersheim

I would like to take a moment to praise summer. How wonderful it is to be home! The late evening sun casts golden light through green leaves and shines through the windows as my family lingers around the dinner table, eating ice cream mixed with Grandma’s hickory nuts, laughing about the silly puppy and joking about anything ad absurdum. We rest, content in that warm, safe space that is home. I can honestly say there is absolutely nowhere I would rather be right now.

But at the same time, I would like to take a moment to lament summer. For the first time, summer means my friends go farther away, and we see each other much less. Our hometowns span the continent and our summer adventures span the planet, so I won’t be able to visit any of them. I can honestly say I am more friend-sick than I was homesick, and I have certainly come to appreciate the inestimable value of Skype.

I explained this confusing predicament to a friend over the phone, and she made the beautiful comment that it simply points to the ultimate reality for which we were made: sharing fully in eternal life with everyone we love. St. Augustine teaches that our ultimate peace and happiness will be found in eternal, perfect unity with God and neighbor, and I can see this is what I strain for already.

Indeed, I am discovering anew what Pope Benedict XVI meant when he wrote, “Both the poverty of human existence and its fullness point to God,” as I contend with the paradoxical experience of both this summer. He continued, “it remains true that it is not only the need born of loneliness, the experience that no sense of community fills up all our longing, that leads to the experience of God; it can just as well proceed from the joy of security.” As I spend these relaxed summer evenings with my family after finishing days of work that I love, I am so happy to be home. The thought of being anywhere else exhausts me because I feel this “joy of security” intensely. My summer plans and my time at home are not lacking in the least. Yet somehow there remains “the experience that no sense of community fills up all our longing.” My unity with God and neighbor is not complete, and I can’t share these dearly loved moments of home with everyone I love because we are naturally limited by time and space.

This tension won’t be resolved here and now — it can’t be. But I can accept that with peace and hope in my heart. I do not wish away a single second of this precious summer at home. Though I wish my friends could share the seconds with me, I will instead look forward to sharing grand stories of our adventures big and small over many long meals and conversations. I understand now that this summer strain reveals my hope for heaven; and it makes me all the more hopeful.