I personally enjoy reunions. And I like watching other people enjoy reunions. When I was a young guy, occasionally there would be family reunions. It would be a time when I would see cousins whom I probably had not seen for a couple years. It was also a time when the adults would sit around and talk about “old times.” At that juncture in my life, I was sure I would never do that! It seemed utterly boring to me. I much preferred running off and playing ball.
When we finish our education, we typically belong to some class. And at some point, you are invited to the reunion of your high school class year. The same holds true for college reunions. I remember going to my first high school reunion---it was the 20th, I think. I was amazed how much so many people had changed. Even though I was married late in my college years, we went on to graduate school and kids came along later than usual. At my high school reunion, my classmates had kids and a couple even had grandkids!
Sometimes churches and other groups have reunions. In every case the reunion seems focused more on the past than the future. Of course, there is some catching up to do---quickly filling in the gaps about kids, jobs, etc. But pretty soon the conversation sets off again in the direction shaped by the question, “Do you remember when…?” And that provides a key link to reunions.
Reunions are an exercise in remembering. If there were no memory---in this case, shared memory---there would be no reunion. That is why it is always difficult for a spouse or friend to have to go to someone else’s reunion. There is no memory. There are no common stories. There is no feeling for everything being shared.
Personally, one of my favorite reunion times is when students come back to campus. This happens, of course, after they are away after summer break. But it also happens after the various holidays during the school year. I delight in seeing someone coming at me whom I know from class or some other context. There is a joy in recognizing and being recognized. Recognition is a form of knowing and being known. That is a rich experience for human beings.
This experience led me to some deeper thinking about the nature and meaning of reunion. Perhaps the most obvious level is the meaning of the word, reunion. Clearly, it is a compound word: re + union. Since I know Latin, I know that “re” means “again.” Literally, a reunion is a “uniting again.” And that leads to the next insight.
You can never have a reunion without a prior union. There has to be an initial uniting before there can be a re + uniting. And I know the language of “union” suggests the experience of “oneness.” If you are united, you have become in some sense one. This is why marriages so often are called unions---the two become one. Families are a union of persons. By extension, graduating classes are united by a common experience in school that is solidified by a common graduation.
To go further, I like to think about friendships as a form of union. Friendships are unions of respect for each other, care, willingness to sacrifice, etc. Friendships are unions in the sense that acquaintances are not. Friendships are the relationships I feel for both colleagues and students. So after a period of absence, it is nice to be reunited. All friendships have a history. It is not possible to have instant friendships---in spite of what Facebook alleges.
Because friendships have a history, it is always possible to have reunions, at which point there usually is a desire to share the memories of that history. Again, those are naturally precipitated when someone asks, “Do you remember…?” And at this point everyone in the conversations launches into a retelling of history.
It is only a short step to see how clearly this relates to the spiritual level. For example, when Jesus calls people into following him, he told them he would call the friends. Discipleship is relationship. And relationships have histories. This is the individual aspect. There is also a communal aspect. When Jesus calls people to gather together, he said his Presence would be among them. In fact he said even when two or three would gather, there he would spiritually be.
This is why community is spiritually so important to me. The spiritual community is where friends gather and where human life is intentionally lived out in the way God designed it. It is where love prevails. It is where justice is worked out. It is the place where peace is pursued. And every time the community comes together again, there is a reuniting---reunion happens.
But in this reunion not only is the past valued, but the future is eagerly embraced. In spiritual reunions the past is remembered, the present is a sacred moment and the future is tied to the kingdom of God.