A man I love side-stepped death. No one expected him to come through, but he did. I would say it was by the grace of God. But he wouldn’t. He would say, “Guess my time wasn’t up.” For him, living and dying are two sides of a card. When the Great Hand flips it, you go.
This doesn’t worry him. In fact, he laughs to tell me that a guy with a clerical collar came to see him before his heart procedure. He waved the guy away. “Don’t worry; I’ve been saved,” he told him. His father was a Lutheran Pastor, after all. Church was more home than his house for all of his growing up years. He knows Jesus.
But here in his kitchen the question ‘where is God now?’ hangs in the air. Worth another look now that there’s still some living to do, and seeing that he’s been issued a reprieve. “Oh, God doesn’t bother with small stuff like me,” he says, and he means what he says. It’s not false humility; self pity is not his style. Life is hard. You get through it. God’s got bigger things to do.
The guy has got reason to believe this. He has lost a spouse to a suicide that God didn’t stop. He’s lost a livelihood that God didn’t rescue. He’s been betrayed by those he’s trusted and lost friends to diseases they didn’t deserve. A year ago he lost his son, his only son, to a sudden, preventable death. He’s not mad at God; he just figures these are small things in an unfathomably large universe. He doesn’t deserve any special favors. He’s not important enough to be important to God.
And that’s it. End of conversation.
I love this man. But I wish he knew that God loved him, not just that God would save him. That God gazes at him through the window, peers through the latticework, and calls as Lover to Beloved, “See! The winter is past; the rains are gone. The season of singing has come.” Come, hear the cooing of the doves, see the fig tree’s new fruit, smell its fragrance.
But to hear, see and smell, we have to come outside. Outside of our houses, our jobs, our families, our churches, even beyond our own lives. We have to come close enough to touch and to taste. And listen.
Can it be so? That the God of the universe would bother with one so small? Surely the call is for someone else. Someone more loveable, more in need, more desperate, more deserving. I’ll wait my turn, says this man whom I love, for my flip of the card. Then I’ll know.
But Dad, it’s you He is calling to. You’re the one He calls ‘my beautiful one’ and so am I. That small voice to be heard is the One who loves us, who calls us His beloved, and bids us arise and come.
Who would know better how it feels to lose an only Son?
Today: Spend a few moments at a window looking out. Imagine the sounds and smells, tastes and touches outside. Pray for someone who doesn’t yet know they are loved by the God who made all of this for them.
This writing was recently published in the Lenten Devotional booklet created and distributed by the Church of the Good Shepherd, UMC. It is in response to this scripture: (Song of Songs 2: 8-13) and was published under the title: No, really, I love you. Perhaps you know and love someone, too, who you hope might know the love of a personal, forgiving and loving and redeeming presence in their lives. In the Spirit of this hope, I share what God has offered me.
The deadline for the Lenten Devotional looms. The editors are EXPECTing my submission. But inspiration just won’t come. That’s the thing about inspiration…you just can’t force it. In fact, the harder I try, the less of it I seem to have.
Still, it doesn’t seem right to just sit here. Waiting. As if a lightning bolt is going to descend and write itself upon my paper in perfect insights, with perfect grammar and legible penmanship. There are plenty of sitters out there. Waiting. I am not good at either.
I need to DO something to hurry the inspiration along! I cut and paste a few verses of my chosen scripture (Song of Songs 2:8-13) onto the computer screen. A few different translations. Why not? I pour over them. Read and re-read. I take notes, look for connections, let my wander to visual imagery. I respond to the verses – in writing! – but to no avail. Everything lies flat upon the page. A day passes. Another. The deadline is mere days away.
And then suddenly a phrase enters my mind: No really, I love you. And I begin…”A man I love side-stepped death.” The scripture sends an image of lattice-work and the loved one calling. An image of the mullions on my very own windows. The lover looks in. I look out. What do I see? What would another see who stood here? Do they hear Him saying, “No really, I love you”?
The experience is powerfully crafting the writing as I wait on the images. Sitting and waiting, here I am after all. But the waiting is expectant. I am the fielder and it is the fly ball. I have heard the crack of the bat. I’ve got a line on it as it soars high in the sky. I try to gauge its descent, tending first right and then a bit left. I see it beginning to drop. I reach out my hand and open my glove wide. It is coming; I am ready to catch it.
Fielding inspiration when it falls is not easy. It takes practice and preparation. One must be ready. But sometimes the ball seems forever in the coming down. Those editors, after all, are waiting.
I type the last and hit submit. Then my friend emails to share that her dearest childhood friend had just succumbed to cancer. It was a long battle, but she still is not sure whether the departed came to know how much God loved her during her lifetime. Surely a God of mercy understands.
This is when I realize that the piece I had written was intended for a different deadline. It was meant to comfort a grieving friend and landed right on time.
My job is simply to settle under the fly ball of grace and catch inspiration as it comes down. Then, to prepare for the next. Kind of ridiculous to think I could force the ball to fall faster into my glove.