Sunday, December 12, 2004
Natural Evangel, Individual Love
"No problem, brother. We'll be talking."
"Good night." He backs out of the driveway and heads down the street.
I wheel my bike into the garage. I was very glad of Nate's offer of a ride. Midnight, dark, quiet. I'm tired. The day has been very long.
Cassie is leaving Los Angeles for Peoria. The Life Group gave her a good send-off, with munchies, games and late-running conversation. Very late. I'm all in.
I unlock the door and walk into the dimly lit living room. By the multiple colors of the permanent Christmas lights I find the main switch and get some real light in the place. Gradually I realize I have my own glow.
God is pleased. More than pleased, He's just brimming with joy and I'm the reason for it.
"Were you and Deb talking about God stuff?" The soft glow of instrument lights followed the profile of Nate's face as he drove the silent midnight streets and talked in his usual animated way. We're both tired but he doesn't look it so much. "It sounded like you were."
"Yah,. we were." I was slouched down in the seat, spine dissolved by fatigue. "We were having a good conversation until your friend came in like a conversational Scud. I was upset because I don't get many chances to talk with Debbie and he just sort of blew that time up."
"He's an interesting man, don't you think? Existential philosophy and art."
"Yes, but I wonder if it's all surface. Something there isn't quite right." I've run into plenty of people whose intellectual act hides an unwillingness to do anything. "I take it he's not saved."
"No. I think he's lonely. We've tried to befriend him."
"That would be easier if he were a better listener."
"Was he telling you about his art?"
"Yes." And I wondered how much of that was real. "Guitar playing and such. I told him about sand sculpture and the Holy Spirit holding me."
What is a reward? You pat the dog's head when he fetches your slippers. You give your child a gold star when he cleans his room. I go to work to get a paycheck. "Well done, good and faithful servant."
I want neither to be a good dog nor a faithful automaton. I don't want to be a plane in the hands of even a master craftsman. I was made for more than that; if the real goal is "not I, but Christ," then why was I made with a will?
The real problem comes from trying to fit God's concepts into our words. God was very pleased with how I showed Him to Nate's friend Peter. Only I, with my unique mix of experiences and attitudes, could have shown God in this way, and maybe it's the way Peter needs. I would have resisted almost any presentation of God but the way Jack Fox did this was so disarming that I left the door open. He walked where he did because he wanted some time on the beach before returning to Terre Haute.
A mix of rewards. Jack got what he wanted, and God got what He wanted: putting the finger on one wayward sheep. We're used to a world in which I get what I want, or you get what you want. God's world is different. He makes me into a new person, which is what I need in order to stay alive, and then God in a very elegant and complex way invites me to use what I have to show other people what He's like. He could do it Himself, with angels and fireworks if necessary, but He'd rather give me the opportunity to use my new spine to become eloquent in showing another man God's real personality.
It doesn't even have to be direct. The next day I drove up to Lancaster to visit my friend Mauricio and his family. Almost a year had gone by since my last visit. He has been busy with construction in friend's houses. On my way I stopped at Samy's camera and bought the lens I should have had last week on the beach. Winter light flashed from the old season's grasses, and
from the white trunks of streamside sycamores. A few brown leaves still hung on in a fitful breeze that smelled of damp earth and mulefat shrubs. Antelope Valley was a broad, flat-floored region of blue air and tawny grass.
We drew with chalk on the sidewalk, watched movies, and they tried to teach me to play video games. We ran one race of five laps and when everyone else had finished I still had two and a half laps to go. Then they helped me. Landen, youngest of them all, knows it best. We did a short bike ride after Mauricio blew up a tire. As in "Bang!" Amelia and I threw a football back and forth. The children have changed a lot in the last year, becoming more independent.
I left Saturday afternoon, and stopped for more photography on the way home. Traffic stopped on Brakelight Hill and every lane I chose became thereafter the slowest. I'd about had it by the time I got home. And yet there was that glow.
It's not praise. It's not a reward. It's more like God sharing His delight in how His people work, the things they can do. It's not a bribe. I've never experienced anything like it before. Far beyond "Well done," it's more "I'm glad you're here and willing to do these things. Thank you. Only you can do it, because of who you are and what you've learned."
Life is mostly ordinary. Jennifer and Mauricio spend a lot of time just taking care of the house and family. That's what life is. We join each other in ordinariness and share our power. Jack couldn't have known the power of his comments on the beach, and I don't know what the effect of my actions will be. That's not my responsibility. I need only, and simply, to live with God and leave the big issues to Him.
2004 December 12 (idea December 9)
Editing, reformatting and corrections 2006 January 5