Mom senses a bit of the problem. I don’t want her to. I want her to think she is no trouble at all. I want her to know that changing her diaper is a joy for me. I want her to know that giving her a bath causes me no discomfort at all. I took her to the Credo House today. I had some meetings and I like to show my face around there at least once a day! (Keeps everyone in line!) But we had some “issues.” Mom is sick with some stomach stuff. And you know what goes along with that. She is self-aware enough to cry when she has an accident in public. This kept happening today. I could not get her clean enough to stay at Credo, so I placed mom in my rental car (my car is broken down) and we headed to her house. As we drove home, it was quite evident that the accident had done its damage to this car. It was pretty unbearable for both of us. But I did not want mom to think twice about the “issue.” I tried to joke about it, I tried to change the subject, and then tried to help her talk through it with the “it’s okay, how much of this did you put up with from me when I was young?” speech. It kept her from crying. But just barely. We talked about God. First we said that we were mad at him for putting us through this. You know, the “really, God?” speech. Then we talked about how we loved him anyway (you do realize that “we talked” does not mean that mom was articulating anything more than the few vocabulary words the stroke and aneurysm left her with, right?).
When we pulled in my dad’s driveway, we paused before getting out of the car. We talked about how beautiful my dad’s backyard is. One of the few things we can take in deeply and enjoy is my dad’s house. It has a wonderful back yard. I wish you could see it.
Every once in a while, deer show up and timidly walk through the trees, giving us a glimpse of what the peace of God’s kingdom looks like. It is wonderful. I love deer. Every time I see them, I relax, fill with hope, and am re-energized. Isn’t that funny? Maybe it is the Cherokee in me (I am 1/8 Indian). Nature can do that for me. Although we may be losing it, I am so glad dad has kept this house. We will take in as much as these three acres will give for as long as the bank will allow us.
“Mom,” I said as I pulled up. “I know it has been really hard today. But it’s okay. I love to take care of you. . . What can I do to make things better?” I thought for a bit as my mom looked into the backyard. “Maybe deer will show up.” “Yeah,” my mother said with excitement that broke her concentration on the “mess” we were involved in. “Okay, let’s see. Do you see any deer?” We looked. No deer in sight. “It would be such a great gift if God would just show up here in this way right now,” I said. Don’t pick me apart theologically. Not now. Please. I do odd stuff sometimes. I can talk a big talk about not needing God’s evident intervention in such an experiential way, but sometimes I break. I know charismatics have their people who come and give them a “word that speaks into your life.” I have gotten plenty of those. They are usually too general to say, “Hey, must have been from God.” But right now, my mother and I just wanted something small, something so easy, something finite from the infinite, something hopeful in the hopeless, something light in the dark, something…anything.
I held mom’s hand, which is closed permanently – one of the effects of the stroke. “God, please just let us see some deer. We are not testing you. We just would love to see you in such a way right now. It would be really encouraging and it is a very small request.” After this prayer, we looked out across the yard and through the trees. Nothing. No deer.
But I remembered a sermon I heard recently where Elijah was the illustration. Remember the time when he prayed three times for rain? The point of the sermon was that sometimes we have to pray more than once to have God answer. So I prayed again (still sitting in the car bearing the smell), “God, I am coming to you again. Same request. Small miracle. We love you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” (Maybe I forgot the magic formula last time!). We looked. Still nothing. So I prayed a third time, “God, it really isn’t hard. I won’t base my faith on this. We would just like to have this vivid illustration that you are here and you are in our pain.” We looked. And guess what? . . . Still nothing.
So many times we look for God in ways that are trivial, yet incredibly significant to us. I do. Maybe it’s wrong. But I do. Sometimes we all do.
I think I am supposed to like angels. But there are two that I am not really fond of. They had a sad message. It is recorded in the book of Acts just as Jesus is ascending into heaven after the resurrection. Here it is:
And as they [the disciples] were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. 11 They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”
Why don’t I like them? Because they said Jesus had been taken aph hymon. Hymon would have been enough. It means “you” (plural). Being in the genitive case, we know that the “from” was implied. “From you.” That is what hymon means. But the twisting of the knife comes with the aph. It means “from,” but, to me, it is superlative. It is too much. This Jesus has been taken “from you.” I hate the word “from,” espcially when it is connected to the word “you” and “Jesus.”
Many times I don’t think he has been taken from me. I ask the angels, I ask God, I ask Jesus to show me a deer and show me Jesus. While the Apostles did well to quit gazing into the sky, I sometimes have trouble with it. I still gaze into the sky. Today I gazed into my mother’s backyard and said, “No, don’t take him aph hymon. Please. Just one more look. Why does he have to be taken from me?”
“But you did not read the second half,” the angel replies. “It says, ‘he will retu . . .’’ “Yeah, yeah, I know,” I interrupt, “He will return. Redemption is near. ‘Behold, I come quickly’ and all that other stuff. I just want him now. I hate aph hymon. The Second Coming sometimes cannot come soon enough. But I suppose I will just hang with His plan. After all, are there really any other options?”