Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Getting our needs met--a story (ii)

So the committee met at Durward's right after our time with the kids, the restaurant down the street from church, where the consensus was clear that we'd better include them. "If this is what the kids want," somebody said, "we better give it to them. Do we have a choice?"

Yeah, I wanted to say--we have a choice

But I didn't. Just like I didn't say a thing in the youth group. Suffer the children, right? You don't say no to kids anymore, do you? That's something that went out with spanking butts and "seen but not heard." Today, you give 'em videos and Nintendo and a thousand athletic trophies to build self-esteem. Today, you send them to theme parks and CCM concerts, and call it "youth group activities." Today, you send them to San Francisco on a projects and make sure their nights are heavily scheduled with fun. We got to meet their needs.

What I would have liked to ask is how to square this needs business with C. S. Lewis: "I was dragged, kicking and screaming before the throne of God"? How do you fit my needs into the old-fashioned paradigm of God loving a broken spirit and a contrite heart? Where in the Bible do we find "getting our needs met" other than in stories like Aaron's ad-hoc golden calf blow-out, or King David's surreptitious date with a nearby rooftop bathing beauty?

Does Paul's admonition to be all things to all people mean Alma Draayers has to give up the Psalms so Pedro can beat his bongos? Does Christ's last words, "Go ye into all the world," mean to advise Alma Draayers--and, okay, me too--to leave behind everything we've held dear? That's what I'm thinking when we leave Durward's.

I get home, and it's 10:30 and I'm not in the mood to go in the house because my wife will want to know how it went, having already heard our kids' rendition in the excited tones of true discipleship--discipleship to Pedro. They'd have told her everything, I'm thinking, and she'll look at me with the kind of gracious pity she offers our cat when it suffers hairballs. She'll know very well that I didn't say a thing through the whole meeting, and she'll understand that whatever it is in me--anger, envy, pride, nearly half the seven deadlies--needs only a nudge to spill out all over the house.

So rather than go in the house, I stay outside for awhile. We live on a cul-du-sac with a big backyard full of weeping willows, the kind of trees reminiscent of the poplars where the Israelites hung their harps in Psalm 137: "By the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept when we remembered Zion." And I have to laugh to myself, full of sin as I am, when I think, just then, of the blood-and-guts anger of that imprecatory Psalm. I've got a little of that in me right then myself--the desire to bash some heads. If it was okay for the Israelites, isn't it okay for me to feel the way I do? That's what I'm thinking.

I sit out back on a plastic lawn chair and look up into a perfectly clear sky, millions of stars. It's early spring, and the air has the sense of change of seasons, but it's still cool enough to make me pull up the collar of my jacket. My wife appears at the back window. She's heard the car, but I know, out back, she can't see me. And I like it that way. King David used to beg God not to discipline him in His wrath. There's something about that story that's sweet right now, too--the idea of God himself cooling off somewhere, blowing off steam, taking five for a breather. That's exactly what I need.

So I tell myself I've got to think about other things, like the news story about a chunk of Mars that may indicate there's life where we really believed it never existed. From the back yard, away from the street lights out front, the sky above me is a giant black sheet spread with a million diamonds. So there's life out there, too, I'm thinking. Some scientists think it's a big hoax because this meteorite got picked up from Antartica or something, where it could have ingested nothing less than good old earthly bacteria.

But who knows? Maybe there are funny-looking men and women out there--even though we now know that the moon isn't green cheese. And I tell myself that all those stories about the millions and millions of miles of space, the hundreds and thousands of constellations and galaxies, the almost infinite size and depth of space is something to make anybody sit still and think--be still and know.

And I think of Abram, the old man, and his wife, Sarai, no spring chicken herself, and the cosmic joke the Lord laid on them when he told them, long after their childless retirement, that he was going to make a great nation from seed they didn't have. Somewhere, half a globe away, the father of all believers must have sat outside on a night like this, maybe a touch of cold in the desert air, and listened to what Sarai thought was the biggest whopper she'd ever heard.

Maybe Abram was mad, too, after everything the Lord had said. Maybe Abram was ticked when he looked up at this sky full of what appeared to be empty promises. Maybe that's why he laughed--absolutely preposterous. That's what I'm thinking.
Tomorrow: conclusion.

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