Normal for me isn’t normal for everyone.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but it did.
An old friend had dropped by the music store. Just to buy some strings and shoot the breeze. His words—not mine..
I wonder at how cavalierly we describe God’s appointments. We come and go by choice—so we think—and, in our arrogance we discount the value of interactions with our fellow-travelers.
Some of them are life-changing. All are opportunities for learning, scheduled in His timetable.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I?
I told my friend of the salt shaker. It was simply a recounting of an ordinary Sunday dinner, with a mention of the addition of that seventy-year-old relic to our table. I never intended it to be more than a memory from my childhood of sitting at a table, much like the one at which I sit every Sunday after spending the morning with some of the finest people I know.
It is the reality I have known for all of my life. Oh, the cast has changed, the faces around the table much younger now in comparison to mine, but nothing much has changed otherwise.
It’s just Sunday dinner with family and friends—God’s chosen recreation for a Lord’s Day afternoon. How could it be otherwise?
I sit in the dim light as I write this and I cringe, my face fallen. The arrogance! The presumption!
God’s chosen recreation? Really?
My old friend listened to my retelling of the joyful occasion with a smile spread across his countenance. Finally, he spoke.
We never did that. I don’t ever remember sitting around the table with my family when I was a kid. It still almost never happens.
The story unfolded. As my friend spoke, I could see the emotions in his eyes, but the smile never left his face. He has learned to be thankful. I’m not sure I could.
It was a story of a childhood spent knowing neither parent cared enough to be there for him and his siblings. The telling of the story involved a father who abandoned them outright and a mother who dealt them out to friends and relatives, like so many belongings she didn’t need anymore.
He was raised by his mother’s boss. Not even a family member. Seeing his siblings only sporadically in his childhood, there were never any opportunities for family dinners. He was thankful for the occasional contact with them at all.
I said there was a smile on his face as he spoke. I’m sure there was none on mine. How could there be?
Such a sad childhood. Surely no good could come of that. The story would continue in addiction and broken relationships. Perhaps, even a stay in prison would round out the sad history.
Not so. Today, normal for my friend is a healthy relationship with the woman he has been married to for many years. Time spent with children and grandchildren are his routine now. He makes music with others in his church fellowship every week and then teaches a Bible study.
All without Sunday dinners. Among other things.
I am confused. No, not really confused.
I am sad for the loving family my friend missed out on as a child. Every child should have the shelter of his or her father’s strong arms to protect and the warm embrace of a mother to comfort and console. It doesn’t always happen.
Did I say I was sad? I admit it; I grieve for all who have hard times, whether children or adult.
We are not all drawn from the same material. Somehow though, we have been woven into the same cloth.
The fabric of our lives is stronger for the weaving together.
I love the discipline of tradition, comfort like that of a well-worn pair of shoes, and the reassurance of routine. That doesn’t mean it is what every person needs—or receives—in this life.
The realization that my friend has had none of those and is able to live a life of integrity—and joy—is humbling and eye-opening at the same time.
My life is richer for having him (and many like him) in it.
Perhaps it’s time to recognize God’s recreation is not exactly as we would prescribe it.
God’s chosen recreation is that we spend time communicating and sharing His love with people. Family. Strangers. Enemies. Old friends.
Does it happen at the Sunday dinner table? Sure, it does. It also happens around campfires in the woods and leaning against the car at the local Sonic restaurant.
God’s chosen recreation isn’t what we say it is, but what He says it is. (Isaiah 55:9)
His classroom isn’t in the education wing of your church, but in music stores, and parks, and bars. Yes, I said bars.
His appointments. Scheduled when He determines.
I’m still learning to recognize them.
As He chooses, He is making one Body out of many parts. In many ways, we are as dissimilar as it is possible to be. (1 Corinthians 12:12)
But the companionship we share as we are being made into who He needs us to be is pure joy. (Romans 12:10)
Heaven won’t be much better. Okay, a little better.
Still. A taste.
It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?”
(Winnie-the-Pooh ~ A.A. Milne ~ English author ~ 1882-1956)
There’s not a word yet, for old friends who’ve just met.
(Jim Henson ~ American puppeteer/screenwriter ~ 1936-1990)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.