Tuesday, November 30, 2010
I threw out what I'd prepared for today's blog because something happened today that really brought home to me precisely why we need heroes in our lives, and why we need to remember that they won't usually turn out to be us. As I start over, I am conscious of the fact that I have inadvertently put myself into a place of deadline pressure with a couple of things. Wish I could delegate them, but it's just one of those things I have to do on my own. (But I'm willing to accept help…)
Prayer: "Creator God, throughout time you have stood by us in our darkness and loneliness, even the loneliness we sometimes create for ourselves. Today, help me to recall the heroes of faith who welcomed you as you stood by them in history, and remind me that it's possible for me to have the same deep faith."
Hebrews 11:32-40 (New International Version, ©2010)
32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning;[a] they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
My husband, Dan, called home around midday to ask if I'd drive into town this evening and pick him up after a little retirement party for a colleague. Usually he commutes by bus and would have taken the car this morning had he remembered the after-work gathering. Quickly thinking through the demands of my day, I said yes figuring that I'd juggle a couple of things so I could pick up a few things at the big art supply store in town and swing by a couple of other spots to get some Christmas shopping out of the way.
Delighted with my idea to transform a major inconvenience into an uber-productive afternoon, I looked up addresses, Googled locations, freeways, store hours, and mapped out a route which took me everywhere I wanted to be and would land me at the correct time at the exact intersection where I could collect Dan without having to even find a downtown parking place!
I was so proud of my planning. I dropped everything and got out the drawings, did the measurements, and made a list of items to look for at the art supply store. I coordinated with Sean about dinner, which he would have to catch for himself, and loaded my portfolio. I made sure my phone and glasses were in my bag along with the printed directions with all the destinations and the accompanying map.
I arrived at the art supply store 5 minutes ahead of schedule, knew precisely what to ask for, and got a great young salesperson to show me where it all was. I shopped and shopped, comparing matboard colors, hinging tape, and acid-free sleeves for my drawings. Everything I could have wanted! Took it all up to the front counter, and…NO WALLET. No cash, no checks, no debit card, no credit card. Zip. Nada. Zilch. They were all still on the counter from this morning's cyber-Monday online foray.
The sympathetic clerk's first response was to hope the wallet hadn't been stolen or lost. Then he suggested that I try calling home to see if Sean could read me a card number, and offered to process the purchase on faith that I wasn't some flake. Think of it. No identification, nothing which would've proven I had a right to use a string of non-sequential numbers relayed from an unidentified faceless source through an unidentified frazzled stranger to an unidentified card center somewhere at the other end of a point-of-sale terminal. But Sean had left for class already and it was useless.
At first it didn't sink in about how powerless I was. Then I started to shake, realizing I was suddenly wearing goatskin, was being stoned, jeered at, and attacked by foreign armies. I was as weak as a shorn Samson. Without that wallet, not only could I not pay for my purchase, I couldn't lawfully even drive my car on the street to go and pick up Dan. I had a dollar in my coin purse, no driver license, and my cell phone was on low battery. I wasn't just wearing goatskin, I was the goat. I had ceased to be a governmentally recognized person. I was Zip, Nada, Zilch.
Sitting alone in the parked car, the undone tasks were transformed in my mind into insurmountable obstacles that proved the truth of every harsh criticism I'd ever heard from an exacting teacher, parent, or boss. Fool! Fatal thinking took me from a place of mere inconvenience to being convinced I'd be arrested and jailed. And not only would I be jailed, I'd be convicted of being…IMPERFECT.
Of course, the truth of the story is that, as the author of the letter to the Hebrews recounted, there are plenty of heroes who have gone before us who have been…IMPERFECT, thank you very much. Heroes who have worn the goatskin, who've been weak, who've faced foreign armies, and have been intimidated. But, they have also faced down lions, they have escaped over the wall on a rope and a prayer, they have been glorified (and never due to their own prowess, superior planning, or courage) and triumphed.
We are here as they were, to triumph in our weakness because we are the people whose power comes from the weakness of an infant. One day closer to the moment of miracle we are.
Heroes? It's not luxurious or easy, but Jesus shows us how by being the favorite and best heroes in a long line of heroes whose examples really give meaning to the word. My Hero!
And on the local stage, my hero is the guy who is taking the car in to work tomorrow so he can buy all the art supplies I have on hold. He's the guy who is grinding tomorrow's breakfast coffee so I can write this. My hero! I'm so grateful we have both kinds.
Prayer: "Heavenly Mother and Father God, you have given us so many examples of heroic faith: Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephtah, David, Samuel, and the prophets of old and of today. You've given us Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Henri Nouwen, and so many other faith models. All have relied on you for courage and sustenance. As we continue our waiting for the Christ, be with us as you were with them. Amen."
Go in peace, brother and sister heroes!
Further readings for Nov. 30 are: