The Sweet Shoppe

“Take off this stuff about writing poetry, and add in something about church,” he said, handing me my résumé across his desk.

I had graduated with an English degree and was spiritually curious but decidedly agnostic, despite the president’s popular far-right stances and his wife’s naïve “Just Say No” campaign, both wrapped in an understanding of religion like an assassin in a monk’s habit.

“That doesn’t matter,” he retorted, referring to my spiritual state. “They’ll look for some kind of church involvement.”

ice cream - Peggy CollinsHe was a fellow surfer, whom I’d known for a few years during high school and then college, and now I was turning to him for job-seeking advice. He later suggested to several of us one Saturday afternoon—all much younger than he—that we consider sinking a few old boats offshore from our shared beach community in order to create a reef, which would trap and build up the sand and result in year-round waves. As a 20-something party boy, I didn’t bother to wonder whether this was legal. I cared only if he had enough money to do it.

It never happened.

To my knowledge.

There in his office, floor to ceiling glass behind me but still feeling like a cage, he told me to lie while not one hair of his slicked-back sandy blonde hair moved. His midnight blue shirt had thin white stripes; his yellow tie was fastened tight up to a starched white collar, and a silver collar bar restrained the knot.

Years later, having had a spiritual conversion to Christianity, I and my wife decided we wanted to purchase pew Bibles for the beach community’s quaint church, which had worship services from the last Sunday in June through Labor Day. Visiting ministers would preach one, two or even three Sundays, as in the case of the well-known former Episcopal Bishop of Newark, John Shelby Spong, who always packed the house. Later these ministers might be seen on the cocktail party circuit, or in Bermuda shorts at the club, which perpetually was threatened or washed away in hurricanes and nor’easters over the decades of this century-old community.

One minister would perform baptisms in the ocean; he had a handlebar mustache and an infectious smile. Another looked like Santa Claus. I asked him prior to my senior year of college, “Why don’t you tell everyone what you really believe?”

“Because,” he answered slowly, “if I did, they wouldn’t invite me back, and I want to be able to minister to them over the long haul.”

I sang in the children’s choir at this summer community, and the organist and choir director taught all twenty or so of us kids to have all forty or so eyes trained on her at all times. We sang “Dona Nobis Pacem” and other anthems, and after Friday afternoon rehearsals we’d each get a ticket for a free ice cream at the Candy Store—or the “sweet shoppe,” as my friend’s British nanny would call it. Mary—“Mother Mary,” as those of us who went on to sing in the adult choir would call her—taught us to hear our singing from where the congregation sat. From the pews.

Annunciate the “t” at the end of words. Soften or drop the “s” at the end, so that we don’t have mass hissing. Drop our jaws when singing “slumbers” (“not, nor sleeps”) and gloss over the “l.”

Thursday night rehearsal was worship in itself.

And in those pews there were hymnals but no Bibles. So it seemed fitting that a useful gift to the church would be enough copies of that tool, so that people hearing the sermon, and especially those preached by Mary’s husband, now deceased, but who came closest to telling me those truths I needed to hear but didn’t want to hear, could follow along. These were, after all, highly educated and literate folk. You’d imagine that the corporate attorneys in the room—there were not a few—would want to cross-reference the source if they heard something they might object to.

To discuss the gift, I called the Church Committee Chairperson, who at the time was the wife of the fellow surfer in the slick-backed hair, the man in the glass cage, the man with the restrained yellow tie who wanted to sink ships to get consistent waves and who told me to lie about my salvation. I told her over the phone about the gift, and that we wanted to memorialize the man who told me Truth.

There was a pause on her end.

“Now… ‘pew bibles,’” she started. “Are these associated with some kind of denomination?”

I told her that they were not, and described that they could be any one of a number of modern translations. That they typically sat in shelves behind the pews or could be stacked at the ends of the pews.

She needed time to figure out how this could work.

A week later she called and said that, unfortunately, it would cost too much money to retrofit the shelves to hold the Bibles. As to my alternate suggestion for stowage, neither was there enough room at the end of each pew to stack them.

The man who told me the truth that crushed me to life had died, and others who had sprinkled it on my tongue to make me thirsty had retired, but others—including Bishop Spong for at least a few more years—continued to come and offer their messages, which were ravenously consumed week after week. Hurricanes and nor’easters continued to ravage the beach and reclaim the dunes and toy with the houses as though they were made of Lego, and the men continued to come and preach their messages to the smiling women and men who packed the pews.

The service would end promptly at eleven.

Many would shake hands quickly on their way out, because they were due at the courts and needed time to bike home first and change into tennis whites.

photo: Peggy Collins



‘Howard Freeman (2)’ appears on one of the Firefox browser window tabs and, along with the other seven or so tabs, constitutes a small but growing and ornery press corps at 6:30 this morning.

The ‘(2),’ I learn when I click on it, indicates that on Facebook I have a Friend Request waiting (that’s good, as long as it’s not one of the always-slender women from Eastern Europe whom I don’t know, who appear to be photographed with a 1970s Polaroid, and have only male friends and no mutual friends with me—I can only surmise they found me because I listed Darren Aronofsky as one of my favorite movie directors) and also a comment added to something I’ve written—a news item I posted to my Wall, or piggybacking my comment somewhere else…or whatever. Some notice of some thing (if ever there was a good use of that word that all English teachers mark off points for use of) that warrants a number on the display in front of me that requires attention now. The hand from the press corps crowd is sticking up, or rather down—from the menu bar.

But wait! There! On the icons in the dock (some of them doing the put-your-left-hip-in Hokie Pokie out from the screen’s edge to warn me that I have forgotten some thing), and on my iPhone, my life consists of responding to white numbers in red circles. They all tell me I am running late.

Other tabs include my Chase Bank account (which I’ve set to send alerts to my mobile phone if certain things happen, so now I can be warned from several directions and with several tech indicators at once—as though I am Helen Keller and need a strobe, tone, and shifting parquet floor to get my attention), my work email (on which I now respond to a concerned message instead of continuing coffee with the First Lady, who was sitting contentedly on the couch next to me but now turns to her iPad. She plays ‘Godfinger,’ a game where she controls little Wii-looking figures who all do what she says and ‘worship’ her, accumulating her ‘Awe’ in the lower right corner…I have no such currency), my Google calendar (whose full window, with unabashed seniority, itself occasionally pops open in front of any other open window to remind me of an event happening now, much like Helen Thomas, whose diminutive frame—short and wide like the tab—doesn’t limit her from making her agenda known to the 6’2” men around her and to her primary audience, the man facing her…the powerful man in front of her who must listen, patiently, and then, patiently, respond. With a finger he could silence her, but he doesn’t. She is, after all, Helen Thomas, and she is the media. With a finger, he could play ‘Godfinger,’ the way the First Lady still is; he could fling her like a Wii character upwards of 340 metres across the White House compound landing her somewhere on Pennsylvania Avenue and she would go back to farming, and worship him, and give him Awe…but instead all his fingers rest on his keyboard—like a podium—which has become the place of finding a false equilibrium and foundation rather than dominion or even dominance.).

Speaking of Google, Reader is on another tab. I avoid looking at that grey rectangle, knowing that the lecture hall found on its window will only lure me in to discussions that will never end. I do care that Bill Gates wants to overhaul America’s schools, but it’s not something I have time for. I need to get dressed in twenty minutes. I spot a snippet from Arts & Letters Daily, my favorite news aggregator, that ‘Economic and scientific innovation helped propel the West past the East around 1770. So did Islam. Timur Kuran explains….MORE,’ where the last word is hyperlinked. It would be so…easy…to just click that four-letter word and learn from Timur about the innovation that Islam helped propel 240 years ago. I didn’t know about this! And If I don’t read all this stuff, I won’t be like the editors who put together these aggregators, like Denis Dutton of Arts & Letters, or even Matt Drudge, or Mr. Reader himself. But I have to get dressed in 19 minutes. BBC News has ‘1000+’ unread items. Same with Christian Science Monitor. Prior to a 2008 trip to Asia, I had signed up for the South China Morning Post to get familiarized with the issues. Now, this paper’s three feeds I subscribe to (I had a choice of so many more!)—Business, Property, and Hong Kong—remind me that we are no longer on such great speaking terms, and the relationship is strained. Among the three, there are 1378 unread items. The last time I actually went through and looked at news items, I read one or two and marked the rest ‘as read,’ summarily dismissing the collective work of approximately fifteen thousand man-hours of journalism. (Could have been more; not sure.) If I read each item from SCMP in summary fashion—using the Reader feature of scrolling down the headlines, which move from bold to roman after a couple seconds hovering over each, I can cover perhaps a few hundred of them in an hour. It would be the ‘receiving line’ of getting re-acquainted: working the rope and shaking hands long enough to smile and wink and let them know I have not deleted them without acknowledging their fleeting existence.

Along the row of tabs also are articles I have not read but want to, intend to, all with lengths approaching that of a New Yorker essay, which means that these tabs are carried over from day to day until my computer restarts at 3 a.m. one night (because it needs new system software to keep up with the bandwidth I require to keep in play the items I do not address immediately). The articles that disappear when this happens are forgotten, and I am not the worse for it. They had been temporary lusts that slithered toward me, waiting to strike, and whose venom is given an antidote by Mac OS X. The next system upgrade from Cupertino should be called Mongoose.

There is a ‘+’ sign to the right of the tabs, reminding me I can start a new conversation anytime. Invite more people to the press conference. Perhaps I do this, and the others—while they don’t fall completely silent, especially not Helen Thomas in the front row, who raises her voice about every 30 minutes—are shushed by the increasing din of the current conversation. My ‘Favorites’ also perch in a row above the current tabs, like gargoyles, waiting to be affirmed as named. They know they will be called on at some point; that’s why they’re Favorites. At one time, I had the power to name them and place them there; now they with the name and position hold the power. If I delete them, I would have to find them again, or at least I’d have to email the IT guy to get the URL to access the work server remotely. This is unconscionable.

I get up from my computer to get more coffee for me and the First Lady—who is happily subduing and having dominion—but it is not quiet that I experience.

It is deafness.

photo: kees straver

A moment in the night

Last night I dreamed that one of my sons was missing. Someone watching another son had come back with him, and he had had a hurt finger and was smiling about it, but my other son was missing.

I sprinted through the streets in running shoes, faster than I’d ever run. I came to a basketball court with a 20-foot high chain link fence and jumped halfway up the side, gripping the diamond-shaped openings. I asked the people inside if they’d seen a small boy fitting my son’s description.

From somewhere, my son appeared, unharmed.

I grabbed him into my arms and held him like I was hugging a tree during a hurricane. I sobbed. I could feel myself doing this through my semi-conscious state. In my dream, he responded to me in his typical calm, nonchalant way.

Moment’s later, I awoke and it was ten minutes ahead of the alarm’s setting. I was energized. I found my son, asleep in his bed.

What a sweet, and satisfying, passing horror.

sketch: James Cospito; photo: See-ming Lee

Doing ‘The Worm’ to a Polka

“Have a magical day,” was what you hear from cashiers in the hotel gift shop, ticket booth clerks at the various parks, and ride monitors as they check children’s height. It’s difficult not to at least lean toward obedience after 72 hours or so.

My family’s six magical days at Disney World were indeed so, but in the end I was drawn to the magic that has always been free, what has been internal or intra-personal, and what is to come, rather than what is costly, external and visible, and what is rapidly passing away.

In the days leading up to the boys’ spring break from 5th, 3rd, and 1st grades, I was a bit restless—selfishly and snobbily—that we had not planned a more…refined, or cultured, getaway. If not refined, then at least one where we would experience Life Unscripted together. Yet, with Teak at 7, he could enjoy most of what this small world had to offer, and at 11, Carter is in the child-bubble a little longer before his current exposure in middle school will render him too cool to wave at Mickey and Cinderella, which he in fact did on our penultimate night. Bennett, 9, would do what Carter liked to do, and there is a hidden innocence beneath his rugged exterior anyway that adheres to a world in which boats with shellacked benches take you from lodge to Magic Kingdom dock, streets are free of garbage, and even ice cream stains from diurnal pressure-washing, and in which fireworks close each night. If we were going to do Disney, scripted days or not, this was the year.

At first, there was an “It” I wanted to pass along to the kids. Getting past my cynicism—for it was Karen’s first visit as well and for her it was magical in an adult way—there was a normal parental urge to have my kids experience what I did in 1975, when younger brother Jim and I went for a day to the Magic Kingdom, the only one of the four current parks then open, and we rode everything from the Pirates of the Caribbean to Space Mountain, from the Haunted House to Splash Mountain. Our kids rode all of these and more, yet inadvertently and perhaps providentially, we spared them of “It’s a Small World,” so that they—at 46—will not be thinking of those lyrics and melody as they type out the attraction name in a blog. There was content that I wanted to not just pass along, so that we’d have shared memories. It did not, however, extend to something more fundamental, and even insidious, like allowing them to consider Disney World in any way preferable, normative, future-looking.

For as my father once told me about our summer beach community of Point O’ Woods, Fire Island—an exclusive and precious-to-me home-away-from-home where crime was not, and non-WASPs were not—that it was “not the real world,” so is Disney not, nor what it stands for. I was angry with Dad. I argued that I had made friends for life at Point O’ Woods, and “wasn’t that real life?!” That was not his point and, in fact, it is the very point I am less succinctly and eloquently making here. The point was that the place itself, its underlying assumptions, its pace and culture, and even its long-term effects on a person, did not enable one to live in the real world. I did not want the boys to think that “if you wish upon a star” that this resulted in your heart’s desires being realized. There is a difference between manufactured magic and ineffability, and I want my sons to know it. I didn’t want the kids to fall in love with Disney World. I found, on about the third day, that I wanted our family to fall deeper in love with each other and with the God who would make the world more like a magical kingdom than Walt Disney ever could dream.

This happened from a combination of an exchange with a Disney employee and, later, seeing another family on a Disney inter-park/lodge bus that we took multiple times each day.

She stood before me outside the “Fantasmic” show at the Hollywood Studios park, which—for the uninitiated—is the one show to see at Disney if you see no other, like “Wicked” in NYC. Here was this woman, only five feet tall, if that, but dominant. I had walked Teak in by the hand to join Karen, where she was saving seats in between the aisles marked by headshots of Scar and Buzz. (Nobody is allowed to save seats at any Disney attraction, and apparently there is a place in Dante’s 5th circle of hell for those who do, in between those who were greedy in life and those who were ungodly landowners.) Meanwhile, Carter and Bennett waited outside the entrance at the adjacent “Tower of Terror” free-fall ride. Moments earlier I had had all three boys, and we were approaching the entrance to the attraction.

Teak mumbled, “This looks boring,” as he bent his neck backward to gaze up at the 13 story-ride edifice, whose neon “Hollywood Hotel” sign’s first “O” letter flickered on and off like a Norman Bates-owned property. His mouth was ajar in his “You’re-wasting-my-time” look.

I took Teak aside and asked privately, “Is it that this looks a little scary?” He stuck his right thumb in his mouth and I could see his blonde bangs bobbing slightly as he stared past me at waist level. This was of course not discernible to his two older brothers, who were distracted by the increasing “Stand By” line that was for those, like us, without the Fast Pass that allows you to skip most of the wait by showing up within an hourly “appointment” you are given. I told the older boys to stay put while I brought Teak to Karen.

Having situated the 7-year-old in the large amphitheater, which gets to capacity at least 30 minutes prior to each show, I started to walk quickly back to the other boys, but first came to a Disney monitor, who handed me a 2×4-inch blue card that would allow me re-entry once the theater was full.

“I have two sons coming back with me, so that we can join my wife and other son who are inside.” Failing to mention the saving-seats-5th-circle-of-Disney-hell thing.

She was, as I said, five foot tall, if. Chinese. Authoritative. Not taking crap from a white boy who once thought an exclusive beach enclave without her race was the City of God.

“I see one person. I give one ticket,” she said in a practiced way. [Disney Employee Handbook, Page 352: Insert adjectival number before each noun. Remember to wish guest a “magical day” at end of concluding sentence.]

“But there are five of us, and we’ll be back just after this ride. Couldn’t you give me two more tickets so the three of us can get in?”

“If I see your one ticket, I let you in. Nobody else.”

She turned to deal with another anarchist, while I decided to take my chances later and moved past her. She did not wish me a magical day, a nice day, or even a “good day to you, Sir.” She will likely one day run Disney as CEO and produce fat dividends. I considered buying 1000 shares of the company before reporting her name to her supervisor. (I did neither.)

And yet, a little while later, I recalled the exchange as curiously refreshing. She reminded me of New Yorkers, and I got homesick.

Two days later, I watched another family of five seated across from us on a Disney Transport bus, which operate between the resorts, one of which we stayed at, and the four parks plus Downtown Disney, Blizzard Beach, and Typhoon Lagoon. At the end of any given day, one would always see multiple children in a family with their heads on parents’ laps and their sandaled feet drawn up onto the seat next to them. Their Midwest-pale faces and flamingo pink legs contrasted against the ubiquitous purple seats. Their eyes might be closed or they might be open slightly, staring across the bus aisle at you but not focusing. Likely letting the days’ events slowly recede into their expanding memories, where one day at Disney equals four-score the adventures of a day around the neighborhood and where—if you don your First Time Visitor button at a park—you are told, “Well, anything can happen at Disney.”

This couple had three girls, about the ages of our three boys, and while I don’t recall the conversation as vividly as that with Disney’s next CEO, it struck me at the time that all week I had been seeing families having a great time together. Sure, there were fights and there was discipline to be done and I saw not a few parents hauling off little ones by the triceps, no doubt leaving white marks on the tikes’ sunburns, to give them a talking-to. But I saw families from North America, the UK, France, Italy, and others, who were simply enjoying having fun together. Long lines afforded everyone a chance to talk about the ride one had just gone on, or wanted to go on next, or to plan a route around the park and which Fast Pass to get when in order to maximize the time spent on rides together. Perhaps that was it: it was hard not to be together at Disney. The evidence was brimming over. And that’s what, in fact, made it magical to me.

I had planned two date nights with Karen, thinking that six nights and seven days with the kids would surely require that we have two evenings of 2.5 hours each alone. Bare minimum.

Though we spent roughly 15 to 17 waking hours together every day, we never tired of being with each other. Were this time spent in our apartment, it surely would have turned to cannibalism. Yet it was Disney, so at 11 p.m., I would lift Teak onto my shoulders and we’d walk past sleeping Korean pre-schoolers on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom who’d stayed awake long enough to see the fireworks and then collapsed with their heads on the copious bags of Disney paraphernalia that we parents all reluctantly yet laughingly acquired each day. Karen and I agreed to cancel our date nights and instead have all five of us do something together. One of the nights entailed a Concierge at our hotel—a blonde woman based out of the University of Michigan—to cancel our reservation at the hotel’s “Cub’s Den” (their child care area, which I never named aloud around our children for fear that they would dig in their heels and not go) claiming a “serious family illness.” (This was her call, not mine, and I was surprised to find a Disney employee dissembling this way. The Disney Handbook surely has a red-letter section on dissembling and there also might be another hell circle for that kind of warped thinking.)

I arrived at Disney and expected to be assaulted with appeals to look at the “It”—at the content of the place—all week long. Certainly, those appeals were there. Yet, I found that we all looked at each other much more than we ever had.

On Friday, our travel day home, and because our flight didn’t leave until 9 p.m., it afforded essentially an extra day at the parks. Bennett and I decided to go to Typhoon Lagoon, while Karen and the other boys spent one last morning at the Magic Kingdom. Later, through photos and retelling, I learned that Carter, my rapidly maturing Middle Schooler, went on a “mission” with an 8-inch white plastic Mickey Mouse doll, to get autographs from as many Disney characters as he could. Pinocchio, Minnie, Mickey, Donald Duck, Buzz Lightyear and a couple others each signed the doll, which Carter carried around the 107-acre park by himself with little to no parental supervision. Crime at Disney is virtually non-existent. We had a Free-Range Child.

On the other side of the vast Disney real estate southwest of downtown Orlando, Bennett and I bobbed in 4-foot waves crashing in the wave pool at Typhoon Lagoon. He grabbed onto my neck from behind and I felt his cheek against mine. He braced himself with his knees against my rib cage, not unlike some of the primate offspring did at Animal Kingdom but doing so from their mothers’ bellies. Four nights earlier, Bennett and his brothers had danced at the Biergarten, one of the restaurants at Epcot Center’s Germany area. A four-piece brass blasorchester played while Karen and I ate and watched from our table one level up from the floor. The boys formed their own troupe among some dozen other children, all dancing in pairs and threes and fours. Bennett decided that German polkas did not restrict him from doing his one serious dance move, The Worm, which he promptly performed across the wooden dance floor, much to the astonishment of two women who shared a ringside table and one of whom nearly spit out her würst laughing. My Bennett, the boy who never looked like a baby but rather always looked like a handsome little man when he was born and likewise as an infant and toddler, who at 5 years old at church would pretend to trot on a horse on his way up the aisle to receive the Eucharist—this boy now bobbed in clear blue water and smiled at me when I looked back, our faces inches apart, and as his foggy goggles allowed enough of his sparkly eyes to show through, I knew that his time at Typhoon Lagoon, though replete with body and raft slides, would be remembered perhaps primarily as the first time either of us had spent six hours alone together.

As I write, it is Easter. I couldn’t sleep and started writing this post at 4:15. I had planned to write it since before returning and knew basically what I was going to say but not how or to what ultimate conclusion. I find myself considering several facts and feeling several emotions.

First, thank you, Mr. Disney, for creating a clean perfection with realistic storefronts that from behind reveal corrugated metal and guy wires and which points us to a perfection that is yet to come. This temporary perfection affords families from all over the world to experience togetherness while excusing ourselves beforehand and even during that it’s about roller coasters, water parks, and life-sized Disney characters dancing on immaculate streets. It’s not about discovering Disney; we find it’s about discovering who we are to each other.

Second, I am truly astounded that our family shared 119 hours or so together and left Florida wanting more. Yesterday, there was no sense that we had “had enough” of each other and needed our space. Had it been a trip anywhere for longer, say a month, even to someplace that was in my own dreams, it might have been another story. It may have become too familiar, too all-the-same, too much “like home.” We might have turned on each other in our new comfort, our shortcomings having become all the more obvious as the surroundings became commonplace and less distracting.

But third, thank you, Jesus. You showed the apostle John and us a kingdom in which the streets are cleaner than any Disney street. You showed us a world that—at 1400 miles by 1400 miles by 1400 miles—is actually a fairly “small, small world after all.” You showed us a world in which peace and prosperity are everywhere and enjoyed by people of every tribe, tongue and nation. A place where our true home can actually be more inviting and desirable that any vacation we can possibly imagine. You showed us this after leaving it for a time, setting up a tent among us in what my father called “the real world,” which in fact is a world that is passing away, and letting your very servants command your fate. Instead of presenting perfection in human terms and coming first in strength, you lived perfection on your own perfect terms and presented weakness in human terms, being executed like a common criminal. We esteemed you not. Hanging on the cross, you were the epitome of ugliness and disfigurement. We turned our eyes from you.

But today you live. The only reason the Magic Kingdom appears to have any magic at all is because it hints at Who you are. Were this not so, those who leave Disney would soon become depressed, realizing that the world as we know it would never be like Disney. Yet many who aren’t conscious of this must feel it gnaw at them, beckon them, entreat them. Thank you for the family on the bus, who pointed me more toward my family. Thank you for the Chinese ticket taker, who reminded me how much I love my own city, with all its foibles and imperfect people, people who don’t always follow the rulebook but do so endearingly. Thank you for causing me to value my true home as where my family is. The magic was not what we saw while in Florida. It was what was happening inside of us and which we left with. You made this happen. This trip was a gift; thank you, Lord.

You are making all things new.

Come, Lord Jesus.

photo: Phillipp Klinger

sketch: steelforest

[Interlude] Deep Joy, Sorrow and Hope

The Christian will express deep joy, deep sorrow, and deep hope.

Deep joy is laughter in the face of imminent death. Each of us will die, either in a moment from now or in decades, but die we will. And because the Christian knows that this transition leads only to a new and unending chapter of life with her Creator, she is joyful. She can’t help marco People see it. It flows from her social intercourse and from the way she looks at a tree. She will be joyful in the way a child is playful. Neither thinks about it.

Deep sorrow grieves that there is even one person in our community of 6.5 billion who doesn’t know this deep joy. Hell is real. Even if one doesn’t believe in a place of eternal separation—a belief that neither proves nor disproves any fact but is based on as much faith as claiming there is such a place—I can vouch that hell is real on earth. If you haven’t had a personal experience with complete isolation and separation, just read the morning news and you’ll see hell in all four corners of our earth. Deep sorrow identifies with those who are in a living hell now and others who may spend eternity in a living hell. This is painful for one who watches, and it causes a sense of helplessness to sense the pain of another that even the pain bearer himself can’t verbalize or articulate, and to be unable to fully assuage it. The one watching feels like a parent, not patronizing but rather caring: one who wants to bear the pain for the pain bearer. He would be tempted to trade places if he could. Deep sorrow is tears cried for another. Deep sorrow is what God felt for us, and deep sorrow is what motivated Jesus Christ out of love to give his life for our sake. He experienced the deepest sorrow so we could experience the deepest joy. He was not “tempted” to trade places with the pain bearers of irrevocable separation and isolation. Rather, he willingly did it.

And this is our deep hope. Christians will express the sure faith that God himself took the sorrow and isolation so we can take the joy and community. Deep hope knows that God is making all things right, even working through the hell that some women, men and children are in now—because he is God. Deep hope is sure faith cast as knowledge that there is a God and that he can see a way when there appears to be “no way” in our view. My eyes are covered with contact lenses yet are still fairly functional, and I can look forward and peripherally. Yet God looks with perfect “eyes,” which see 360-degrees, across and outside of time, and into and through dimensions that our minds can’t even come up with words, pictures, or numbers for.

Just because a snail can’t see around the block doesn’t mean there isn’t a mansion five miles away that has a big front yard with really tasty leaves.

photo: Blue/Marco