Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Time to Embrace.

I really wasn’t expecting admirers to proceed so swiftly and passionately, so I was somewhat caught off guard by the young man’s advances. I was engaged in considering a very, very, young man’s eating habits combined with smiles when he sidled up and wrapped his arms around my waist. Those deep blue eyes confidently gazing into mine, he whispered, “I love you” (or something equally romantic and unintelligible). Smiling somewhat shyly, he whispered into my ear, “I want to stay with you forever!” subsequently smothering the side of my neck with kisses.
After a few minutes: “Let’s go get some ice cream!”

Now that you, dear reader, are thoroughly scandalized by my tolerance of such behavior on the part of the young gentleman, I must reveal three critical pieces of information:

First, the young man was a pastor’s son. (Ok, so that isn’t all too comforting a thought.)
Second, the described events took place in the church basement with plenty of onlookers. (Even more disturbing!)
Third, the gentleman in question is only six years of age. (Ah! That should allay most of the worries.)

Tinny wouldn’t have had access to my ear into which to whisper his “sweet nothings” if he had not already been riding on my hip.

One kiss would have been sufficient; eight or nine made me wonder where he learned to give kisses. (Dare I speculate?) I’m sure that I was beet red at that point, but I’ll have to admit that some small section deep within my heart was “strangely warmed” by the little boy’s actions. It truly is heartwarming to receive admiration from little people – yes, even kisses – mostly because I remember when I was the little admirer. I remember the awe in which I held the fourth graders when I was six years old, and the high-school students – goodness! They normally didn’t even notice us wee ones, but when one did, his or her attention was craved and the class practically worshiped at his or her word.

Back then I felt so small, so insignificant. I can remember the exact feeling so clearly because it is often the same feeling I feel today. And in feeling so small and insignificant myself, I have, over the years, lost sight of the little people. Yes, I still admire the “big people”, and seek their conversation and attention and that of my peers (which are generally people over the age of 13). But in doing so, I have forgotten the little ones. It never even occurred to me that I’m one of those big people who always seemed so absorbed in their own world and whose deigning to descend to the small is heralded with such affection.

A couple weeks ago, I discovered this fact of my aging for the first time with a shock and almost with tears. The Grobien youngsters were visiting. To kill a little time, Mrs. Grobien and her girls took a walk through our woods. As I met them returning from their tramp, Kimberly handed me a bouquet of wildflowers she had picked. That small action fairly stunned me. The gift tasted so sweet that it hurt to realize that I mattered to one of these little ones. The possibility had never crossed my mind.

That admiration is a little bit like the Gospel. I don’t deserve it. I didn’t do anything to get it. So, why? Why do they love their elders in this way? I won't even try to answer

This is one of those things which are so hard for me to accept, but impossible for me to deny. I guess I’m just used to measuring everything which comes to myself by the strict scales of the Law. In a way, I share a lot of similarities with Inspector Javert when it comes to myself, and Valjean when it comes to others. In the past, I’ve tried my hardest not to expect much from anybody – that’s why the kindness of others always touches a painfully sweet chord in the depths of my heart. Ya’ll are people: you’re not infallible and I don’t expect you to be. I love you all dearly – warts and all! I do expect others to at least put a teensy bit of effort into doing a good job, however. But for some odd reason, I can’t allow myself the same. As far back as I can remember, I’ve tried to force myself to be perfect: dare to make a mistake, Sarah, and see if I don’t beat you up for it! No warts allowed! As a consequence, it’s hard for me to accept even the admiring, sweet, little, love of a six-year-old. I know I don’t deserve it and it always just irks my sinful pride to receive something I don’t feel I merit. (That’s one reason I used to, and still often, flounder around trying to find a response to a compliment. Compliments are very, very sweet, and are rarely surpassed in their value to me when sincere, but while I want so much to pour out heart-felt thanks to the giver, I never feel as if I can take a compliment without guilt. I know that I don’t deserve it.) But six-year-olds won’t take no for an answer. They wouldn’t even listen if I were to try to explain that I don’t deserve their love. They’d just keep coming back and piling it on – eight kisses and all.

Six-year-olds just love. Unconditionally. It’s irresistible because it’s real. I can tell it’s real because it’s tangible.

If one of my siblings had declared to me, “Justinian admires you,” I wouldn’t have believed it. Sure, it would have felt nice for a moment, but just as quickly doubt would dissipate the seeming illusion.

But words from Tinny’s own lips aren’t fake and the kisses most definitely aren’t! (Again, I wonder where he learned. The little guy was quite adept!)

So, the point I guess I’m driving at is that God is a lot like Justinian. (Tinny, please don’t laugh at me for saying so.) It doesn’t really matter to him that I said a lot of stuff I maybe shouldn’t have said today or that I didn’t help my neighbor near as much as I should have, or that I probably hurt my dear friends, or that I’ve been a selfish pig about certain things …or even that I’ve prided myself on my own self-righteousness – disgusting though that is. For some reason, (my baptism into Christ), God doesn’t even see all that rubbish (goodness, do I have a hard time believing that though!). He just loves. And he keeps piling it on: eight kisses and all!
He wraps his arms around me and says, “I am going to stay with you forever.”

And in case those sweet words of the Gospel seem to dissipate far too quickly (and sadly, often they do) Christ does give me tangible evidence. He washes me himself; He feeds me His own Body and Blood; He puts His own words in the mouth of a man. That unconditional love is hard to believe, all the same, but He just keeps coming to me, week after week, and He shows no sign of heeding my protesting, “You can’t do that! I don’t deserve it.”

{Grrr. I always hop off on a tangent. I’ll try to hook back up to the original train of thought.}

Poor Justinian! I’m much too old for him. I guess he must have realized that, for after a nice plate of ice cream together (duly chaperoned by two “mature adults”) he informed his mother of his plans to stay with me “forever”, commenting to her that,“You can come too!”

After a few minutes he told me (at least this was what I managed to understand) that he and I and Mrs. Stuckwisch and I think a few of his siblings and some of the youth could live together, and I would be Mommy and he would be my little boy, and a few other things like that. I had to explain to him that I couldn’t be a mommy until I had children of my own and that couldn’t happen until I had a husband which wouldn’t happen until I got married which would be (likely) many, many years away. Tinny thought that over for a moment, sorrowfully, then declared, “Well then, you have to name one of your babies, “Justinian”.”

I told him that he would have to remind me, to which he promptly replied, “Ok. I’ll tell you at your wedding.” Just when he thinks that will be, he didn’t reveal.

There is “a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.” Tonight was the former. But for pretty much every other young man but Tinny, now is the latter. Someday, by the grace of God, the time to embrace will come for one young man in particular - my Father knows who he will be. I must admit, I haven’t a clue. But considering my own youthfulness, that is likely just as it should be.

And this was a really weird post. I just read it again, but am almost afraid to post it. Ah, well. That's what happens when you start writing a post at 11:30pm on May 26th and end at 1:15am on May 27th!


Nick-Ig said...

first off it was "... a time to SHUN embracing." second off Tin has always been a bold one. He has never (as far as I know) gone that far though. I think it is very sweet though as you said my little brother is a tad bit to young.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

That's a lovely post, Truth Questioner. And I enjoyed it, not only because you said such sweet things about my little son, but because you recognize the profound depths of theology in such things.

For what it's worth, it's actually rather easy for the rest of us to understand what the small people see and admire in you. You are a kind and gracious lady, and, notwithstanding your sinfulness, your heart is more open and tender toward others than you are willing to admit to yourself.

Anyway, nicely said. I'm glad you didn't delete your good words.

TruthQuestioner said...

Nick: depends on what version you use.

I don't have the strength to shun; refrain will have to do. :P

Pastor: Thanks. My youngest sister sort of disenchanted me by letting me know that Tinny had "said the same thing to all the other girls".

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Sounds likes I'm going to have to keep a close eye on my Justinian! Apparently he's already quite the smooth operator. I have no idea where he would have learned such things, however.

I'm sure he meant every word he said. He speaks without guile -- even if he does say the same thing to "all the girls."