Life today has taken on an urgency that we do not necessarily want, need, or realize. It masks parts of life that we need to see and not forget. It distorts our sensibilities. It disconnects us. What follows is an excerpt from a book by someone I admire as much as anyone I know or have read. Every page of his book speaks to “life today”. I will publish excerpts from Walter’s book periodically for you. Read. Enjoy. Slow down. Remember. And, yep, try to be like Walter.
1 Thessalonians 2:6-8
Of course I was in a foul mood. As a night person, I was against my very nature, on the road at 6:25 a.m. for a ninety-minute drive through the work-day traffic of downtown Atlanta headed to the vacant home of my mother-in-law to have the gas reconnected after a thoughtless family member had it shut off. Adding to my irritation, the utility company would only commit to being there “sometime between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.,” so I face the most unhappy prospect of spending an entire day in an empty, unheated house. It was a chill November day, and even before I cleared the subdivision, it began to drizzle. A foul mood indeed.
And then, only a mile from home on a two-lane, no-passing road, I found myself behind a slicker-yellow school bus. And it stopped. “What system sends little children out into the world at such an hour?” I muttered to myself as I glared at the driveway, half blaming the child for adding to my considerable inconvenience. And then, in the corner of my headlight’s beam , I saw them.
The mother, still in pajamas and a housecoat, held an umbrella above them against the misting rain. The child, in a dark hooded jacket, stood on the bus side of her. I say stood but hasten to add that the child was surrounded by a metal walker of some kind.
What followed was a choreography rehearsed each morning since the first day of school. The driver of the bus extends the arm with the hexagonal sign, stopping the traffic, and at the same time opens the door. Mother and child begin to collapse the device that helps support the child. Mother and driver then assist the child on board. The child is seated, and the walker is handed in and secured. Watching their motions and in my mind projecting their emotion, I was both ashamed by my own trivial complaints and filled with great sympathy for each of them—the child, the parent , the driver, somewhere the teacher waiting. What kind of life could they share in such circumstances?
The mother, surely soaked by now, took up her umbrella again and turned a quarter turn as if heading back inside, but she was not leaving, only winding up. For suddenly, with the flair of a Broadway star, she wheeled and blew an exaggerated kiss to the child, whose face was now pressed against the window. I tell you that the warmth and power of that kiss was like the sunrise! The details of time and handicap and gloom merely served as a contrasting frame to highlight all the more the radiance of that kiss.
Someone once defined a good sermon as three points and a change in the pulse rate. For several weeks I had been refining the points for sermon on grace at a table piled high with the best reference works. But now, at a bus stop in a dark and soggy suburb, it was my heart and not my head that was responding. God our heavenly parent sends us on this journey we call life. God’s Spirit is the driving force that sees us to each destination, and Christ himself stands waiting as our teacher, counselor, friend. And when, journey completed, we return home, it will be to the same loving embrace that braved the elements and blew us the kiss when we began. God’s grace is the very air we breathe. Neither the challenges of a child’s abilities nor of a preacher’s attitude nor of the drear of a November morning can long withstand that grace of God, which surrounds us and defines the true standards by which we measure each day and each life.
The gas man did not arrive until after five that afternoon, but it no longer mattered. I greeted him warmly. At the time, my mind was busy picturing a wee child in the glow of a mother’s kitchen telling all about the day.
When I am down all I have to do is remember this story and picture the child and the mom in that kitchen.
This story is taken from a wonderful book written by my former minister at Alpharetta Presbyterian Church – Walter Jones – The Light Shining Through. I cannot speak highly enough about this book of stories that Walter has recounted from his many years in the ministry. When ever I struggle with life all I have to do is open this book to any page and be comforted in some way. The book is now out of print and Walter gave me the last thirty or so that he had. If you would like one of these it will cost you $100 – in the form of a check made out to The Drake House – a local outreach for single women with children on the verge of homelessness located in Roswell. I think Walter would like that. Mail me the check and I’ll mail you the book – it will be the best $100 you ever spent. Be sure to include your address. When the books are gone, they’re gone. If you cannot afford to send that check to me, then write me and promise to help someone else this week – and I’ll mail you Walter’s book. Mail to Ray Appen, 319 N Main St., Alpharetta, Ga. 30009.