Saturday, July 12, 2014

I'm Late, I'm Late, I'm Late!

"No time to say, Hello, Goodbye,
I'm late, I'm late, I'm late..."
Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

I love children's fairy tales and Alice in Wonderland is at the top of my list of best books ever written!  Of course, it doesn't hurt that this classic was written by a gifted author whom I fantasize was a distant uncle who passed down his love for writing to me!  A favorite grand-grand-grand niece that he knew was coming in the future!

But, enough of that.  This is a serious expose on the trouble with time!  It is always running ahead of us, don't you think? The picture of the white rabbit, scurrying past Alice, checking his watch, unable to pause even long enough to say hello or goodbye, tickles my sense of humor and fills me with little girl giggles at our human tendency to announce our own self-importance! After all, if I don't announce it to you, you might miss it!

Alice can hardly believe her eyes watching the rabbit, dressed in his very proper attire, barely able to acknowledge her presence, as he chastises this child for interrupting his day. Where is he going?  He doesn't know.  He's just impressed with how important he is going there!  Now that's classic! Because we are all so like that!  We are just so busy doing something, we think it must be very important and, surely, everyone knows it!  Right?  Hold up there - we might be missing something!

This delightful and artfully drawn picture of our own self-importance and tendency to strut it for all the world to see, brings to mind one of the many times in the gospels the disciples strutted and vied for attention as the 'most important' in the kingdom.  Time after time, Jesus pops their inflated egos and brings them down to earth with a thud! 

One of those classic episodes happens in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 19.  It is one of their "moments" and they are reveling in the time they have with the Master.  The last thing they want is to be interrupted by a bunch of whiny, crying, demanding little children.  It's late, it's late! They don't have time for this!  But, Jesus, once again, stepping outside the script the guys have written for Him, takes the little ones to Himself, gathers them in His arms and pulls them on His lap.  He stops the clock for them.  He puts them first. He makes room for them when His followers push them away. Jesus didn't accept their exaggerated sense of their own self-importance. He pointedly drew their attention to the children. See the children in front of you, He seems to be saying.  Stop what you're doing. Listen to them. Really see them.  Love them.  "For, of such is the Kingdom of Heaven!"  Matthew 19:14

Jesus, the most important person ever to enter human history, stops the clock for little children. He often stops along the way for those that are ignored by the rest of the world.  Children, the sick, the mentally ill, the elderly, the forsaken, the dying. He seems to be saying, "Get it straight. This is what really matters to Me." 

Stop the clock. It's later than you think...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Lame in Both Feet...

"As for Mephibosheth, said the king, "he shall eat at my table like one of the King's sons.  
So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem, for he ate continually at the King's table.  
And he was lame in both feet..."  
2 Samuel 9:11, 13 NKJV

This is the obscure tale of Mephibosheth, son of King David's friend Jonathan and grandson of David's enemy, King Saul. Mephibosheth, whose name means "Son of Shame" was the crippled and shame-filled grandson of Saul.  As a little boy Mephibosheth suffered a fall that crippled him in both feet, leaving him unable to walk on his own.  The shame that he felt as a cripple, completely dependent on the kindness of those around him to carry him everywhere, covered him and sent him into hiding.  I think that is a great metaphor for the word "shame" - it always seems to cover us from head to foot and sends us into hiding, sometimes, even from ourselves.

As I write this, I am remembering my favorite uncle, Uncle Eddie, an avid Brooklyn Dodgers fan, "back in the day" when they were still in New York.  I met my Uncle when I was five years old visiting my grandparent's home in New York where this wonderful man lived.  He would invite me into the back yard to listen to the Dodgers' games on his transistor radio with the big antennas sticking into the sky.  I had never met anyone like him.  He was gentle and kind to me. He was in his twenties then, and very good looking.  He had a wonderful, funny accent.  After all, he was from Brooklyn!  He loved the game of baseball.  He never played it though.  He was crippled in both legs, just like Mephibosheth.  

He had been a victim of polio as a very young child.  He walked in a strange way, to the eyes of a child. He always had to place his legs in very heavy iron braces, in order to stand and walk at all.  No one ever explained to me what had happened to him.  My five-year-old eyes grew wide with amazement as he strapped on his braces and haltingly stood up.  At first, that is all I could see.  He was different.  He was crippled.  In both feet.

It didn't take too long, though, for me to see the person hiding behind the braces.  He was shunned by everyone in his family, as if it was his fault he had contracted polio.  I guess it was because, to them, he was a burden of sorts.  He needed to be cared for in unusual ways.  Just like Mephiboseth. He was ashamed to be a burden.  But, to a little girl, far away from home for the first time, he was the most gentle, kind and loving man I had yet known in all of my five years on the earth.  He was so good to me that summer.  To me, he was a hero.

Later in life, as a young mother, my own father lost a leg to a dangerous infection.  He endured the "shame" of being "crippled" and in need of kindness and understanding of what it feels like to need people to help us and to understand our need.

This captivating story, found in the Book of 2 Samuel, tells the tale of David's kindness to Mephiboseth, because of his great love and oath to his dear friend, Jonathan, Mephiboseth's father.  But, even more than that, it tells the story of God's unending search for us, to call us out of hiding, to heal us and to show us kindness beyond our ability to even imagine.  When one is crippled in both feet, unable to move on our own, covered in shame, it is not on our radar to expect kindness.  Mephiboseth expects to die when summoned before the King.  He has absolutely no expectation of kindness. He certainly does not envision himself sitting at the King's table for the rest of his days, the invited guest of the King.  But that is exactly what the King does for him.  He sees beyond the victim and loves the person hiding within...

Where are you tonight? Crippled in both feet?  Ashamed of who you are?  Broken in pieces? Feeling like a burden?  Expecting the worst?  Can't imagine anyone sees you - anyone knows you - anyone cares?

Believe for a moment that the King is calling your name.  He is requesting your presence at His table.  

Bring whatever's broken with you.  He is well able to heal broken bones, broken hearts and broken lives. He is well able...