Last September 16, in a post called “We are going to make it, aren’t we?”, I wrote about this guy.
I did not tell you then, but he was a clerk at the grocery store. And I was there, on that Sabbath in September just as I wrote. And as I purchased something, whatever, we talked. A little more than I wrote, we said then, but the flow is accurate. You can trust me.
And, after the next day, his birthday, I wondered if he made it. I go shopping there for food three or four times a week, because it is close and I see more people more often and I get to know many of them, and I like fresh vegetables. I did not see Eyob. Day after day I did not see him, and after a few weeks I asked another employee if Eyob was around. Not sure, haven’t seen him, I think maybe.
You may recall that he had told me in September that he and his brother had been through many trials and tribulations. Sickness had seemed to follow them. He used the word “curse.” He had felt as if he were cursed. And you may recall that I had a feeling about his name, and that I’d found that Eyob is Ethiopian for Job.
And you cannot recall, but I am telling you so that you may, that yesterday on New Year’s Day I was in a needless rush at the same store, looking for the black-eyed peas. Not the band, but the vegetable. It is a tradition to serve them on 1 January. My mother always did it, and I did not know why, but I just kept doing it too, often with fresh-picked peas and in the South. I later discovered that it may relate to the American Civil War. The story is that after the South was devastated by troops from the North, the only crop left was field peas, like our black-eyed peas. Actual field peas are smaller and denser, and I have eaten them, and they are–no judgement here–superior. But, they are rare, so the other peas have served as the symbol for “using whatever is left after the earth has been scorched to bring in a new year of change, positive even prosperous change”.
Well, there were none to be found, those peas. Not in cans, not in the produce section, not in a bag, frozen. Green sure, split oh yeah, but nothing with a black eye. So I was in a rush without my peas and needed to check out quickly and I snatched canned lentils because I thought I had no time and I looked for a short line and there it is: aisle 7. I plopped my cans of non-peas down and the belt began to move. With my eyes and my rushing, I followed those two cans up the belt toward the clerk, and a dark, slender hand reached down to get one can and then a second. My eyes followed the hand up the arm and into the eyes of Eyob.
I laughed and said, “Eyob, you made it!” Eyob, the last time I saw you was the day before your birthday and you told me of your trials and tribulations . . . Yes it was September 16, he said. I said, your name is Ethiopian for Job, right? He smiled and nodded.
That’s when I told him that I had left that day and gone to pray for him. At a table in a coffee shop, I had prayed that he’d “make it.” And then, I said that I wondered about it, if he had made it and that I had made inquiries, but wasn’t sure.
He looked me in the eyes, and there was no rushing left in me. And we already know that a pea of any kind goes with prayer, and I did not tell him any jokes about that, I only said, “I am glad you are here, that you made it.”
He said, thank you “my brother”, “God is good.” He told me that God is good. I’m a guy who talks with God like he’s my friend from elementary school, and then we became college roommates, but then suddenly he was my wise grandfather. And then a playmate again. And he has grown up next door wherever I have lived. I am a guy who writes about him, teaches of him, wants to know him, says he trusts him, loves him above all else and is not even hesitant in that anymore. That one has not been easy, because I love a lot . . .
But he is the source of it all, the source of all loves all goodness every quality that has any redeeming feature. He is all of it in fullness. The All in One. And, it is incredible and fantastic and mystical and mysterious and SO glorious, how he works his wonders. I could tell you stories, just about today, that are true but you would not believe them.
I could tell you, and it is true, that I was wanting some joy today and by my calculation was scheduled to be on my Joy Route. But, that on the way to work, I was earnestly praying to put God first in all things, to seek first his kingdom (and then he says all things will be added). And I thought about that parenthetical promise and I like it a lot, and then I tossed it out. It is true, of course, but I must seek first his realm, put him first. Period. So, I decided, again, that I would, and the rest could come or not. And then I was at work, and ready to clock in, and I double-checked the schedule and realized that the holiday had offset it by a day, and that my first route of this new year was route number 1, God. And there it is: only one thing about only one day in all of our lives that shows his power and his promise to hearts devoted to him as number one.
And I am also stupid sometimes, and so all morning I thought about it all and how it does seem almost too good to be true, and the music that was coming to me on my radio . . . well what if I told you that the music does not evoke or induce or move me, like cause and effect? Not my work-day dose anyway. Instead, the music follows my thoughts and prayers. I think, and then a piece is played with perfect promise. Exactly as a gift, slowly unwrapped before me. It happens all the time and it was happening all morning and I told you that I am stupid sometimes so I was just shaking my head and working and then I paused. I asked for nothing at all, I simply said. It is too good, God, how can you be so intricately gracious? I can hardly believe it, Father. So, I stopped where I was and took that picture up there, behind a row of flats on the river, and then I prayed quickly and moved on. Immediately, a piece called “The Posthorn Serenade”, by Mozart is announced and is then explained, because what the heck is a post horn? Well, I will tell you, Christa says, on 89.9 FM. While I am delivering mail like a madman, because it is so busy today, she says that it is a brass instrument that we will hear in this piece, and that it got its name because it was blown to signal that the postman has arrived with glad tidings.
Oh God, what is humanity, that you are mindful of us? Seriously.
Well, if anyone should know, it would be Job. Eyob. He said it simply, when he said, “God is good.”
Yes, we are going to make it.