circa 870 B.C.
King Jehoshaphat is speaking to the assembly in Jerusalem. The LORD had prevented the king and his people from invading Ammon, Moab, and the people of Mount Seir, and now those same tribes have arrived to overtake those who did not bring harm to them. It is a vast army, and Jehoshaphat is crying to the LORD, “. . . We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”
circa A.D. 1980s
It is Halloween night, and we are going to church.
Believe me, I am all in when it comes to church. But, this was not a glorious time of corporate worship, and honestly, there was not much Bible there either, and more honestly my buddy Don and I wanted to take the girls out for some trick-or-treating, going AWOL from the church down the hill. But, he was a deacon and well, I was the youth pastor, and there was a church gathering, so we were duty bound to go.
It did not seem right at all (perversely?) to go to church instead of prowling the neighborhood getting candy, but we did anyway. After that was done, Don and his wife came up to our place, and Don and I were fidgety. We both said that Halloween was a kind of downer this year and we could not let that stand. It was too late for hopes of much candy and much too late for little girls to go out in search of it. My buddy and I were a lot of things, but being little girls was not among them, so we came up with an idea that was immediately and mutually appealing: we’d just go out anyway. What to do? Well, no actual plan, but we grabbed a couple of sheets and I grabbed some scissors. I cut two holes near the center of each sheet, and we tried them on for size. It was so wickedly perfect how those sheets seemed to drape over each of us, and even better when the scissor work proved to be spot on. We could see through those eye holes, and we knew that no one could see us; we had become ghosts.
We hopped in a car and now what? I’ve got it, I said, as I placed the five-speed in 1st and popped the clutch. I could see fairly fine through those two little holes as I sped like a
demon holy ghost up the main drag across town, up that hill past another church (hmmm wonder if they had the good sense to dismiss early for the kids and their candy), and then pulled to the edge of the . . . cemetery. It was an old cemetery, full of gravestones covered in moss and lichens, weathered by the years, cracked by the many winters of death that had passed over those graves in search of those who were still alive (but not for long:). Don’t ask me how I knew about that one large mausoleum where you could peer through that one side with the crack and actually see bones, or at least it was something that looked like human remains in there in that shadow, if you looked exactly right as the sun (or a flashlight) angled in just so (and of course they were bones, had to be).
We got out, and now what? Prowl around and redeem the hell out of this Halloween is what I guess we were thinking at the time–I have no idea. But, we were in accord with it and we moved as one, two friends floating as ghosts, moaning occasionally because ghosts do that as they shift through space among graves and stones and bones and . . . Let’s go see the bones, I said. Seriously? he moaned. Yes, over there, as one spirit led the other, it is right over there—here!. It was so dark, and those tiny holes did not allow for much actual seeing. Fine for driving down a busy thoroughfare, but not so good for peering into a tomb. Oh well, they are in there I was telling him, my buddy, who badly wanted to bask in the blessing of beholding bones, but was okay without it. Because here we were, here we are . . .
We are circling around the tomb, and the chill in the October air is nothing to us because we are spirit, not flesh, and these sheets are really pretty warm as we are moaning and shuffling and still shifting around the smooth stones of this tomb . . .
We hear something and we circle around, meeting at the side of the mausoleum that faces that Baptist church. There in the parking lot is a group of guys. The church lights have long ago dimmed, and this is no prayer group, probably not upstanding young men who stayed late for Bible study. It is quite late on a Halloween night and they are probably out looking (“Hey, there they are! Let’s go get ’em!”, the alpha boy is shouting), out looking for trouble. Us.
They are looking for us.
Somehow, before we know it, twenty guys have circled around my buddy and me, and we are just standing here, slowly turning, trying to see their eyes with our eyes through two small holes in what are obviously sheets now, as we are not spirits because it does not feel like this to be a spirit, right? It is not that warm, really, in these sheets, holey not holy, and actually now that I think about standing here, this sheet is thin and is all that is separating me from twenty . . .
“What do you guys think you are doing?”, says alpha boy who seems like he has grown into a young man now, and I am hearing the other dudes sort of snort in agreement with alpha’s challenge. And that sound is the very sound that adrenaline and testosterone make as they begin to flood the male body. There’s a time and place, but I do not like that sound coming from hoodlums on Halloween. The cruel circle is growing tighter as they are drawing closer to . . . us.
They are moving closer to us.
My friend and I are just looking around at these guys at the peak of their virility and their stupidity, and then my eyes meet my friend’s, two to two. I can see that smile, the same smile that I have behind my sheet, and these are not sheets. We have become spirits again. We are ghosts. And ghosts moan. That is what they do, what we do, are doing. What else can we do? In stereophonic synchronicity, there are two sounds that are one, coming from the center of this circle, from us.
“LORD, we do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” And it sounds like a moan. I do nothing but moan, and it is genuine now, the anguish of desperation.
This one sound is coming from us.
And the circle, that boundary between us and freedom, simply parts. And our moaning becomes a kind of prayer. The guys just step back and immediately seem smaller. And we moan more and then begin to walk slowly and carefully toward the car which is perfectly in sight, even peering through these two peepholes. And it is our refuge and our safety, that transport, and these guys are allowing it, these punks who sought perhaps to do harm. They had no idea, nor did we, but there is no harm that may befoul us now as we keep moving, keep walking. Deliverance is closer now,
The LORD has delivered us, my friend and me. And we are alive to tell the story.
circa last week, A.D. 2018
I was on vacation, and it began on a Sunday. I love Sundays, and I still do. The week, of vacation, however, was not an easy one. I tried not to have too much “time on my hands”, tried to be wise, tried really to keep my eyes to the skies. I planned one meeting, at least, every day last week, to help keep my head up, and it was a good plan. I planned to do some writing and to listen to a lot of music. Not being in my truck all day, with classical wonder wafting in the air around me, would be okay, I thought. I have broad interests, and I will pursue them, and it will be fine, I thought, And it was. Until Thursday afternoon. But, let me back up.
Monday night was horrible. And I wrote about it beginning late and continuing into the night and into the morning. And I posted it, publicly, Tuesday morning. And then I removed it from public view that same morning, after seeking counsel from friends, a couple with whom I confide. I had truly been thinking, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you,” and I believed that was me: I had no idea what to do, so I just did what I do and wrote. Writing is good, but publishing is not always wise. I love wisdom and seek it and can find it. But, not in the mirror. I can see it in others, in a person or people, in a friend or friends, and I can see it in books, and sometimes, sometimes, when I read my own words, what I have written when I was looking only to the LORD. But, I rarely see this wisdom in the mirror looking back at me. But, I will still seek her.
Okay, Monday night was redeemed and Tuesday turned out extraordinarily and delightfully well and Wednesday did not turn out as planned but perhaps even better. Thursday was fine, but for all of my looking toward the heavens, I diverted my glance for a bit. “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” was my mantra, but then I just did not continue. I tried to take a sideways glance through time, just for a few seconds. Really, you could not tell any difference, even if you were looking at me, even sitting beside me. But, I know, and God knows that he knows and that is what matters most to me. Truly it does matter the most to me. I am fallible and at times even a fool. And I am stupid too. Stupid is fun to see in others. And it is easy to see it out there, and there is a lot of it. But, I detest stupid in myself, so I beat myself up for a couple of days, and I even wallowed in my own kind of misery, because this is all life or death. And it is worthy of my reverence, my continuing education toward a graduate certificate in reverence.
But, God, that LORD on whom I so want to keep my eyes, is generous and kind and merciful and abounding in all things good. By Saturday, I was fine and knew that I had been all along, and then came Sunday. And even then, although it was different (again, ugh), the LORD spoke so clearly. Specifically and truly he spoke as the preacher at this glorious church, Imago Dei, said repeatedly that God redeems the music of our lives, and he just kept saying the word “song” throughout the images that he was using to convey the wonders of the book of Romans. And a prophet friend brought specific and undeniable words to me in comfort, soothing me because this day one was a bit funky for me because I thought something was just missing. But the time was full and made righteous, and my eyes were turned where they should be. And later Sunday I met with the pastor whom I did not meet on Wednesday (the day that did not go as planned) because, as he put it, I was where he was supposed to be (but he was not:) oops. It was fine, and I eventually ate some good bread while I waited for him in vain. Waiting in vain? Not gonna do that. And Sunday night was deeply gratifying as I traveled out to a part of town I may never visit again for a meeting, part of a committee to help select leadership for this church that has become my group home.
And then, my vacation ended.
circa today, A.D. 2018
I went back to work today, and it was good. So good, after realizing that at this point in my life and in this context, I probably need to be working more than I need to take a vacation. It is luxury, after all, getting paid to listen to music all day, and delivering the goods all day, and sometimes delivering some good as I write and communicate in other ways after “work”. Yes, it is luxury, and the music today was not my choice. It was all brought to me as a gift, as the announcer kept saying this one word repeatedly, “always”, and I know that it is always, this love from God, and it just went on and on all day, and I have run out of words to speak of it, except:
This love means everything to me. Don’t let me screw it up.
So, now it is another week, and I know, completing yet another sacred cycle, that I have come full circle back into a circle made full. And I will use some ridiculous Latin and call it the mysterium circulum, this circle to which I have come and in which I will always reside. We must. And “it is going to be okay”, I know that, in spite of myself. And it is a mystery to me how it keeps becoming more full—more full and deep, so deep.
It will forever be this way as long as we can say to the LORD, “. . . our eyes are upon you.”
Photograph “Sideways Time”, Lincoln Hall, © 2018 Timothy Waugh