Monday, October 18, 2010
Caramel Apples and Tissue Paper Life
I stood in the midway at the North Carolina State Fair, head spinning.
Was it the Tilt-a-Whirl that had my stomach churning, whipping me and Sam in blurry loops and twirls as we steeled ourselves against each other, laughing and screaming at the same time?
Or it might have been something else. Leftover terror and panic and joy spun up together, still reverberating, vibrating in the core of my heart, 2 1/2 days later.
Just Wednesday night I was driving through the dark on a road I've never traveled before, searching for the car that backed out of my driveway just a few hours earlier.
I was chatting with my neighbor when he pulled out onto the street.
I'd mouthed, "Love you."
"You too," Ben nodded and waved goodbye.
Then a few hours later, Sarah sat beside me in the passenger seat as I drove, squinting through the darkness for a glint of his white car.
"Should I call Daddy?"
No, It was almost 3 AM in France. He couldn't do anything from his hotel room except stew and worry. Ben had made it clear on a stranger's phone that he and Ellison made it out okay. Might as well let Todd sleep until it's over.
"Is that it?" I say, scanning the edge of a farmer's field.
"No," she said. "I don't think that's a car."
It wasn't. It was white paint on a cinder block shed.
My brain conjured up the screeching, the explosion as the roof hit the asphalt, the crunching, glass breaking.
I searched the darkness, praying.
Then we saw it, first only the policeman's blue light in the distance.
There was the car, upside down on the road, shattered glass around it, blue glitter as the police light turned. The two figures standing by the guardrail in the darkness.
Two beautiful figures.
Thank you, God.
They crawled out. They were fine.
Thank you, God.
It's so strange how life happens.
One day, everything is ordinary. I'm doing laundry, making banana pudding.
Sarah comes home for fall break. We pack for the trip to Raleigh. Ben is going to stay home and work on college applications, and I'm giving a talk at the beloved church of my childhood. Everything is ordinary.
The title of my talk comes to mind and I have to laugh a little.
Bumping into Jesus: Surprise Encounters with the God of Wonders.
It was about meeting God through the least of these, children and the poor, the homeless and the sick. But Bumping into Jesus? Not yet, God! Lets keep the boy's feet on the earth right now.
Let's put my 18 year old son in a little box on my coffee table. Keep him safe. Open the lid now and then and say hello.
One day, everything is normal. And then the next, my child and his sweet girlfriend crawl out of his upside down car, on a highway in the middle of nowhere.
Life feels tissue paper thin.
Someone tells me how lucky we are and I say yes, yes, yes.
Someone tells me God saved him, and I say yes, thank you, God. But then I think of Gordon.
Gordon had beautiful olive skin and dark hair. I was his babysitter when he was small. He and his little brother liked to play spaceship. We'd take off our shoes and stand in the shower stall for take off. He'd do the countdown and we'd take off!
By my senior year in high school he was in 6th grade, and I remember how much he loved to make kids in the youth group laugh. I went to college, got married, and moved away, but one day my mom called me about Gordon. He was killed in an accident his freshman year at UNC. Time stopped for his family. Their foursome became three.
God didn't save Gordon.
Did God really save Ben? I don't know. My inclination today is no.
I have a hard time believing in a God who decides to save one and not another.
But I do believe in God, with everything I have.
My God surrounds us with his love, helps us hobble through this life, helps us run through it, dance through it. Helps us puzzle our way through the mystery of it all.
I don't have to understand everything, but I'm grateful. So very grateful.
I stand in the midway, and I see my feet on the asphalt. Sarah's feet, Sam's, my mom's and my dad's. I'm thankful for Ben's feet on the ground back home, and Ellison's feet on the ground where she is, and my husband's feet in Paris.
I smell the polish sausage and the deep fried twinkies, and I hear the barker guess the age of the teenage girl clutching the giant pink elephant, and I feel like quite the lucky lady.
I'm loved and in love.
I send much love to you!
Photo by grrrrl, creative commons