"For God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made His light shine in our hearts.... But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." (2Cor 4:6-7)
A jar of clay? A pot. An image of earthly humanity. And at my age, my "pot" has been used and beat around. Which makes me what? A cracked old pot, not so much containing God's glory as helplessly hoping that's what will shine through and ooze out in a way that blesses my world.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Your old man will dream dreams...
I started this, and then life—and death—whirled on. Come back to that landscape with me, if you will. Late May. I wander in the weird geology of this quiet Cappadocian wadi in central Turkey. Cool, green. Evening light filters through trees, birds sing sweet evensong. Good footing and comfortable boots. Curt sent me off while he prepares a special cave-church meal. The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23) My brother David reached me last night to tell me Dad is dying. He descends into depths of pain. The cancer wins. Whether because he stands at the threshold of life or because suffering and drugs have confused him, he has one foot in this world’s reality and the other in an unseen place of waking dreams and visions. Perhaps it is the strangeness of this valley of caves. Or the quiet of the stream and the lush valley. I find Dad’s dreams floating, filling the atmosphere around me. I think God is in these movements. A few days ago Dad packed for a journey. When she asked, he told the aid who stopped by that he was going to Chicago. Alert and lucid. Another day he spoke of a visit from Dan and Eda the evening before. He recalled tidbits of conversation and what Eda was wearing. Later he said he’d forgotten our apartment number but he wanted to drop in on us. He enjoys visits with Mom, and they watch TV together and chat a bit. It seems that I, too, come and go. But there are no earthly travel plans, and Dad knows no one in Chicago. Dan and Eda are in Dubai. And no, we do not have an apartment in his building. I am in Turkey and Mom has been dead for seven years. Other experiences terrify him. He was in a railway boxcar. Then he was put out in the rain. Soaked and cold, he banged on the door. It opened, but no one would let him in. Hours passed. Finally a young black woman came. She was full of grace and tenderness as she wrapped him in a blanket and brought him in. The next day an aid comes to into room and he recognizes her. He greets her with delight and introduces her as the dear one who saved him. As I wander this magical valley, I recall Paul quoting Joel in Acts 2. “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” These waking dreams, so real to Dad. Most are full of comfort. Visits from loved ones far away who don’t even know Dad’s desire to be with them or how near he is to the threshold. The sense that they are near even if he can’t see them. And in terror and suffering, angelic rescue full of grace and compassion, and a real person to attach it to the next day. That Somalian nursing aid who would weep as she tended his body and embrace me with prayer as we said the last goodbye. “Your old men will dream dreams….” My old man is living in them. You, Lord, can meet him here, can’t You. For you dwell in realities we see and in the shadows and glories far beyond us. Dad has resisted You all his life. But in this dark passage You are still there: powerful to meet him, to reach him, to comfort and bring him home. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me. “You prepare a table. “You anoint my head with oil. “Surely Your goodness and Your love will find me, and I will dwell in Your house forever.” Come, Lord Jesus. Come.