At dawn, the world seems small, and I seem big. Not so the day when the fullness of trouble breaks in upon me, and I am small and frail. The hopeful possibility of those early moments fade—I consider the cry of injustice, war, hunger, and loneliness. What great a response is required?
But a look at the moments of my days, and no such greatness is found among them—moments of an encouraging note, the occasional prayer, and fleeting laughter intermingled with the making of meals and beds, gathering of dust, removal of spider webs, and the hand-washing of a cup. These cumulative acts of my day are sand, sand in a flood of need that cries for a Rock to stem the flowing tide of tears.
And what do we get when we add up all the moments of Jesus’ life in the Gospels—stacking miracle against miracle like some stack of cards—unbroken (like some sleepless never-ending “final’s week”) by fatigue or food. What do we get of all his words and works? Two months? Three? Half a year? And what of the other 35.5 years of Jesus’ life—where are they? We have no record of long walks from this town to that, or the hours passed in fervent labor of textiles in his carpentry shop. Rumor has it that there remained in use—for nearly a hundred years after his death—plows made by the Carpenter Jesus. Never to be gathered by relic-seeking followers, they continued to break the ground year after year in hopes that once again life might come from the barren soil.
The world is full of the unexpected—like the clump of Fescue growing from the top of a slatted moon-gate, planted no doubt by some nest-building bird. Like the doe in Queeny Park, too unawake in her morning breakfast to be started by me. She watches, only half interested in my passing. And there is the man, just standing at the crossroads of two paths in the park—standing, and waiting, as though he had nothing else to do. He gestures a wavy finger at me as I pass, and whether his intention is greeting or warning, I cannot tell. Looking back, I could see him still standing there, as though certain that 5:30 AM in a mist-covered path in some city park was exact place of his arranged waiting. Perhaps he is still waiting now.
I think of Geronimo, the 40-something Belizean who looks 60, oblivious to the mosquitoes that covered him, the silly grin on his face at having killed a deadly Coral snake with one blow of his machete. And he is frozen in the picture I took—waiting. And I think of the Esmeralda, working with the children that live on the streets in Mexico, and how she waits every day for them to come to the shelter. Sometimes they come, and sometimes she just waits. And I think of orphaned children of Peru waiting for adoption, and the widowed Babushkee of Ukraine—just waiting. Waiting for Jesus.
And I think of Sam Gamgee and Frodo Baggins. They waited and in the end what did they get? Frodo got to board the last westward bound ship. Sam got a wife and children and the Shire. But what if someone can’t pick—what if he wants to go west and still have the Shire? Like Paul—wanting to leave and wanting to stay and not being able to choose between. He was waiting.
Maybe that is what heaven is—on that day when men don’t have to stand in early morning parks waiting, on that day when Jesus returns—that we will not have to choose. Maybe the leaving and the staying, the coming and the going will all be the same thing. Maybe it will be like the children of Narnia who—on that last great day when they saw the sun go out and the world grow cold, and watched as Aslan shut the door on Narnia—only to turn and find that in here (that is, in the bigness of the stable-turned-world) is all the true beauty of Narnia retained. Maybe we will climb aboard the last westward bound ship and arrive on the other shore to find it is everything we have left behind. Maybe every goodbye will be a greeting. Maybe, in heaven, every journey out will lead us home again, and we will say to one another, “All roads lead home.”
Until then, we wait, and choose between this or that decision and knowing that all our best actions are sand—sand when what the world needs is a Rock, a Fortress, a Stronghold and Deliverer.
Day ends—I think of the man waiting in the park. Is he still waiting? I have begun to wonder what God will do with all this sand and—with a sigh—take up another cup to wash.