Well, its Sunday and Uncle Orley and I are at church waitin’ with one of the Howe young’uns for his folks to come back and get him. Today all the Howe daughters and sons and grandkids came to Blue Bell Baptist for the worship service in honor of Betty Jean and Lester Howe’s 40th anniversary. They were married here back then, they all came back and planned a real nice little get together yesterday afternoon in the fellowship hall, then today they were all back for church. It was a pure pleasure seein’ all those kids again after years of livin’ away from their roots so to speak.
Uncle Orley is playin’ catch with the little feller to try to keep his mind off of gettin’ left behind. At first he didn’t take findin’ out that the rest of the family drove right off and left him none too kindly. He took it kind of personal like and after a little spell of tearin’ up and sayin’ he wasn’t very proud of his folks for what they did, he got interested in the softball that Orley found in the youth room.
I called Betty Jean on the phone just as they got home, and about the same time they figured out Little Lester (that’s his name, well, Lester, not Little) didn’t arrive home with everybody else. Since he had been playin’ with his cousins all weekend, his folks figured he rode home with one of them and they are beside themselves with embarrassment and grief over leaving their boy at church.
I didn’t think of it on the phone, but when they get here I think I’ll remind them that it’s not the first time parents left their boy at church. I reckon it’s easier to see how Mary and Joseph could have lit out for home and gone the whole day thinkin’ Jesus was off runnin’ and playin’ with the other boys. I reckon, too, that they were a mite red-faced at havin’ to admit to the whole bunch they had travelled all day long without knowin’ where their boy was.
Now that I think about it, do you reckon they prayed askin’ the Heavenly Father to help them find him? I suppose so, but don’t you know that was an interesting prayer. “Uh, Lord … You know that boy you gave us, the one you said was God with us, the one who was to save the world from its sins? Well, we lost him!” That kind of carelessness would be hard to admit to even if it is understandable.
Well, I see their minivan turnin’ in, so I’ll take up here when we get home.
I’m back. Anyway, I don’t know who was happier at the reunion, Little Lester or his folks. You’d a-thought they hadn’t laid eyes on each other for ages the way they carried on. But seein’ them huggin’ put me in mind to think on how sometimes we get left behind by our Heavenly Father. Oh, I don’t mean he abandons us, I don’t mean that, but waitin’ around for me to make up my mind to move with the Spirit is not the sole purpose of the Trinity. The Lord is not going to hold up on his mission until I come around!
Why, standin’ there all of a sudden like, it came to me that the Lord moved on in some form or fashion and left me behind to stew in my own stubbornness. Fact is, that’s pretty much what I’ve been doin’ lately.
Our preacher, Brother Bobby, has been tryin’ to get some of us old timers to let go of the grip we have on the past. He says we’ve got to look to the future and change with the times. The trouble is, for folks the age of your uncle and me, the past might not have been all it was cracked up to be but at least we know what we’re dealin’ with. The future is so dad burned unpredictable. When every morning you have to coax your joints into gettin’ lubricated up for another day, it sort of takes the zip out of what you expect. And when you don’t know how many more mornin’s you have left it’s easier to take comfort in the ones you remember from the past.
Oh, I know that’s not the way to be. Brother Bobby has been talkin’ about some kind of Fresh Expression of the church. Doin’ ministry in new ways, not expectin’ folks to come to church but takin’ the church to them. He says we’ve got to reach the post-moderns. But for us pre-moderns, that’s makin’ quite a leap! Part of me wishes we could ease into bein’ modern before we seek those who have already left behind where we haven’t even arrived at yet. I admit it. In my heart, I’ve been down-right stubborn. I’ve wanted church to be what is familiar to me and meaningful to me and comfortable to me. In short, I guess I’d have to admit it’s all been about me. It’s like I was waitin’ at the church for the Lord to come back to get me instead of realizin’ that I needed to leave church and go out where he is workin’ with folks who left the church behind.
Well, in a flash watchin’ Little Lester bein’ loved up on by his folks, I realized that my stubbornness has kept me at a distance from the Lord. Not because he wasn’t with me, but because I wasn’t with him. I had cut myself off from the joy of bein’ a part of what he is doin’. Right there in the parkin’ lot I told the Lord I didn’t want to be left behind. I wanted to be in on what he has goin’ on. And while the Howes were carryin’ on, I was havin’ a reunion with a Father who hugged me up one side and down the other with his love and grace.
Well, who would ever have suspected that leavin’ their little boy at church would have caused me to have my own little revival meetin’? The Lord does work in mysterious ways. And I’m feelin’ myself get all excited about learnin’ fresh expressions of the church in a postmodern world. I can’t find it on the map, but it’s got to be there somewhere!
The welcome mat is always out. Come see us when you can.
Love as always, Aunt Ida
Jim White ([email protected]) is executive editor of the Religious Herald.