Wednesday, April 1, 2015

In everyone I meet

The morning, sun rising invisibly behind my house in the southeast, making a beautiful start to this spring day, which I know may very well go through many changes, dark clouds may still pile up later, full of rain or maybe hail, and winds may blow these down on my little house. Yesterday, the opposite. The morning began with thick gray clouds hiding the sun, the earth moistened by tiny mist-like raindrops, which gladly yielded to sunny skies later, letting me spend some time weeding the soft soil in my garden, only to be forced indoors by a sudden cloudburst, which took its time, many hours, in dissipating. This is life, inevitable, unpredictable, irresistible, inconstant, reliable in only one aspect, it changes forever.

I awoke with vestiges of my last dream in mind. Guests peopled my sky house, nameless and faceless, with whom I had been conversing, we talked about the cross of Christ, how we must bear it in this earthly life, and I heard myself say, ‘But in the world to come, thank God, we have no more crosses to bear,’ and I was surprised to see my beloved Dad slowly pass by, hunched over a little as he was in his last years, on the other side of the kitchen bar. ‘No, Norm, that isn’t quite right,’ he said with his characteristic, knowing smile and slight twinkle in his eyes, looking as he used to, when he had to correct me. ‘We still have crosses to bear, even on this side, for all we did and all we didn’t do.’

I felt flooded with contrary emotions, as came to mind ‘Among the spirits of the righteous perfected in faith, give rest, O Savior, to the soul of your servant. Bestow upon it the blessed life which is from You, O loving Lord…’ and my heart rose in defense of my sentiment, of my expectation, as continued the words of the mnimósynon, ‘Within Your peace, O Lord, where all Your Saints repose, give rest also to the soul of Your servant, for You alone are Immortal.’ And I remembered, and quoted, imperfectly from memory, to those standing near the saying of Sergei Fudel, that as we approach the end of our lives, we feel drawn to our departed family members, and our love for them opens doors to their presence.

The world of dreams is built out of the materials of our everyday, working life. Guests, not family members as usual, were in my house yesterday. That bright morning rearranged the start of my day, as I took the opportunity to weed the garden, after my morning coffee. While I worked at the edge of the road, I sang in French, ‘Marima Kabalingué, ma petite amie d'Afrique, a épousé le Seigneur et rayonne de Bonheur…’ and noticed, coming up behind me, an elderly couple. As they drew near I switched to English, ‘Good morning!’ and after their returned greeting, small talk ensued. I noticed a familiar accent in the woman’s voice. ‘Where are you from?’ I asked. ‘We are from Lebanon,’ she replied.

Though I had never met them before, nor knew their names till that morning, we instantly became friends, joined by our common faith and shared community. Souad’s cousin is married to the sister of a dear friend of mine at church. Faris, the husband of Souad, who conforms to his name (which means ‘knight’), can no longer drive, and the couple sold their car. Now they have no way to come to church. As we were making arrangements for them to accompany me on Palm Sunday, out of nowhere rain began to fall, first lightly, then torrentially, and we scrambled into my house. There we sat down around the dining table while we exchanged phone numbers. Briefly I had guests. Then, I took them home.

They must have been the unseen guests in my dream. Their presence in my life, through a quick encounter, still reoriented my inner house. Eastward, always east, must face our hearts, for the sake of the Daystar. I remembered waking during the night at about three and wanting to take a little breakfast, but stopped, thinking it was Sunday, so I could not break my fast before Communion. I had to sober up a little more before I realized it was only Wednesday morning. Relieved, I was about to eat something when I remembered, ‘Oh no, it’s recycling day, and I haven’t taken the bins out to the curb for pickup!’ Relief doesn’t last long. Correction always comes, because we are, no, I am, so stubbornly about myself.

Hence, no doubt, Dad’s gentle correction, ‘We still have crosses to bear, even on this side, for all we did and all we didn’t do.’ And I continue to ponder here and now, as I remember his words, the crosses that await us there on the other side, yet without fear. Love fills not only the earth, but the universe, more reliably than the flow of time, more abundantly than the harvest of moments, all of them loaded with joy, if only we are ready for whatever and whoever comes. As I start this new day, not only is the Lord with me, but so are the saints of heaven and earth, I am literally surrounded by that great cloud of witnesses, and whether awake or asleep, He comes to me in everyone I meet, if only I come out.

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