Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Thirty-three men

I'm sitting in front of the TV this morning.  It's something I've done before.  One sunny Tuesday morning in September nine years ago, I turned on the TV and didn't turn it off until the weekend, at least.  But that certainly wasn't the first time I was 'glued' to a television because some world-changing event was happening somewhere.  The first time I remember this phenomenon in my life was in November 1963.  Actually, I remember exactly where I was that day in November when a couple of shots rang out in Dallas.  I was out at my afternoon recess in first grade at West Willow Elementary School in Ypsilanti, Michigan.  By the time I walked the two blocks home, my mother already had our black and white television turned on. And that TV stayed on a long time.  We watched as a president was pronounced dead, another man took and oath. We watched long lines of people march past a flag-covered casket.  And I especially remember watching the funeral--the horse with no rider, the woman dressed in black, even with a cloth over her head, and the children (the girl just my age with my same name) so solemn.

Since then, I've sat in front of a television like it's my job (a nod here to SK and her buddies for that phrase), and watched men walk on the moon, a very small child being saved from a well, a school shooting, a bombing, those airplanes flying into buildings, a hurricane that caused a flood that tried to level a city, and so many more. Usually the news centers on such horrors that I grip my hands together, breathe the name of Jesus as I watch the screen. Ask Him to be present in the pain of those who are not safely on this side of their television sets.  Not safely removed and protected from the horror, but changed forever by it.  Their life divided into before and after by whatever that news-worthy event is.

Today again I'm in a familiar spot on my couch, watching this amazing story.  Yep, I'm a news junkie, when it comes to such things.  With the slow crank of a pulley bring to back from deep in the earth, these 33 miners in Chile are saved.  For the last 69 days, they've been stuck in a place that would have killed me.  I keep thinking that.  I'd have to have been drugged, I'm sure of it.  The dark, the sense of all that earth on top of me, it'd do me in.  But then, I'd never have gone down there to begin with, so I guess I'm safe.  But what has interested me about this story along the way is how they created community down there. By the time there was communication with those miners--17 days in--they'd set up hours for working and sleeping, made private space and communal space.  They had responsibilities for the team and responsibilities for the mine. This reminds me that we were created with this drive, that it's part of our deep nature to be in community.  And even in the worst of times, even when hope is dead within us (as it might have been for those first 17 days), what is best in us drives us to look for community.  And...it's also how we are created in God's image.

God is communal, after all.  I mean, in His own self, He's communal.  His own Three-in-One self, I should say.  And from the beginning, He knew "It is not good for man to be alone."  Just imagine what the last 69 days if there had only been one man down in that mine, rather than a whole community.

God creates us each, but also for each other.  And also for Him.  As I've watched these men lifted one by one (yes, some things a person, even in community, must do alone), it's been interesting to watch the various reactions when they first reach the surface.  Many drop to their knees before they even hug their loved ones.  One said, "I was down with the devil and found God."  A long battle is ahead toward emotional health, from the sounds of it.  But if they found God under the rocks, they can be sure He won't leave them now that they can see the stars.

There's a sense of rebirth for these men, of course.  One can't help seeing the Biblical images here.  Men being lifted through the rocks from the center of the earth--where we consider hell to be.  Lazarus being brought forth.  Even a stone being rolled away from a tomb is hinted at here.  New life for these men.  So what will they do with their lives?

And, as I watch this, I'm loving it.  I'm drawn to stories, always.  But I'm a sucker for a happy ending, and, at the moment, we're about six hours, and six miners, from a very happy ending.  And I'm guessing our communal God, who was deep in that mine with them, is watching with joy as well.

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