The strangest thing about having spent the summer where I have, ie, at home, is that we haven't had summer at all. Oh, there have been an occasional sunbreak, the odd day when the sun shone more than it didn't but mostly, it's felt like March, and a March with clouds from one end of the month to the other. So imagine, just imagine the toll on our out-of-shape bodies when we stepped out of our friends' air-conditioned home this morning into the blast of sun and humidity and temperatures tipping toward triple digits--before noon! Sweat began pouring down my body in places I didn't know there were glands from which it could pour, and it wasn't pretty, folks, I'll tell you that much straight up.
However, that wasn't about to stop me or my fellow, far-more-intrepid-and-fit-than-me, friends from our trek through the lovely and hallowed grounds of Princeton University. I'm fairly sure my IQ rose as soon as I crossed the street onto the property. We walked past dormitories that look like churches and churches that must be cathedrals, and grounds where such august persons have walked and thought and studied and lived that I felt humbled to simply put my feet in their paths. In the church, I stared at the breathtakingly colorful stained glass windows lining the sanctuary, mostly commemorating saints, often given by some class in memory or other, and tested my very old memory of Roman numerals to make out the years written. Just about in the center of one such window, off to the right side, if one is facing the altar, four windows up and three in from the bottom, is a glass with the words, "What is Truth?" written on it/ What is truth, written between St. Sebastian and St. Aloysious. St. Bartholomew and the like. What is truth?
This is the question men and women come to such esteemed institutions as Princeton to study, if they come with the right quest. What is truth? After leaving the main campus, we went over to Princeton Seminary, where I stood in the bookstore listening to two men discuss several books about social justice. They were arguing whether a book had value--though both found it impressive and innovative--because it was clearly written by a ghost-writer. I inched closer so I could see the name of the author, but could not (probably just as well). But what is truth? Does the name on the book matter as much as the words within, if the words are true and bring illumination to those who need it? This was their discussion. I wanted to tell them this very question is written on the window in the chapel, but didn't want to intrude.
Then we drove past Albert Einstein's home, within walking distance of the place where he taught and thought and thought some more, until all his theories changed the way the world thinks and teaches. The theory of relativity. I know so little about his work, mostly that on it hinges much of modern science. (My father would be appalled that I could say no more than this!). But he, too, was investigating the answer to this fundamental question, "What is truth?" He felt he had such an answer in scientific inquiry, though I see holes in such an approach even in my puny brain.
From his home, we drove to the graveyard where venerable men in Princeton's history are buried. Jonathan Edwards was our primary goal, of course. The great backbone of the way Americans preach the gospel. Beside him was Aaron Burr, an American Vice President who was shot in a duel during Jefferson's term in office. Then we walked over to where Grover Cleveland's grave was decked out with flowers and, oddly, pukka shells. Perhaps having been the 22 and 24th president will do that for a man.
And though all our traipsing around Princeton, I kept sweating. And sweating. Until I was pretty sure I was a puddle of a person in the backseat of the car. Had to come home for a nap.
So, what is truth?
Today, my truth is that God is present here where we are. Sharing this week with these people, He is in this. He gave us each other in a unique and blessed way. We are better for the gifts each brings. For the gifts of humor of the men, whom can laugh at a single barely spoken half-sentence from a shared early life, yet dive seamlessly into meaty conversation of the best kind in the next breath, because it's called for. To live so far from each other, to have so little externals in common, yet to have all the fundamentals in place--this is truth. This is the Kingdom truth that God has provided. And they each chose women who bring something unique and expansive to our group. ML is a planner. A do-it-in-order planner. She likes to know what's coming, so she can enjoy it in anticipation as well as in process. J is a nurturer. She likes to care for those around her, make sure everyone is well, and whole and neither overlooked nor neglected. And I? Well, I'm more likely to go without a meal if a conversation's to be had, and more likely to have a conversation if a meal's in the offing. In fact, there is nothing I wouldn't give up for a deep-down-where-it-counts conversation.
(Except if that conversation is about my health. And that's the truth. When it comes to my health/pain. I'd rather not talk about it. Maybe to Beve only. I don't want accommodations or allowances. I want to figure it out my own way, and have no one miss what they want to do because of me. And that's the truth. And it's also the truth that I don't want to have to make any allowances at all. I want to be strong and able to keep up, and not be in pain, even just for this one week.
Short of that...)
Well, again, I come to Him. It's another Abrahamic Moment, I suppose. This is what I want. And what I want, I must lay before Him, and ask Him to do what He will with. No matter what. Either way.
Tomorrow, a boat ride to Ellis Island, The Statue of Liberty, and Manhattan.
Who'd have guessed.