Sunday, September 18, 2011

One old story, one long night, two miracles

Beve's been in turbo-drive to unload our basement before the rains and autumn and son return.  Yep, all three at once.  We have to make room for J to return home after not living here for a couple of years.  And undoubtedly his library has expanded.  Mine sure has.  I don't have the faintest idea how that even happens.  I mean, I promise myself I won't buy any books--unless they're on sale, or at a thrift store, or collectors' editions, or...--ok, I suppose this is exactly the problem, if one can call buying books a problem, which I never will.  Not until every room in my house has bookcases in it, and more volumes are packed away in boxes because we don't have shelves for them.  Oh wait, that's exactly the position we're in right now. Sigh.  And J is as much a bibliophile as I am.  Or maybe more.  The only reason I have more books is because I have 30 years head start on him.  So with his return home, we have to create space, not simply for his bed (which becomes redundant in our already outfitted home), but for his library. We've long since created shelves along the tops of door frames and over windows, so that space is taken.  What to do, what to do?

Clear out, you say?  Exactly what Beve's been saying.  So we've spent the weekend purging books.  PURGING BOOKS. We meaning J and me.  Beve simply carried box after box up to our driveway for us to peer in and sort.  We were brutal, J and I were.  You'd be proud, if you care about such things.  Or horrified, if you care differently.  I am a little of both.

And today Beve brought a box all the way into the house, then took himself to visit his dad and Costco, because he knew I wouldn't come up for air for the rest of the day.  You see, that box held ALL of the blue-covered books I've used as journals since I was a teenager.  My very smart husband not only knew I wouldn't be getting rid of any of those journals, but that I'd turn the house upside-down to fit them in safely. I've only been talking about finding them since we moved into this house eight years ago, because I have to tell you, I always thought that if there was a fire, that set of journals was the one thing I would want to save.  They're like my magna opus, in a way.  The story of my life, struggles, and growing up.

So I spent the afternoon with the earliest of them.  The high school journals.  And can I just say...I was like a monograph.  One tune all the time. I prayed a whole lot, but mostly (like 90% of the time) about one thing.  One boy, I should say. The good news is that I outgrew that hero worship.  Outgrew it in such a way that that boy and I have lived to talk about it once or twice in the many years since.

But that's not what I want to write about today, though this has been quite a long prelude, huh? One summer night when I was a teenager, three close friends and I drove the 80 + miles to Spokane because--sigh, deep sigh--there was a John Denver concert.  We got tickets to the second--midnight--concert, because the first one of the evening sold out so quickly.  That's how big he was in those days. And John Denver was our favorite singer, too.  His folksy ballads were the sound track of our young lives.  We knew the lyrics by heart, turned up the dial when "Sunshine on Your Shoulders" and "Rocky Mountain High" came on and could even sing along with the more obscure songs like "Grandma's Feather Bed" and "Matthew's Song."  So we were amped up for that concert, without a doubt.

But a couple of things happened on the way to the concert that evening.  One was that two of us who were (and presumably still are) thinkers, got into a rather animated discussion about the book of Revelation as we drove.  I remember absolutely NOTHING about our conversation, but my journal says that at a particular point, the driver, EE, asked the boy in the back seat, KC, to give his opinion.  And KC said, "I don't like to participate in stupid discussions like this."  Then, by the time we got to Spokane, he'd said something else under his breath, and I told him to "Shut up."  And he did.  I mean he didn't say another word to me the whole night.  He didn't go to the concert, either, since we'd only gotten three tickets for the four of us and he was the gallant one to give up his seat.  So my last interaction with him that night was him turned the cold shoulder to me.  It was pretty hard to spend that pre-concert evening with one of my closest friends not saying a single word to me and was a relief to leave him at his brother's.

The second thing happened right as my other buddy, EE, parked his parent's large car.  When I got out of the car, he asked, "Did you lock the door?"  "Yes," the other two of us told him.  "That's too bad," he said.  "Because I did too, and the engine's still running."  Yep, you read that right.  There we were outside the running car with all the doors locked.  I have to admit, we laughed first. Probably a little hysterically.  Then he went off to find a phone (this was back in pre-historic times before cell-phones! but I'd forgotten the phone call until I read about it this afternoon), while my girl friend and I stood watch over the car. When he got back from talking to the police and his dad, he had a large rock in his hand, and we watched while he tried to break the car window.   EE wasn't successful at breaking the window, but the racket he caused by pounding that rock repeatedly against the glass brought a couple of people out of a house across the street from where we were parked.

Now here's an interesting thing: in my memory, that man went back into his house, brought out a little kit which included a tool with which he opened the car.  That's what I've always thought happened.  But my journal tells me he used a simple coat hanger.  Surprised me.  Makes me wonder how many other memories I've added to this way.  Anyway, both my memory and the journal agree that he had that car opened so fast we were dumbstruck, completely convinced that God had sent us a car thief to save us.  That was the miracle of that night, that God would use a thief to open that car in the nick of time.  We were a mere 5 minutes late to the concert (which I remember as wonderful, even though our seats were in the nose bleed section of the balcony!).

The second miracle--for me, at least--came about twenty-four hours later when I was just about to head off to bed at home.  The doorbell rang, and my two buddies, EE and KC, stood outside.  KC, who was carless that night, had called EE to bring him over to see me.  KC needed to apologize.  To ask for forgiveness for how he'd treated me that evening  in Spokane.  It was the first time anyone ever actually gone out of his way to practice what God intends us to do as believers--"forgive others as I have forgiven you"-- and it humbled and moved me.  Especially coming from KC, a rather proud boy who didn't say he was sorry easily...or ever.   I've never forgotten it, really.  I don't need my journal to remember that summer night, the way the bugs flew at the light above our front door as we stood there, how the screen door felt against my back.  My parents were in the living room watching tv, and I was aware of that too. EE was in his pajamas because he'd been about to go to bed when KC had called for the ride across town to my house.  I remember that KC carried a Bible and read from James chapter 1: 19-20, "Everyone should be slow to speak and slow to become angry, because our anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires." He was slightly nervous, because the words, "Will you forgive me?" aren't easy to say.

But I melted on the spot, and forgave him. Of course, I did.  That's what also happens when someone shows up as KC did.  There was only one response.  I mean, after all that?

That was the moment when I learned about forgiveness. KC went so far out of his way that it changed my life. It's been a model for my life as well. How far out of my way am I willing to go to ask someone for forgiveness when I have wronged them?  Even if it's inconvenient and I have to ask for help (and my buddy is wearing his pjs!), I'll do it, because if God tells me I've wronged someone, there is only NOW to make it right.  No other time. I cannot be put off, no matter what.

That's what God did that night.  There were two amazing miracles for me.  God will use who ever He needs to to unlock the doors, and forgiveness is a beautiful, humbling, friendship-building, transforming thing.  And it can change your life if you learn to practice it.

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