One of my favorite small moments in scripture is in Joshua before the whole marching around that walled-city affair, a small interaction that causes all the action of the story to stop, and so captures my own attention that I'm always on the look-out for such moments in my own life. As Joshua was approaching Jericho he encounters a man with a drawn sword. In fact, it's the only drawn sword in the whole story of Jericho. I do well to consider that along side the words of Ephesians 6 where we are told to stand and stand and stand, in full armor--HIS armor--the implication being that our God does the actual fighting for us. This moment in Joshua surely points across the centuries to that epistle...as God's word always does, of course.
Anyway, Joshua sees this man with a drawn sword and asks, "Are you for us or against us?" Now I have to say, I'd be likely to cower if I came across a man with a drawn weapon facing me on the road anywhere, but I'm not a Joshua. Not the leader of God's people. Joshua had some chops, as they say. And he wanted to know if he was facing friend or foe. But the man said, "Neither, but as commander of the Lord's army I have come." The Commander never actually answers Joshua's question, but that's often how God works. Think of Job and God's long poetic sermon about Creation when Job asks Him what's been going on. God doesn't answer directly either. It's NOT our business to question God's business, I think that's the point.
Anyway, these words make Joshua face-plant in worship. Maybe his knees couldn't hold him. Mine wouldn't have, I know that. "What message do you have for his servant?" Joshua asked from between his bowed head and clasped hands.
And this is the message: "Take off your sandals, for the ground where you're standing (or kneeling) is holy."
That's it. And those words have made me know that such moments happen. In fact, for as long as I've been a Christian, I've been aware of the holiest of moments. They aren't always big moments. Not moments you'd expect, I mean. We already know worship is holy, as are weddings. But every now and then, there's a "take off your sandals" holy moment in life, sometimes when you're merely on your way to a larger one, simply walking along the road to something that you think will be the EVENT. But God knows you need to take a moment and simply stop. And take your sandals off in His presence, because He's there. Or here. Here and now. Such moments--such stops-- never cease to astound, bless because they reveal that God is truly in this place.
Tonight was such a moment right in Grampie's room in the nursing home. We're in the middle of such a terrible season. You can't imagine. Excruciating, really. You see, Thyrza's family lives across the country in Maryland. And last week, after Grampie's stroke, when it became clear that he's in pretty bad shape, the decision was made that we've all known was coming--that Thyrza will go back there to live. Beve is going to take her in three weeks. Since making the decision, we've all been crying and praying and worrying that it's wrong, though for months we've all been praying that God reveal when it was right, lead us, etc. Thyrza's been in on all of it, Grampie less so.
The tickets are bought now. So tonight, Thyrza, Beve and I took Grampie dinner and decided to tell him, even if he couldn't really understand what we're talking about. We knew we'd have to tell him again. And we were all dreading it.
But amazingly, tonight he was clear. Lucid. More than he's been for months. I mean, months! Maybe a year. He spoke to two grandsons on the phone--and knew them!--ate dinner by himself, and we chatted about the day, the Cougars and the weather. Then Beve told him that Thyrza's going back to Maryland. And Grampie said, "GOOD! That's exactly what I've wanted you to do."
We talked about it for two hours because he wanted to know everything. He was glad to know Beve's taking her--exactly like Beve thought he'd feel, and he told us he's been worried about Thyrza. He said he's very aware that his brain is messed up and that he can't take care of himself or her and that she needs to be with her family now.
By the time we left, all three of us knew it had been a sacred, holy moment. A time out-of-time. I don't know what he'll be like tomorrow, but it doesn't really matter. Tonight we had the conversation we needed. Thyrza, Beve (and Thyrza's daughter, who we got on the phone so he could tell her too) felt a huge weight lift from their chests at his obvious relief that she'll be okay. And, it was like God gave us that one small moment of the real Grampie--back the way he was five years ago because we all needed the stamp of his approval.
I love that God does this. I love that God gives us what we need the most as exactly the moment we most need them. We know the next three weeks will not be easy. There will be many more tears ahead. But God is in this. We will lose--first Thyrza, then Grampie. Or Grampie, then Thryza. But God is in control. Loss comes. But as long as He stands before us, and we can face plant before Him, and recognize that we are seeing Him when we're looking at each other, we'll be fine. We'll be more than fine.
In fact, we might just walk around some kind of fortress and watch the walls come tumbling down.
Don't count us out. If He shows up like this, anything is possible.