He said, “I get my meanness from the gutter and I get my kindness from God.” I sat down under the bridge with him and I said, “I think I could say the same.” He looked at me square in the eyes and I could see he was surprised by my response. He said, “You don’t look like you know much about the gutter.”
I smiled and said “looks can be deceiving don’t ya know?” Then he laughed. The sound of his laughter was one that made me smile. His laughter was like a nine month old baby’s belly laugh. The kind of laughter where nothing is held back and a sweetness of joy rings from it. I told him I had not laughed like that in ages and he said, “Oh you can only laugh like that when Fury and Thunder have cracked your soul and all the dark places have been opened up and cleaned out and all the pieces are strewn about and you cannot put them back together by yourself. I call it reconcilable purity. This laughter only occurs when you have lost your life to save it and when you were first but now you are last…”
I sat there in sober silence but something inside of me begin to tremble. “Who are you?” I whispered. He said, “I am just an old man who has been given a new heart and all day long I just like to go around and give my heart and life away to whoever might need it for a minute or two so that they can go about their day with some pure laughter…” The gorged veined, brown spotted hands palmed my face and the old man looked me in the eye and he said, “Go and be, not do. Go laugh and cry. Go and give your life away for someone else and you will see. You will laugh the laugh of “reconcilable purity.”
What I couldn’t know…when I was a nursing student my instructor gave me an assignment that I have carried with me for forty years. I will never forget it because I gave loving gentle care to Jesus that night.
Stay with me… to get the whole and the depth of this picture I must confess that at that time in my life I lived in a what I call ” a well-intentioned but misinformed idea of Grace.” In my childhood and early adolescence Grace was very “sanitary” , if you follow me. It followed a certain prayer, then Baptism, the cleaning up your behaviour issues (or at least hiding them), and then good works followed that. At age twenty I had long well-known I could not live up to these rules but continued to pretend that I was ok…
So this happened…
I stepped into the room of a woman very ill. She did not speak nor open her eyes. I could see she was weary and when I reached to touch the bed sheets she grimaced embracing herself for what I couldn’t know. I was about to begin my assessment when my instructor, God bless her, said “take care now…you will be touching Jesus.” Oh how I weep when I remember those words.
When I pulled back the sheets the little emaciated body of the still silent woman was covered in bed sores. Her body was filthy, her finger and toe nails grown long and brittle. The sore on her spine was through to the bone so that even the breeze of my moving the sheet caused her to stiffen in pain. I turned to my instructor with a face full of question and overwhelmed I whispered “what am I to do for her?” She responded by nodding to a bath basin and many towels and simply said “you want to be a nurse now here is your chance.”
It took me two hours to peel off her filthy clothes and wash the dirt from her body and to dress each wound. The woman never spoke and her eyes remained closed. I only spoke gently to explain each of my actions. It was tedious and repetitive work. After I had dressed each bedsore and put a clean gown on her and of course, clean sheets I turned to leave. Only then did the woman look at me briefly and simply said in voice so strained and broken, “Thank you so much.”
I turned my head and smiled at her but her eyes were already closed again. I whispered that she was welcome. I stepped out into the hallway and in my unprofessional youth I leaned against the wall and cried and trembled. I cried because something in my soul told me that night that Grace is personal and intimate and sometimes very painful. I leaned my forehead against the door of that hospital room and a still small voice that seem to come from her room said, “whatever you do to the least of these my daughter, you have done it unto me.”
What I couldn’t know or fully grasp that night is I had begun my journey toward developing gratitude…and so much more pain and joy echoed down the road of Grace…
I have four grandchildren. I secretly call them my little Bluebirds. The newest one still remains in his Mother’s womb but he will be here in less than three weeks. The next youngest little bluebird arrived right before Christmas and she is growing strong and smiling. The third youngest is my three and a half- year old granddaughter and the oldest Bluebird is my six and a half year old a grandson.
I have learned from them, even the yet born grandson, that Wisdom is for the young! Even my unborn grandson is woven into the wisdom of when HE is to enter the world. His parents don’t even know the time or day! That is wisdom. He will enter our world when he and God are ready!
I think if “spirituality” has a sound it must be the voice of a child! The stories that I have come to believe are the ones that occur in early evening when the wind is still and I will come flying through their door and am allowed to tuck them in bed and we will share a magic kiss and soar into the clear night sky like Bluebirds (Paul McCartney and Wings band song)…and we fly across the sea to a magic island or we go to an enchanted forest or visit Topper the Rabbit who walks on two legs and has a fancy top hat and give us sweets and tea! Or we speak to The Holy God without theology but in total purity and trust! I can feel the Spirit of God enter the room on little tiny wings like a Bluebird…
I have come to see that what age teaches is not Wisdom but knowledge and knowledge cares nothing for me! With age I see if allowed Wisdom is called something uninviting. A place where complacency, cynicism, and weariness can come to live.
I rather choose to fly with my Bluebirds in that place where just “being six” is exciting and you just walk down the street singing at the top of your lungs just because you are six!!! Or soaring up into the heavens on the wings of a “nice” dragon is possible! And as all three-year old girls know it is so much more fun to turn all the lights out and use a flashlight even if it is the middle of the day! Oh and lets not forget the Wisdom of the newborn and infant…there isn’t one second where they do not trust the ones who hold them, feed them, and keep them safe and warm.
Youth is the time in your life when you get to stand apart from the status quo and view almost everything in exaggeration! All is a wonder and I call that Wisdom. Oh yes I know there is a lot to be said for maturity but honestly it is NOT what Jesus called the Kingdom of Heaven! He said, “You must come like a child into God’s Kingdom.”
So, I tip my heart to all the Bluebirds in my life and to my first two Bluebirds, my daughters, who taught me when that time comes and The Holy Spirit slips through my door in the still night air with that Holy Kiss I will fly like a Bluebird straight into the midnight air and head across the Sea…
Half moon rising
it is a dreaming night
the indigo sky
yields a winter’s blue light
I dreamed I was flying
riding on the Breath of God
the sweetest sense of Peace
where the angels trod
Quiet lay like a mantle
of snow upon the earth
the enchanted song of Holy
forms a wreath upon my brow