I am missing Marge and Tom in different ways and at different times each passing year. The grieving doesn’t lessen, it just changes. Marge and Tom are known to me as Mom and Dad. I think of them every day and there is always some event, or something I’ve read or seen that prompts me to get my phone and call only to remember, a little after my automatic response, that they are not here.
When I visited with Mom and Dad, in Washington State, I ate well, enjoyed midnight conversations and picked up where we left off at the last visit. And Washington…ah, Washington. When people think of Washington State, (especially those NOT from Washington, like the Hoosiers I live with now) more than likely the iconic image of tall evergreen trees, mountains, the Puget Sound and the bustle of Seattle are the first things that come to mind. However, I grew up on the other side of the state; the east side. East of the cascade mountain range that traps clouds and separates the lush green coastal forest from the fertile high plateau that covers the rest of the state. The town where I was raised is dry, filled with sage brush and low-lying, wind-blown bluffs (or what Hoosiers call, “mountains”). So, you see, to define Washington as Seattle is ridiculous. Seattle is a small part of a state that is twice the size as Indiana.
Since I didn’t get to see Mom & Dad too often, it always took a little time to adjust to the inevitable fact that we all had aged. One time I arrived at the small airport, my Dad was standing at the gate as I walked right up to him, he didn’t recognize me until I spoke. As for them, I had (and have) a certain picture in my mind as to who my parents are and what they look like. It hasn’t changed. So there was a period of adjustment for me, at each visit, to realize that they were the same people…but more. To have only known them in their 40s or 50s would be somewhat the same as meeting them in their 80s; they were more than they were in middle-age, and (as they would admit) a little less. In the same way, even though I am their son, I didn’t really know them fully, as I found out at their individual memorial services. I didn’t know them like their congregation knew them, or their friends, or the young couple of neighbors who came over every-once-in-a-while to fix, visit, and keep in touch.
States and people are simple concepts, compared to the concept of God. States are finite entities compared to the infinite, they are “local” compared to “omnipresent”. So why do any of us arrogantly claim to have exclusive knowledge of Him?
Is the majestic Mt. Rainier the definition of Washington State, or the life of a retired mail man the definition of Tom Vale? Of course not, but those definitions are sometimes the limit of person’s perception and knowledge. You may see the Space Needle as Washington and I see the Columbia River. We are BOTH wrong if we think those things totally define the great state. You may know my mother as a good cook, and I know her as my Mom. We are BOTH right, yet neither of those things really and truly FULLY define her.
God is beyond description, and to complicate matters even more, He deals with each of us individually, specifically, and without prejudice. To the blind who came to Jesus, He is the Healer, although He healed one through touch alone and another by spitting in the dirt and putting mud in his eye. They both saw a different part of Jesus, but to divide the believers by claiming that Jesus ONLY heals through mud or ONLY heals through touch is to make God smaller than He is and to deny His greatness.
The Church does that sort of discrimination all the time: one congregation claiming that the God who does “this or that” is the only God, and any other definition is heresy. If people and places are complex enough that one-hundred people might describe them one-hundred ways, then isn’t it just possible all of us only have a glimpse of what we try so desperately to define, not so that we will KNOW GOD (our one purpose on this earth) but so we can claim “right” against the “rights” of people who are not like us? In doing so, we offend our Heavenly Father.
The best part is this, when we open minds and hearts to the possibility that someone might have discovered a part of God that we have not seen, then the hunger and thirst in our soul that longs to know Him and be known by Him grows; we are satisfied and stretched at the same time. To narrow the personality of God is to narrow life to only the possible. To judge another according to their perception of how God works is to dismember the ONE Body of Christ.
There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.