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…and I think of them every day. There is always some event, or something I’ve read or seen, that prompts me to get my phone and call…only remembering, a little after my automatic response, that they are not there.
When I used to visit with Mom and Dad, in Washington State, I ate well, enjoyed midnight conversations…and we 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 silly, and inaccurate. Seattle is a small part of a state that is twice the size of 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…and yet, more. To have only known them in their 40’s or 50’s would be somewhat the same as meeting them in their 80’s; 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 wholly, 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 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 a 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 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 is sometimes infamous for doing exactly THAT sort of discrimination: one congregation claiming that the God who does “this or that” is the only God, and any other definition, or “angle”, 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? Sometimes we strive to “be right” about God, as opposed to our prime objective of KNOWING GOD…just so that we can rail against the “rights” of those who are not like us. When we do that, as individuals, or congregations, we offend our Father, which is the ultimate definition of “sin”.
But the GOOD NEWS 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, the hunger and thirst 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. EPHESIANS 4:4-6