Welcoming the Stranger
One tall and statuesque,
the other short and squat.
One, firm and defined,
Hands neatly latch their way
up the ladder of the palm tree bark.
The other, raucous and unwieldy,
Green sprigs, as a rogue lock
Escaping from the ponytail.
One, disciplined and ordered.
the other, doing as it pleases.
How in the world did these two meet?
Surely, a random occasion
when this stick settled in.
Blown in upon the wind
to lodge here
in the clutches,
the grip of such an unwelcome embrace.
here nestled one in the other,
firm and strong, reaching upward,
splayed and supple, reaching inward.
enjoying the same patch of ground,
to be nourished in the same grassy noll.
“So glad you happened by.”
“Why not sit and rest a spell?”
“Don’t mind if I do.” … “My, this is comfortable.”
“Will you stay?”
they become each other.
Imagine walking into a room full of people, totally unannounced, and having one remark, “Ah, it’s amazing what prayer can do!” And they meant you. They didn’t know you were coming. Had no idea to expect you. They weren’t looking for someone to save or rescue them; they were just fine before you came. Yet, when you walked in, you were the answer to prayer. God had sent you, and you didn’t even know it.
Does God have that power? Does He manipulate our days and our ways so that, when a call goes up or when a whisper bears your name, He plants the notion in you to do just that? I mean, does God mess with my mind without my permission?
That doesn’t sound like God to me. He seems more like the type that would come have a chat. You know, put an arm around my shoulder and say, “So, I have some things I need doing and I’d really like you to consider the job.” And then I would hem and haw and say, “Whoa, those are really big things” or “Um, I really don’t have those skills”… “Or are you out of your mind? I can’t do that!” and I would be looking at my Lord, expecting Him to recant or come to His senses. But He’d just smile and wait for me to come to mine.
Could this chat have been going on inside me before this prayer gathering? Could the suggestion have been made and the reasoning taken place that I needed to go gather a few more copies of the Lenten devotional books at the church? Why not do it at 1:00 when I knew this group usually gathered? Totally logical and very efficient. I could just poke my head in and say hello. No big deal. Until I saw the empty seat in the circle, the candle at the center and the smile that welcomed me. Then, what I thought was my idea became God’s idea. We synced up right there on the spot.
How does that happen? That “syncing” – such a fun word to describe the aligning of two things in a way that we can’t see and really can’t explain.
Could it all have been rehearsed and set perfectly in place by a force we don’t understand except maybe in our imagining? We’re in sync because we are the answer to the prayer of the other and they, the answer to ours. And not just one to one. But all of our stories meant to connect and build, one on the other. Just imagine the fabrication of that story. Pretty hard to believe, but maybe, if there was a frequency to which we are all being synced.
That would mean that when, totally by coincidence, someone seeks me out to assist their loved one who needs healing and strengthening and confidence, it’s not coincidence at all. I have been placed there.
What an incredible privilege. What a responsibility! To prepare myself – to take hold of the gifts I have and the skills and knowledge available – for that singular meeting. To be the answer to their prayer, and in a way I can only imagine, they to mine. On purpose.
The swiveling sit-upon
To be honest, people are a little miffed with me. They want me to join their group and contribute to their effort. To lay my logs upon the fire they are building and stand by to watch it grow. What a glorious sight. What a powerful flame. What a warm feeling, to gather around that fire. Especially as the cold approaches. There is nothing like the warm feeling of welcome.
But I resist. Not because I am not a group person. I am. I love being in the circle where ideas are batted around and initiatives are given life. I love the interaction and the energy and the fellowship. I love, love, love being in the circle. It’s just that I cannot do it on their terms.
You see, they want me to focus on the flame at the center, but I am meant to fan the flame outward. In fact, when I sit in a circle, I’m always turning to see what’s going on outside of it. This is probably distracting for its members, and for this, I apologize. True, I am not giving it my full attention – which is disrespectful – and even more so when I toss in bits to contribute to the conversation anyway. It’s not that I am ADD, exactly. It’s that, when I’m seated, I’m always on a swivel.
It makes me think of the bucket brigade of old time firemen, passing hand to hand the bucket of water destined for the fire. Or the townspeople, heaving sand bags person to person to shore up the dam. I am one of those kind of people. Meant for the middle of the line. I am not meant to circle around, but to pass along. In both directions.
I look, listen and learn but also turn, talk and teach. I intercept those walking by just to have a conversation. A sort of mobile sounding. To reach out and exchange. Honestly, I don’t do this by my own initiative. It just seems to be part of me. This sort of internal swivel. A pivot point very central to my being, that resists being locked in one position.
I hope the folks around the fire will forgive me, and keep inviting me to come and be part, because that is central. Perhaps we could lock hands in criss-cross, like the Brownie girl scouts did back in the day and perhaps still do on closing their gatherings. Reach across with the right to the person on the left and reach across with the left to the person on the right and then twist arms up over head and around. The tangle comes unfurled as all turn to look outward, even as hands stay clasped in a complete and unbroken circle.
Heaven knows we need a place to gather in our tangles. A safe place. A warm place. A welcoming place. But when we have the strength of being held by each hand we can safely turn to the world and say welcome. We can release our hold, just for a moment, to engage them and place them among us. This is how the circle grows. As long as each new member puts their log on the fire, the flame will be just the right size to warm us all. We need not fear growing too far from it.
We hold fast, on the right and on the left. To one hand and the other, knotted and not, compressed and expanded, inward and outward, as a dance. As a breath. And fan the flame of life.
Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.