It is so easy to take a day for granted. You wake up (extremely early, in my case, due to an out-of-it 4-year old whose covers fell off, making it imperative that he crawl into bed with us), you get ready for the day, your long list of to-do’s looming ahead somewhere on the horizon in large bulleted fashion…
* Wake everyone up and be dressed by 9:00
*Family field trip to Mama’s glucose screening at 10:00
* Doctor’s appointment at 11:00
*The children MUST be down for their naps by 1:00
*So Mama can finally eat, practice her solo for the Good Friday service and clean the house
*So we can color Easter eggs at 4:00
*So we can eat, bathe, dress and be at church by 6:30
*Where we will partake of the Lord’s Supper, fellowship, and come home to put the kids to bed by 9:00
*So the Easter Bunny will feel free to make his appearance and fill up the waiting baskets
*So we can have our first annual Easter Brunch and Egg Hunt at Grandmother’s house Saturday morning…
Those are just a few of the things that were on my mind as I laid in bed at 6:00 a.m. (trying to ignore the fact that my stomach was already growling and I would not be able to eat until after my glucose screening)…you know, not much. Only the holiday weight of the world on my poor a-little-over-average-sized shoulders. And then Mr. Gore received a text…
It was good news on Good Friday morning. My baby nephew had finally arrived, the first child of my brother Pete and his wife Jennifer. We had visited him in the hospital the night before, but there was only one problem…he was still in his Mama’s tummy and was taking his sweet time to arrive. We enjoyed some time with his parents and then drove all the way back home to wait for the good news via text message.
My heart leapt at this new miracle of birth, that God would be so good to our family yet again to deliver a healthy baby to us, and it was just impossible to go back to sleep. I tiptoed into the office and called my Mom for a play-by-play of the delivery, and after about ten minutes of gabbing about the new baby, I made my way back to bed and slept…like a baby!…until it was “go time.”
Because our stand-by baby-sitter, my Mom, was still at the hospital with her new grandson, I got to take the kids to the doctor with me…again. Thankfully, Mr. Gore was with us this time, and after much deliberation, the two of us decided that I should go in to the lab and drink my yucky syrupy sweet bottle of goo while they waited for me in the car. Then we would all go to the park together during the hour before I had to have my blood drawn and meet with my doctor. Great plan…ready…break!
Plan aborted. The lady at the lab window informed me that I wasn’t going nowhere. And she’s not the type you argue with. I dutifully drank my syrup well before the allotted five minutes were up and slunk out to the van to tell Mr. Gore to go on without me. My family drove off for a trip to Wal-Mart and I went back to the lab waiting room, no book to read, no notebook to write in, no cell phone to text with, and only an outdated “Ladies Home Journal” on the table next to me with a focus on home organization to keep me company. I began flipping through its pages, taking mental notes to clean out my closet when I got home, the hour before I could get my blood drawn looming ahead, ticking by so very slowly. I didn’t know whether to feel lonesome or to sink back in my chair and enjoy the peace and quiet. I was leaning toward lonesome…
All sorts of interesting people were coming in and out of the lab. I always wonder about their stories – are they sick? Getting routine check-ups? Are their children with them because their baby-sitter was out of town like mine was or because they were there to get immunizations? (The loud cries I heard emitting from the lab minutes later answered that last question).
And then an elderly couple came in and sat across the small room from me, filling out paperwork. I was immediately struck by their countenances. They looked…different. But so familiar. Like so many people I know and hold dear. It might sound funny to you to hear me say this, but…it looked like they went to church. Not because they were wearing fancy church clothes, or toting big Bibles; they just looked kind and gentle and loving and…like family. Soon, the woman was called back to the lab, leaving her husband in the waiting room.
Our eyes occasionally met, and I could tell he was as interested in my story as I was in his. I think he, too, recognized a kindred spirit when he saw one. Eventually, we shared a smile while watching two little sisters skirt about their parents legs, and finally, as the waiting room continued to fill up, he moved across the room to sit in the lone chair next to mine.
Thankfully, my stomach gave us something to talk about. “Is this your first baby?” he asked. I love telling people that this is, in fact, my third. Their eyebrows automatically raise in surprise, which is validating for some reason. It makes me feel young and seasoned all at the same time. He asked about my other two children and soon, we were chatting away like old friends.
Old friends who had a surprising amount in common. As it turns out, this man was a retired Southern Baptist pastor and missionary, serving the church for 24 years as a pastor and then ministering to the deaf as a missionary. He and his wife met at Oklahoma Baptist University in the ’50’s, the same college my husband attended, and the similarities between our families was astounding. There are times when you meet a stranger and you are kept on your toes lest there be any lulls in the conversation; not so with my new friend. On the contrary, there was not enough time as we flew through the hour discussing a wide range of subjects familiar to both of our lives, including homeschool, gardening and cooking with children, the importance of grandparents, controlled burning, solar kilns, turkey and duck hunting, farming, pastoring, music, teaching preschoolers, and, yes, tree farming.
Instead of the hour dragging by, it began to fly by too quickly. I didn’t know how much time had passed; I only know that instead of longing to hear my name called so that I might get on with my day, I began to dread hearing that my time with this man of God was up…
But looking back, it seems that God not only brought us together that day, He orchestrated and perfectly mapped out each minute of our meeting, for about ten minutes before I was called back into the lab, his sweet wife joined us and I had the pleasure of hearing even more about their life together. And about three minutes before I was called back into the lab, my husband and children walked in, and I was able to introduce my family to this unexpected blessing. They bent down to eye level with Gideon and shook hands with him and asked him questions and my heart constricted. Here, in the middle of our busy day, time stood still as hands that will work and live together in eternity met for the first time in greeting.
In the midst of this unexpected and sort of backwards reunion, I heard my name called and reluctantly said my goodbyes, but as an afterthought, called out for Mr. Gore to write down their information. Sometimes one hour is not enough and I couldn’t stand the thought of losing touch with these two saints for the rest of my life. Gideon accompanied me to get my blood drawn, holding my hand and looking on with concern as the nurse pricked my finger, and as I looked over at him, I took great comfort in the knowledge that God oversees our comings and our goings, even down to who is with us in the doctor’s office waiting room on a day when we find ourselves very much alone. My son is in good hands, hands infinitely bigger and stronger and more capable than mine…
Before much of the day had passed, my Friday went from being a bit overwhelming and depressingly earthly to the truly Good Friday that it should have been the minute my eyes opened at 6:00 a.m. The birth of a baby and the kinship of a stranger helped me to remember the pilgrimage; how blessed it was on this holy and monumental day to feel the vibrant connection of a new member of the family and then to brush hands with fellow travelers and encourage one another in the faith.
The entire day was filled with such fellowship. After my blood test we went down the hall to spend time with our beloved friend and doctor, a man with a passionate heart for God who is as concerned for our spiritual state as he is our physical health, followed by an enjoyable afternoon of coloring eggs and eating together, and then one of the most meaningful church services I’ve ever been to, a sweet, solemn and oh so simple gathering with my amazing church family that will warm my heart for years to come.
It was Good Friday, the day Jesus died for me, and in the most unexpected ways, God taught me a lesson that I didn’t even know I needed to learn…that I’m not alone. There are saints going before me, there are peers walking alongside me, and there is a new generation coming after me, who have and are and will give their lives in the same capacity I am called to give mine. What a comfort, what a gift, to be a part of a nation, not one that is identified by the red, white and blue, but by the stripes that have healed us.
It really shouldn’t surprise us when we recognize one another from across the room…
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