Today, there are storm warnings. Through the window, I watch the wind’s blustery, unpredictable dance. Embraced against its will, the branches of the ancient oak rise and fall, groaning from limb to limb. Seeking a more willing partner, the wind swoops down and twirls the hummingbird into a reel. In a burst of resolve, the tiny bird breaks free and hums for cover in the spirea.
I know why the hummingbird hums. It is not because she doesn’t know the words. She knows thousands of words. Splendid words. Eloquent words. But there is no language where the soul cannot be heard. You must earn the right to hear her.
And then there is Jack. Jack-in-the-Pulpit. Jack uses the entire winter preparing his sermon for spring. Just above his winter bed, a praying mantis cocoon mutely clings to the fence, waiting. In mid to late spring a two foot tendril rises, curtsies and Jack’s sermon begins.
I had a grandfather who was a little like the hummingbird and a great deal like Jack. Grandpa was a respected preacher. When his five children were small, his young wife, my grandmother died of pneumonia. He was left to raise the children alone. As was the custom of the times and understandably so, he sought a mother for his children and quickly remarried. Under the circumstances of grief and need, the union was fragile. In the years that followed, Grandpa was pulled in three different directions - to his children, his marriage and his ministry. Relentlessly, he begged God to rectify the troubling marriage. And though the relationship remained strained and volatile, he continued to preach the word of God.
He spent countless hours on his knees discussing the situation, asking for protection for his children, understanding of his wife and a blessing on his ministry. I believe it was my grandfather’s prayers which gave his prosterity a heightened spiritual awareness.
Thus far, his children have bore him 24 great-grandchildren. Each of us, carry the story of grandfather’s mysterious faith. We are a family of music and drama and art. We sing and paint and plant, each of us articulating our faith in unique mediums that words very often cannot capture.
My grandfather died with many of his prayers unanswered. I would like to have asked him questions about my relationships and fluctuating faith. We could have compared notes. In times of unanswerable mystery, I remember the life and witness of my grandfather and I act cautiously. I understand how my choices will impact the generations that follow. I want to stay faithful to the God of grandfather’s salvation. My Grandfather could pray for me, but he couldn’t choose for me. He couldn’t leave me all the answers, but he did teach me who to ask.
I am my children’s history. I leave a map in the shape of an arrow pointing away from man’s wisdom. Tell God. Ask God. These are my instructions. God has earned the right to hear. In the seasons of storm, in the seasons of Thanksgiving, bring your tales to the God of ongoing regeneration.
“Speak truth, each one of you with his neighbor.”