Our Father

Earl has been homeless for a long time. He is often wandering around aimlessly looking through trash and muttering to himself. Our conversations are usually incoherent, following no discernable pattern of thought or logic. The last time I talked with him I walked away wondering how he has been able to stay alive for this long. His addiction is profound, and his mental health is in need of much care and comfort. It always takes me awhile to convince him to take a sandwich.

A few weeks ago, I find Earl on the street. He is wearing LA. Laker basketball pants and slippers. His body is moving in all directions, arms and legs randomly rotating independently from each other. When he sees me, he stops suddenly, and asks about my clerical collar. He is curious about the denomination I am a part of and the requirements for ordination. Earl grew up in the Lutheran church and has fond memories of his youth group, baptism, and confirmation class. He felt like after he was baptized the church was done with him. “It was like their only goal was to get me in and out of the program.” Earl asks about different Bible stories and shares some of his favorites.  I ask if there is anything he wants to pray about. He reminds me that Jesus taught us all how to pray and we recite the Lord’s Prayer together. The peace of the Holy Spirit falls upon us and we talk for forty-five minutes. Earl is, for the moment in his right mind.

I spoke with Earl last night. He was in the same spot as last week. I looked up his childhood Lutheran church, and his pastor is still there. Earl tells me about the memorial services the church had for his parents when they passed away. “The pastor and his wife were a team.” We agree that it’s pretty cool that they are still at the church pastoring together. Earl makes some jokes about his new mustache and I buy him a burger. I buy myself two burgers and spill special sauce all over my clergy shirt! The body of Christ is beautiful and awkward. Daily bread, forgiveness, the kingdom of heaven revealed through people. “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).”

Michael Cox

One thought on “Our Father

  1. That is beautiful.

    I have foster/adopted babies now, growing up in our home and in our broken love which struggles to represent Jesus. I pray, hope, and wish for a healing touch as I see there are deep afflictions in development, attention span, emotions and the like.

    I met one of the older blood siblings to two of my kids several years ago. A kid of about 5 or 6 who could not talk. Literally no sentences if any words. My kids, the younger siblings followed that pattern, but growing up in our home, and taking advantage of state-sponsored therapies and preschool programs, they can talk now. However, the struggle and lag behind peers in development and education.

    And I am not a young man anymore.

    But God has given me these kids. They are as much mine as they can be, and I am their Pops… the only they are likely ever to know and love. And they cling to me… deeply. And I share all my moments – the good, the bad, and the ugly. I share my food and my abode. My property (God’s stuff) suffers damage from this love. And I think by the time they are legally old enough to move out, go to college, get married and all that, I will be an old man (assuming I am still here). Yet I am already out of breath trying to keep up, and these kids have not discovered adolescent changes yet!

    I see my limitations and their need and I just weep for the future. I am terrified of it, really.

    Will we make a difference for the future?

    I am sure a DIFFERENCE has already been made, and it will continue to progress, I am sure. But will it be ENOUGH? Where is that healing touch? Just how deeply does it heal? What exactly does it fix?

    Tough questions. Most left as mysteries instead of solved clearly.

    Surely there is hope, but I am reduced to rethinking life and meaning.

    God gave them to me. He gave me to them. Who am I to question his mercy, for surely it is mercy.

    I know this much: On my best day, and even on my not so good days, these kids are loved. Even on my worst day, their lot is improved over what would have been.

    I celebrate God and Love with them now for all I am worth. I cannot set them up with a trust fund. I cannot issue them a get-out-of-jail-free card. I can only presume there will be a lot of pain in the future, and more after I am gone. But I can give them the LOVE of God that he allows me to give them today. Just today. That is all I have got.

    And it has me cringing.

    And yet also hoping too.

    Hoping that sharing his LOVE today impacts everything and preserves their hearts to love him even when I am gone.

    It’s all I got. And from nearly every angle, it looks like almost nothing. But from one angle, it changes everything else.

    I am not gifted to be in the FIXING business. All I have is God’s love in my broken heart and even that struggles to show it. But no matter how grand life is without it, without it, it’s not life.


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