I'm sure that it's just coincidence that not two hours before I read this fellow's digital screm, I'd picked up Robert Fulghum's classic book It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It, and was breezing over some of the stories I'd sticky-tagged in it for when I needed to find 'em. (Fulghum paints some amazing images - some hysterical, and some touching almost beyond description.)
The following are Fulghum's words - and yet they are also a testimony to my own life, and to the Power that has both saved me and driven me into the wilderness, time and time again.
Just to set the story, Fulghum is a younger man, studying Greek language and culture in Greece for the summer. Alexander Papderos had founded an institute devoted to healing the wounds of war on the island of Crete. At the end of a two-week conference, Dr. Papaderos asked, "Are there any questions?" And Fulghum, half-jokingly, asked, "What is the meaning of life?" Papaderos said, "I will answer your question," pulled a small round mirror out of his wallet, and said these words, which touched me deeply again after reading my friend's post. These are Fulghum's best remembrance of Papaderos' words:
"When I was a small child, living during the war [WWII], we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place.Now, you could choose to believe that at a time when I continue to struggle with "what to do with the rest of my life," that I picked up a book written 15 years ago, which I probably haven't looked at in four or five years, and found a testimony of what I hope my life could become in the decades-old memories of an encounter with a Greek peaceworker transcribed by a Unitarian minister two years before I got sober.
"I tried to find all the pieces and put them back together, but it was not possible, so I kept only the largest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy, and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine - in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find.
"I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child's game but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of the light. But light - truth, understanding, knowledge - is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it.
"I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world - into the black places in the hearts of men - and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of my life."
And then he took out his small mirror, and holding it carefully, caught the bright rays of daylight streaming through the window and reflected them onto my face and onto my hands folded on the desk.
It could all be a coincidence.
It's also remotely possible that a tornado blowing through a junkyard could deposit a fully-assembled 727 airliner at the end of it, too.
But let's face it - how many times do you have to throw the parts of a bicycle into the air and have them come down by chance as a bicycle?
There is a Power greater than me - a God who has rarely given me what I wanted, a God who has rarely saved me from humbling, if not humiliation, when it's been necessary. But I believe that's also a God who loves me, and accepts me (even when I cannot), and has freed me from bondage (even from the things to which I continue to chain myself).
That Power - that Person - is not a genie, or the Shell Answer Man. That God rarely answers the question "why?" but almost always answers the question "what?" or "what next?"
What I need to focus on - starting in about 5 hours - is how I can reflect the Light of the World into the dark places of people's hearts - and how this Power will help me accomplish the work and play of this day.
If God can do this for me, God can be present to you. I know this to be true.
This is for you, Spencer...and also for my friend Drew. This may not be a prescription of how God will reach you - but it's a promise that in listening to you, and praying for you, God managed to reach me, yet again. And if it can happen for me, there is definitely hope for each of you. Peace, brothers...and sisters.