Saturday, May 24, 2008

All over...

This man grew up poor in rural Alabama. His daddy came and went and came and went, and his mom had three boys to raise on her own, with the help of a circle of relatives who take care of their own. The story of his life is like many we've heard or known of... what makes it remarkable is the power of his writing.

"It was as if God made them pay for the loveliness of their scenery by demanding everything else. Yet the grimness of it faded for awhile, at dinner on the ground at the Protestant churches, where people sat on springtime grass and ate potato salad and sipped sweet tea from an aluminum tub with a huge block of ice floating in it. The pain eased at family reunions where the men barbecued twenty-four hours straight and the women took turns holding babies and balancing plates on their knees, trying to keep the grease from soaking through on the one good dress they had... They sang about women who walked the hills in long black veils, of whispering pines, and trains" ( p. 5).

As the boy grows into a man and begins to travel as a reporter, the story gets even more varied and interesting. He goes to Haiti to report on the rise and fall of Aristide. He becomes great at telling the tragic tale with empathy. He learns about himself, about how he is like and not like the man who left him over and over again.

One of the parts of the book that made me ache was when he talks about his experience going to church. His mother didn't go to church because she didn't have good clothes to wear, but she worshipped in front of her television on Sunday mornings with a tv preacher leading her. At one point, though, she worried that this wasn't enough for this young son, so she slicked him up and sent him out. He landed at a caring church, on a Sunday when they were having supper on the ground. He went there, sounds like, for at least a year. This is some of what he says about it:

"Every Sunday, I waited. I waited for the invasion, the infusion, the joy. I waited for the Holy Ghost to slip inside my heart and my mind and, as He had done to those all around me, lift me out of the pew and up to that altar, Saving me. I waited for it like a boy waiting on a train.

But while I felt wonder and maybe a little fear, I never felt what I had seen, or maybe sensed, in the others. I was not refusing Him, rebuking Him. I wanted it, I wanted the strength of it, the joy of it, but mostly, I wanted the peace of it. The preacher promised it. He promised.

I just sat there. I could have pretended- I think some did pretend- but what good would that have done. I sat, as the Sundays drained away. I never felt so alone before. I don't think I ever have since." (p. 88)

I read this, and I want to cry for that little boy. I wish I could sit next to him in the pew and tell him that those of us who trust in Christ sometimes feel this way. That trust doesn't always bring the peace we're hoping for. Our doubts are huge, and God seems far away. Feelings betray us constantly. We cling to the truth of Christ and his resurrection despite the times when joy doesn't come. We plead for strength, peace, and joy in our sufferings, and we try not to lose all heart when we don't get nearly as much of it as we think we've been promised. I've been there. I know. Many days my heart has been cold. I have been waiting, too. I believe, though, despite feelings that are horribly illusive. I believe because I have enough facts to sustain me, despite all that I don't know and understand. And I trust that Christ knows what it's like to feel alone, too. He certainly was on the Cross.

Anyway... check it out. I think you'll enjoy it.

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