The man on the 4 train…

One dark morning, a decade ago, I stood pressed and yet alone, bucking and swaying on a screaming subway car. It was a cold season. An empty season in the heaving city.

A man in his fifties, sixties- it doesn’t really matter- approached me. His clothes were layered and wrapped around him like the burden of memory and I was at once alarmed and quieted by the passage in his eyes when I looked up from my book.

“Psalm 37 has always spoken to me.” And then he walked out of the flexing doors.

I turn now to those words. In this bright night of tears. In this sharpness of confused rage. I am told that the season of waiting has begun, but haven’t we been waiting? Aren’t we flailing at solid, metal poles just to hear the deafening clang as they clatter to the floor and roll at our feet? Still the train bullets through, night after night into morning after morning. We find ourselves in the depths, where the sun circumvents us in its rising. Where sound is muted by dirt and simultaneously ricochets through the tunnels under the city. Echoes that travel to the graves that hold the brown-skinned bodies buried for centuries, for weeks, for hours, in stolen earth. When will our savior rise again? When will our king overcome? When will our hearts again be warmed by the just sun?

Psalm 37:1-11

“Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong;

For like the grass they will soon wither,

like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;

trust in him and he will do this:

He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,

the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;

do not fret when evil men succeed in their ways,

when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;

do not fret- it leads only to evil.

For evil men will be cut off,

but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

A little while, while and the wicked will be no more;

though you look for them,

they will not be found.

But the meek will inherit the land

and enjoy great peace.”

Incidental hugs

He looked defeated as he stepped heavily down the bus stairs. It was as if the big yellow box exhaled my five-year-old son onto the gravel. And there he stopped. He didn’t want to walk towards home and he certainly didn’t want to turn around and hoist himself back into the heaving bus.
His eyes were a little pinkish around the edges and his kindgartener-sized back pack slumped around his shoulders.
“How was school?” I asked the tried and true mom question.
“I don’t know,” Pierce responded like the mini-teenager he has become.
“Please walk with me- I’m cold and want to get home.”
He wouldn’t move, his blinking reptile shoes rooted in the grey dust and chilly air.
Finally, after many halting steps, I picked him up and carried him home. He kicked and pushed the whole way, but every time I gave him another chance to walk he seized up, overcome by his will to be immobilized.
Frustrated now, I plopped him in his room and gave him some “settle down” time.
Ten minutes later, his cries changed from angry vocal pushes to lonesome whimpers and I recognized myself, the child that I continue to be. So I held my son, held myself, and listened.
His day had been difficult. There was an incident at lunch when his curiosity led to unintended and challenging consequences. He made a mess of things and then cleaned it up, ashamed and confused. Fear had entered the equation after the equal sign. Somehow the sums and differences balanced out but he wasn’t sure how. “I don’t want to tell you,” he managed, ” I don’t think you will like it.”
“Maybe not, but I will always love you. No matter what your choices.”
Finally, fretfully, and with the gentle, innocent prodding of his little brother, he described the ordeal and named his part.
I watched the fear rush out of him, exhaling much like the pneumatic bus doors. Fear, shame slimed with tears and snot, my son found himself, again, walking on solid ground.
This morning when I walked with him into his school, he was ambushed by two girls. On the left, the one whose lunch he had knocked on the floor yesterday. “Pierce!” She exclaimed with a broad smile. Two pink backpacks jostled towards him. Two puffball pony tails bobbed with the dance steps of four running feet. And my son, my broken boy, was covered, surrounded by the loving arms of forgiveness and joy and my own child-heart was whole again.

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In this dark season of waiting, may you find the solace and comfort of humble joy, fierce love and courage in community.