Friday, February 13, 2015

and I saw her trembling

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” 
--John 11:21-22 

So. What's your name? I asked.
Martha, she responded.
I smiled to myself. It's not every day you hear someone tell you their name is Martha. 
I walked into the small diner.
Can I get you a cup of coffee? asked a voice above my head.
There was a man sitting on the bar stool at the counter.
Oh, no, I said, I'm fine.
Deflecting, because that's all you do in the big city: deflect. Avoid. Shield yourself.
Thank you, though.
And I turned back to the table.
That's a real nice thing you did.
Oh pssshhh.
Deflect. Avoid. Again.
I look back over at this man.
People in novels always have "kind faces." I used to not know what that meant, until I saw this man's face looking at mine, and not looking away.
There was something so very fundamentally kind in every feature of his face.
It was very smooth; very open, nothing in his feature was closed off, crooked, or secretive.
It wasn't a face that struck you, or smote you, or grabbed your attention at the first look.
It was the kind of face that the more you looked at it, the more you wanted to. The goodness seemed to pour out of the pores on the smooth skin. It radiated from the clear eyes, eyes that refused to waver from mine.
Peter, he said, extending his hand.
Renee, I said, extending mine.
Our hands clasped; it was a very warm moment in the midst of a bleak night.

In the winter, the city is very cold. Instead of hibernating through the months of slush and snow, you simply retreat inwards: into your parka, your scarf, your hood, and your mind.
A human interaction, someone breaking down the invisible fortress you carry around with you, comes as a shock--like hot water on your frozen fingers.
In that moment, his warm smile, his bright eyes, his colorful scarf became imprinted in my memory.
I felt my face flush as I felt him watch me pay the check and leave.
It was a moment; a bright and lovely moment that painted the whole evening in a fresh coat of vibrant new life.
The winter is so grey and dreary, it is in desperate need of something vibrant and alive, colorful and cheerful.
The beauty of a city is in the number of faces surrounding you; in the number of human lives you walk into and out of each day, with an unaware nonchalance.
 I would rather spend time in books; or in the trees and lakes of the Northern woods; or driving down and open highway, with nothing but the clear, dark sky full of stars and night wind running its fingers through your hair.
But it is better and more beautiful, although I have to force myself to think this, to be surrounded by walking, living, breathing images of God, whose hearts and souls can teach you more about beauty than a thousand sunsets, clouds, or forests.
It is harder, because a sunset can't hurt you, and clouds don't annoy you. Forests don't lie to you, and night winds and stars don't disagree with you and say unpleasant things when you rub them the wrong way.
It is harder to find beauty in the messy, broken people around you, rather than in the safe, de-anthropomorphized beauty of nature.
To be surrounded by 8 million people each day would seem suffocating, until you realize that that means you have 8 million opportunities to encounter God.
And the people who issue the deepest challenge to you: the man on the subway with his cap in his hands; the person who lies to you; the student who calls you 'stupid' are the people who pose the clearest question:
"Do you love me more than these?"
Peter and Martha, I thought, walking away from the coffee shop. Who would have thought that I would have met them both on the same night?

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