I am convinced there are moments in each life when God is standing so close one can hardly avoid running into His arms. That is, of course, if one chooses to believe that God exists. Otherwise, one might brush God off with a convenient excuse or notion, such as “I don’t know what came over me,” or “Perhaps it was something I ate,” or “What a strange coincidence.” In my own experience, there has been a sense of the strangely familiar mingled with an inexorable inevitability of an inexplicable presence. Those who are superstitious might conjure up a ghost or two.
Whether it is in the presence of angels or demons (or both simultaneously) is not for me to say. There are others more gifted and discerning in those matters than I. All I know is that I have experienced moments of great calm and solitude in the midst of the furies and tempests; when everything I considered to be “under control” in my life turned upon its axis or exploded into a billion irretrievable fragments all at once. And, after weathering the worst I found (after fervent prayer and thanksgiving to God for my survival) that a good, long cry followed sometime much later than I would have supposed.
Sometime in 1987, about two years after my mother’s father (Grandpa Spencer) passed my wife, Linda, and I were seated on the couch in our home watching a family-oriented television show. At the end of the movie, there was a touching scene where someone had died. Without warning, my throat constricted as if I were choking on a slice of apple, and a torrent of tears and wailing gushed forth from me. It was as if God pressed a button on my heart and said, “Now, Greg.” And when Linda asked me what was wrong, I immediately knew without a second thought. I missed my grandfather. It had been tasked to me at his funeral to give the eulogy at the last minute. I had been unable to grieve as I would have hoped to do then. I had to be strong for my parents at the time.
But in the arms of my wife, in the intimacy of my grief I was comforted beyond both our understanding. A peace filled that room, which both of us felt and commented about. I can close my eyes as I write of this memory and feel that same peace. The moment had God’s heart, in love, poured out all over it.
Twenty-one years later in the same house, just down the hall from where I had my watershed, I heard a little girl bawling her eyes out as I had never heard her before. What precipitated her precipitation was something of a trivial matter. Carra would be turning ten years old in a few weeks. She and her brother, Cameron, have been living with Linda and me for over three years, since their mother, Tammie, passed away. I have written other stories about these two lovable urchins in other books.
In any event, Linda works outside the home during the day and I work late night shift (graveyard.) When the children arrive home from school, I wake up and correct their homework, prepare a meal, and supervise them so they can play outside. On this particular occasion, which occurred yesterday, Carra and Cameron were out in the front yard playing when they heard the familiar chiming music of the ice cream vendor. Carra, who is a fanatic of all things chocolate, determined to sneak into her room and obtain money from her savings to purchase an ice cream for herself and Cameron.
This would not have been an issue if Carra had asked permission. However, in our neighborhood the ice cream vendors have had problems with the police. And because our street is busier than most, Linda and I require the kids to check in frequently and to ask permission before they change gears and activities. So, when Cameron walked in the front door sporting a red tongue and a partially consumed push-popsicle, I was more than a little suspicious.
Cameron, being the least culpable in this instance, immediately threw his sister under the ice cream truck.
“Carra bought the ice cream!” he blurted.
Carra walked in with her wrapped, chocolate popsicle bearing the look of a condemned prisoner and began to open the trash can lid to deposit her prize. I stopped her before the lid was at full tilt.
“Don’t throw that away,” I said calmly. “Put it in the freezer for later. After all, you paid for it with your own money.”
After walking to the freezer and depositing her ice cream, Carra walked back to where I was standing.
“Did you ask to buy that ice cream?”
“No,” came her sheepish reply.
“Did you think I would say ‘No’ to you if you asked?”
“Well you were mistaken, Carra. You were only thinking about yourself, weren’t you?” Her head nodded in the affirmative. “You have thirty minutes time-out in your room, to think about why you should not break the rules.”
In three years of raising the two children, I have never heard such a noise as erupted from little Carra’s body. I imagine that from the street in front of my home a bystander might have thought I had beaten the girl with a whip and poured rubbing alcohol in the wounds. At first I thought she was testing my will power to hold her to the thirty-minute rule. Most kids will wind-out within five or ten minutes and sit quietly or fall asleep; but not little Carra.
The crying became louder and more passionate. At the twenty-minute mark, I heard something in that wail so familiar it was like the strumming of a guitar chord resonating within me. When I found her, she was prostrate on the ground, hugging one of her stuffed animals and crying, “Mommy!” At that moment, I knew what was happening.
As I picked her up from her dark despair, we sat at the edge of her bed. Carra revealed to me that she had never cried when her Mommy had died. And once she had started, it seemed as if she could not stop herself. Looking into those bright hazel eyes, I kissed her cheek and reassured her that Linda and I loved her; that we were there for her; she was our daughter now; and it was okay to cry for her Mommy.
Peace. Almost immediately, the room filled with a sense of calm and peace as I have only known on those rare occasions following a good, long cry. I know it was God’s timing and presence there with us. After all, who can fathom the grief God experienced when He lost His only Son, Jesus, on a cross? But just like God, hope rose again, in love, in the most unexpected way and a peace surpassing all understanding ushered in.