Saturday, February 7, 2015

Written in October 2014

A black holster attached to his belt, hidden in the folds of a checkered button-up shirt creaks as the firm thud of a long stride in thick heavy boots crosses the sweltering hot pavement under the sun. His shock of golden hair moves slightly as he turns his head to the side, smoothly surveying surrounding people under tinted sunglasses with the air of one who fears nothing.

I look up at his expressionless face. I would guess him to be impassive, stubborn, emotionless if I didn’t know him better. But I do. There is more than what meets the eye - and that is an understatement.

He comes from “good stock,” as my great-grandmother Amy would have said. His grandfather’s life was one marked with incredible faith and courage, receiving a medal of honor for his bravery in saving 75 of his comrades in a World War II battle. Although passed for years now, his grandson was left with a strong impression of his love and belonging. A picture of an old couple is proudly displayed on his dresser, framed book cover of the aging yet patriotic Desmond resting against the wall above his bed, and various curiosities from the war scattered throughout the nooks and corners of a completely apparent man’s room. A well-used rag lies crumpled on the bed stand, nearly touching two framed photos of a girl holding a bouquet of wildflowers who was living a thousand miles away yet close in heart. Behind the swinging bedroom door rests bathroom piping, several tools, and a hefty brown boot to cleanse the room of spiders.

His parents are godly as well. Together they have taken a small, forlorn Adventist church in the city and brought life, light, and song again to fading brick walls. They live humbly, yet beautifully because God is their fortress and delight. Many generous, unselfish acts on their part for the sake of others go unnoticed and will never be widely known, but I know the Lord marks every one of them.

Together with this family, I join in leading song service at church, accompanying on the keys for prayer meeting, standing by the bed of the dying, offering supporting comfort to those who grieve, visiting church members in their homes, knocking on doors I am almost scared to see open, and connecting with the people of the south. And every time, the tall eldest son is there, quietly standing with his family and committed to taking up a torch carried by the generations before him.

Quickly and quietly he responds to counsel. My heart sank on the last morning of one of my visits to the south as I heard his dad speak to him down the hallway.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea Chris to take the day off and allow another point to be added to your work account. I know you want to see her, but you already have a good number of points stacked against you for not working on the Sabbath.”

“Yeah,” I hear him say. “You’re right.”

I see him for fifteen minutes during his lunch break, and wish with all of my tearful heart that he could only drive me to the airport and we could talk along the way. Instead he disappears out of my sight into an enclosed factory building and I know it will be good-bye for months.

After a long day working in a new area of profession - the electrical field - a lady from church might call and ask him to stop by the church and record Sabbath school songs for the upcoming week.

“Doesn’t she know you have a life and work?” he would be asked. “It was a long day!”

But he doesn’t stop to ask himself if he will go or not. He goes because he lives a life of willingness to help others. To him, there is no other option.

To balance with his serious consciousness is a keen sense of humor with a frequent development of corny jokes, leaving friends and family alike shaking their heads with indulgent grins. Somehow he manages to voice what everyone else may secretly think - but is too timid or proper to say - and gets away with what others never could.

When I fuss at misleading 50% off price signs at Hobby Lobby, he puts his warm hand on my shoulder assuringly, “It’s okay - don’t worry.”

Like an unshakeable pillar, his confidence prompts me to explore new adventures.

Standing ten feet in the air and about to balance on two trembling ropes, I know that the hook and cord above me will prevent a fall, but the only reason I venture is because of him.

He smiles and beckons. “You can do it.”

_______


“Mutts,” I hear the title pronounced loudly across the hallway.

Turning a corner in the house, I see long legs stretching across the living room floor and tanned, calloused hands circled around the little bodies of two brown Chihuahuas, voice now turning higher-pitched and soft. “Yes, you are so cute, sooo cute,” he ruffles their short hair and tilts his head down to kiss their tiny faces over and over again.

Peeling back the crusty shell of his sometimes potentially intimidating outward portrayal, there is a heart of gold. One that will give without gain. One that lives unsefishness, and feels the sting of sorrow yet trusts in a better tomorrow. One that surrounds me in his arms and fills my heart with comfort. I marvel to have found such a treasure.

“You’re a good man,” I look up into the handsome face and lightly touch his tanned arm.

He turns to me briefly with a quiet laugh, eyes shifting from the road to my mine. His look of love says more than words possibly could.

As the miles pass, and the surrounding country-side marked with picked cotton-fields and spreading magnolia trees speed by, I settle comfortably into the passenger’s side and breath a sigh of contentment.

With each passing day, I fall more in love with this young man who sought and won my heart. I marvel to realize that he was the one I prayed for growing up, petitioning God that He would make him strong and noble and true. And He did.