Why I Know so Little

As a young scholar I said trite things like, “We learned about Calvinism today,” and “I studied relativity last week”.

It turns out that Calvin’s voluminous Institutes inspired commentaries, opinions, and reactions to fill hundreds of thousands of papers, books and ministries.  It also seems that papers and experiments pursuing all Einstein laid out amount to untold billions of dollars.   Trillions if you count weapons.

I barely caught an introduction.

It helps, though, if someone reduces it for me, so I pass a short quiz or pay for a short course and skip the quiz.  In a world influenced by academia: I “learned it”.

We memorize Kubler Ross’ stages and think we know death.  We say amazing silliness like, “I got married last night!”  No, you took a first, possibly easiest step in a journey of a thousand miles and you don’t “know” marriage until you come to the end of yourself and your failings and she somehow, amazingly decides to travel on with you.

“I bought a house last week.”  So, you paid cash?

“We were in New York last month.  I love New York!”  Yes, you love the tiniest sliver, and even those who love her a lifetime cannot live a thousandth of the City.

In seminary, I was thrilled to “learn” the word for “know” is the same as a husband and wife enjoying their most intimate times together that they share with none others.  You scratch the surface of that knowing in a decade or so.

I need humility, and out of that a bent to life long learning: in this life and the next.  I know that.

To Mrs. Scott

Jill and I moved to Miami to be youth minister at University Baptist Church in Coral Gables.  The kittens learned to respect the iguanas in the trees.  The electric company came to cut back the ficus from the electric lines every nine months.  The services were translated into Spanish and Patois and our staff reflected that composition, and Mrs. Scott was one of my Sunday School teachers.

Her first name was Mrs.  for all of her students, and that went for me as well.  The dress and address were both regal. Formal but not stuffy or priggish or feigned. She had a ready smile and cool wit, and she and Mr. Scott were that evanescence we know as Jamaican. Coping with challenges in life was built-in, and even when the laugh lines around the eyes were getting a work out from a good life, she somehow conveyed that gravitas, which communicated she chose to laugh, chose to believe, even after having seen life.

Mrs. Scott’s children were reserved and brilliant.  Except for Jonathan who was one part ADHD before we knew the term, one part Robin Williams, two parts anywhere from the BeeGees to Hank Williams to Madonna, one part Billy Graham, and all of it kindled such that he appeared to have his hair on fire, even when calmly talking to you face-to-face.

Many, many a girl measured this Scott, and not a few took his measure with great hope, but there was a girl name of Kathleen, and if she chased him it was with a stunning shyness that entwined him and drew him to her.  Effortlessly.

When Jill and I left Coral Gables, I left the youth ministry in Jonathan’s and Wes’ hands, and expected the announcement of their marriage, and were devastated at the news of her MS.  Devastated alongside an entire church reeling with a second pastor’s wife with the dread prognosis.

Could Jonathan have had a larger music career if he had travelled more?  Undoubtedly. Could he have had a larger speaking career if he had spent more time on the road?  Assuredly.  But with the rock-solid resolution of the first Mrs. Scott, Jonathan stayed close to the second Mrs. Scott until last week.

She is Home, now.

Sigourney Weaver made a choice a few decades back.  She was looking at her mantle and wondered if she would want more Oscars on there or pictures of the grandkids.  She stayed home for the kids and grandkids.

Jonathan’s and Kathleen’s kids will be able to put the pictures of their parents together on their mantles and say the mystical, magical incantation with just that Jamaican lilt,  “And she loved him with her dying breath, and he no less.”

Thirty Years Ago

Thirty years ago, we had no children.

Our last childless night changed when Jill knew her contractions were coming closer together.  We grabbed already-packed bags and drove to Miami’s Baptist Hospital: maybe a little faster than needed, hoping this was the one night an officer pulled us over and I could point to my wife in labor.  No such luck.

Two things from labor and the hospital stand out.  My wife amazed me with composure, tears, complete red-face effort, and her humor. She cited most of Bill Cosby’s lines from his monologue about his wife’s birthing(s).

Colt inherited the humor.

The second thing was the hospital nursery.  As people visited and asked which in the nursery was Colt, we only responded, “the blonde”.  Walking down to the glass to view a room crammed with babies in bassinets and nurses hovering over a sea of future hopes, they saw only one towhead in the room.  His standing out like that continues.

We moved to Austin to work on my advanced degree.  We settled on the east side to a great little house close to campus and great public schools.  Colt attended his first birthday party, where I worked in the kitchen with other parents and we all laughed.  He ran yelling and shrieking, oblivious to being the only white kid playing games in the Austin summer sizzle.  The blond.

He was blessed to have older guys be big brothers: Aaron Stern and Josh Taylor.  He took up their mantle for kids in the Stillwater hood.  He skied fearlessly and drew on a quiet confidence.  I saw that confidence as I conducted leader training in Virginia for college students and brought Colt along — the eighth grader.

Two guys led worship (not so great) and one caught something in Colt’s face to ask, “Hey, you want to try?”  Colt silently nodded, “Yes,” calling his bluff.  All stopped.  The student walked across and handed the guitar to Colt and things improved dramatically.  They adopted him for the rest of the weekend.

In college, he thought Claire was stuck up when they both performed in Freshmen Follies and we sat in front of her parents.  Oddly, she thought the same, and four years later they were halfway out of the sanctuary after exchanging vows before 800 friends and family caught on that Clarie’s organ teacher was playing the Theme from Star Wars and

Four years ago we had no grandchildren, but then one night Claire told Colt her contractions were coming closer together.

I have waded far enough into life to drink deeply and watch large life cycles wash over us.  I am wealthy, blessed, overwhelmed, happy.  And I pray he is when Duke turns 30.