I plugged in the iron and flipped the small cabinet open in the kitchen, releasing the ironing board. It was one of my favorite things about that house in Yarmouth. It was the first house I ever owned, bought with a small down-payment of borrowed dollars from hopeful family and friends. It was God’s gift – I knew that much, and it could’ve been a Newport mansion to us. In a display of reckless joy, Miles spray-painted his name in orange graffiti across the basement wall. It was all ours, no more crazy landlords, no more packing up like refugees and moving on. I was a single mom with three boys; 14, 12 and 2 and I asked God to make it a place He could stay and He did, in that small cape we all fit together; one lonely mom, two wild teen-boys and a chubby toddler who made us all laugh. God was there, and some angels too, keeping watch.
It was Sunday morning; my mother was there too. She had driven up from New York because Spencer was in trouble again and she was mad. She wore a money belt around her waist, concealed just under her shirt, and she patted it gently saying she brought some cash to bail Spencer out “just in case”. This was how she loved me, instead of hugs she got mad; but she would rescue my son because she knew I was scared of losing him, and that was something she understood.
It was Sunday morning and the spring sun was reaching through the window across the kitchen table where my mother sat reading. We were going to church, and it would all be okay. I threw my green silk shirt over the ironing board.
The iron spit and hissed while big and small feet thumped across the floor upstairs.
I picked up the iron and worked it across the shirt. Then it came – I would say suddenly but it was so quiet, like a cloud it came over me and I could barely stand under it, but I felt not weighed down but lifted up in it. My mind raced to identify something I had never felt before…then I looked up and heard my mother simply say:
“He’s here.” Her voice was soft and her face had a look of child-like wonder as we both stared into…the air?
The air in the kitchen. You don’t really see air but I could, it was vibrant and translucent, like it was made of gold. I couldn’t speak, I could just look and then I couldn’t look any more. I wanted to laugh or shout but I couldn’t make noise. I closed my eyes and bowed my head. Then it was gone. Joy, my brain finally spoke. It was joy unspeakable, like the song we sang…”and full of glory”. Love had tipped the pitcher and let a few drops of heaven fall upon a tired single mom and her skeptical mother.
For a long time I thought God did that for my mom. It was fun to see her face light up, and the earnest way she would tell people about how God came into my kitchen. The cynic, the intellect who would look at me with disdain and say with the chiding southern drawl,
“Surely you don’t believe everything the Bible says is true.”
We were each other’s witness and we never lost the wonder of that moment, that morning of the Visit.
Amy Carmichael wrote, “I want to live in the light of the thought of His coming, His triumph – the end of this present darkness, the glory of His seen presence.”
Now I know it was also for me. A compass for the swirling darkness, and pain so relentless and exhausting, God would whisper, “I am close, remember?” And hope for someday, when Love will call me up and say Now. Come home. And the small drop of glory will become a river of Life.
Shortly after I lost my son, a woman came up to me in church and said,
“You must feel God so close to you!”
And I said, “No. I don’t feel God at all. I don’t see Him or hear Him either.” And she slowly backed away. I was getting used to having that effect on people.
Actually, I knew He was there, even when my son was murdered. But the pain was so intense; my senses could pick up little else for quite a long time. I would search the sky, waiting for a cloud to shift to the side, or for the black sky studded in stars to split open and.. and what? For Spence to wave at his mother?
“Hi mom! I’m OKAY!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29 ESV
The One who sees the beginning to the end, knows just what we need as we navigate through our lives, but we will only find it if we are following Jesus. Sounds simple and it is, but we are easily distracted. We wind up on a dark dead end in the midst of a haunted forest and say “God where are you?” It’s comforting to me in a twisted way that Jesus’ closest disciples didn’t always get it; the ones who ate and slept and brushed their teeth with the King of Glory. He knows we are blockheads. Matthew 15:16 we find Jesus in a moment of apparent frustration with them.
“Are you still so dull?” NIV. But I think The Message is more on target:
“Are you being willfully stupid?”
Shekinah: A Hebrew word meaning “He dwells there”. The first sign of His manifest glory was in the cloud that led and sheltered the Israelites by day and the fiery pillar that lit the night. As if this wasn’t enough, he had them make a huge tent, and he lived there with them, there in the desert, while they griped and groaned and reminisced of Egypt and slavery.
Now, he chooses another plain dwelling – us; you and me. More whining. For several years after Spence died I became so obsessed with heaven that my pastor had to talk to me. I told him I didn’t want to be here any more, I meant on Earth, and he smiled sadly.
“Neither do I sometimes, but here is where God wants us.”
Here, in my home, getting ready for church, or at work, whispering Jesus loves you in the ear of a dying man. In prisons, in darkness, in despair – in a single mom’s kitchen, at the door of the skeptic, He dwells there, and He wants to show us the way, even when we are willfully stupid.
I still remember every thing about the Visit, but earth has no words to describe heaven. You will just have to see it for yourself.
Shekinah – lead us with your Pillar of Grace, until the day you say, “Now!”