Though I used to be unable to understand him, I find more and more that Oswald Chambers's My Utmost for His Highest has a forcefulness and acuity that renders the Biblical scriptures fresh, essential, and pressing. He wrote his meditations in relative obscurity, and perhaps because his text has not been run through a thousand times by the silver tongue of a preacher, or dissected by bloodless theologians, it still holds magic.
This is merely the reflected magic of the Bible, but it seems at times that preachers and teachers have sucked the life right out of the latter, made it a dry text to which we already know the ending:
God was really mad for several hundred years; Jesus died for your sins (but you really don't deserve it); everything that happens is God's will and perfect; yada yada yada, don't forget to put your ten percent in the collection plate and volunteer for Sunday School duty.
Maybe because they haven't gotten to Chambers, it feels like a refuge from both the world and the neutered God-talk, or maybe it's just what I need right now because the Lord is like a good parent in that he finds a way to keep you nourished even when you don't want your vegetables. Either way, I'm really digging Chambers, and I urge you to get a copy as well. You might even be able to find it in the modern-day Christian tchotchke store, right there between the "God's Love is Purrr-fect" cat-lover bookmarks and Bruce Wilkinson's latest book, The Hidden Secret: How God Put the Formula for Health and Wealth Right under Your Nose in the Last Verse of an Obscure Proverb.
Here's a snippet from today's meditation in Chambers:
"You cannot do anything for your salvation, but you must do something to manifest it, you must work out what God has worked in."
Poking a stick in the eyes of seven-eighths of the Christian industry probably isn't what he had in mind, but at least I'm trying.
I have a two-foot shadow, and his name is Isaac. When I mowed on Saturday, he insisted on sitting in my lap the entire time. When it was time for the push mower, he followed behind with his little plastic mower, the one that clicks as its wheels roll. He even had on his goggles (he calls them "gobbles") and a mask. (For the record, I know that I look like a dork mowing the grass with a mask, but the alternative is misery, and I have now reached the age where comfort trumps cool. Not completely, as it turns out, because at the same time I am moving away from wearing shorts in public, having decided that one simply cannot look like a real man in a pair of shorts.)
When I got out the trimmer, Isaac fetched a plastic hockey stick and followed behind me, pretending to trim. In the back, where a slope leads me to keep him from riding on the mower, he follows behind on his tricycle, gobbles and mask on, pretending to mow. It's the seriousness that's most impressive, how the boy pretend-mows row after row. He's no gentleman farmer, this one.
Then it was on to some pipes around the pool filter that were leaking. I got my tools together, and he ran to get his little plastic tools, along with his yellow construction hat. I sawed and cursed under my breath, and he chirped at me while whacking away. No matter where I went, he was right there with me, all day.
All. Day. (I love my son I love my son I love my son)
It can be a little unnerving, like having one's own leprechaun, except that instead of dispensing wisdom and hints about a pot of gold, this one asks roughly one billion questions per minute and likes to drop his trousers and pee whenever the mood strikes him. If they had any doubts before, our snooty neighbors now have confirmation that we are in fact a family of rednecks. The practice mortifies my wife, but I admire the boy's frontier spirit. The problem is that he doesn't hide behind anything. Wherever he happens to be when the need arises, that's the place that's getting watered.
By Sunday, I was a little spent. But Sunday was Mother's Day, so my job was to give the Wife a break for a day. It's interesting, isn't it, how we celebrate a day by not doing the thing it was named after? Mother's Day. Labor Day. Thanksgiving. You get the idea.
But I figure the poor woman has earned it, if only for putting up with me.So I needed to give her a break. Caleb's been pestering me to build something, and so I figured that might be a good thing to occupy everyone's time. What, I asked him, did he want to build today?
A cannon. The boy has instructions on how to build a cannon. So off we went to Lowe's, where we bought approximately 10,000 PVC parts, some of which are actually the right shape and size. Isaac insisted on carrying a big length of pipe. As we made our way down the aisle, him staggering under the weight, me trying to keep him from whacking anyone in the crotch, he declared, "I strong. I two. I Isaac Woodlief."
I am man; hear me roar. Or in my case: I am father; let me sleep. But the mission was accomplished at least insofar as Mom got her rest. The cannon still needs work. I'm trying to help Caleb understand that no project is worth anything unless you have to make at least five trips to Lowe's to get it finished. He's not convinced.
That night, before bed, each boy gently hugged his mother, careful of her swollen tummy and the wiggly creature inside. They're all very sweet to her. I'm trying to help them grapple their way to manhood, and to being good husbands themselves one day. This will be nothing short of a miracle, because I've not been much of either, a man or a husband. This is the miracle, that they are changing me as I try to raise them. This is why the sleeplessness and the fatigue and the lack of privacy are all worth it, because without them I am something far less. Yesterday was Mother's Day, but it was also Father's day, and it was good.