Ambiguity, Part 1 of 3

A very personal reflection based on Luke 21.5-19

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Uncle Sy, short for Sylvester. Not a blood relative. Nevertheless, near and dear to my family.

When I was child, Uncle Sy’s place, outside of the city, was an open space of fresh air. A peaceful place to think, to feel, to breathe, to be.

His tiny house sat a few yards off a dusty road. Thick green grass in front. A path of fine gravel, that made the greatest crunchy sound when I walked on it or dug the toe of my shoe in it, ran alongside the house, leading to an unfenced backyard of more green grass, huge rose bushes, and a vegetable garden. There was a small, old barn with a door that sat half on its hinges and, inside, the musty, warm embrace of the earth. North of the house, there was a field. At its center, an oak tree, where, high up in its branches or lying beneath, I would watch cloud formations or gaze at the azure sky.

Uncle Sy, short in stature, was broad of chest and shoulders, with large, muscular arms and hands. I would sit for what seemed like hours on an old stump next to the barn watching him chop wood with ease. With those same hands, he tenderly trimmed his rose bushes and plucked tomatoes from the vine. And with a deep, yet gentle voice, he would tell me about life and God, philosophizing and theologizing at length. And with care, he would listen patiently as I asked question after question.

Uncle Sy’s place was the world to me, the way the world was supposed to be. Even when things went wrong…

When I slipped while climbing the oak tree, got my foot caught in a branch, and dangled upside down several feet off the ground…

When, pursuing a butterfly, I ran into the rose bushes…

In those and other times, Uncle Sy would make it right. With strong arms, he held me. With tender hands, he wiped my tears. With resonant voice and reassuring words, he let me know that life, the world was like that – filled with good and bad, pleasure and pain, joy and sadness. “The thing you gotta do,” he’d say with a smile, “is trust in the Lord and keep climbin’ those trees, keep chasin’ those butterflies.”

Jesus, in foretelling the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem, speaks in language both eschatological, concerning last things, and apocalyptic, regarding a revelation of the nature of the cosmos, the meaning of life, and God’s purposes in history. The perspective is dualistic, focusing on a struggle between good and evil, involving a constant, cyclical movement between blessed and bad events. Yes, difficulties do and will arise, yet they are overtures to the coming of God when all will be made right. Thus, Jesus’ encouraging word, urging perseverance amidst troubled times: “By your endurance you will gain your souls.”

More to come…

© 2021 PRA

2 thoughts on “Ambiguity, Part 1 of 3

  1. Paul,
    Just saw you published the second part to this post and I realized I hadn’t posted my comment to the first part.

    I loved reading about such a special man and place in your life!! The part I held on to most and that I need right now is this…

    With tender hands, he wiped my tears. With resonant voice and reassuring words, he let me know that life, the world was like that – filled with good and bad, pleasure and pain, joy and sadness. “The thing you gotta do,” he’d say with a smile, “is trust in the Lord and keep climbin’ those trees, keep chasin’ those butterflies.”

    I’m trying to chase a lot of butterflies and see all the good in my life though obviously I’m quite concerned for my Mom. I can actually hear Mom saying “what gotta do is….” and she would likely add “keep doing what you’ve always done, moving forward and carrying on no matter what”!

    Thank you for the reminder.

    Love

    Like

  2. Carry on, indeed, dearest sister, carry on!

    Love you

    Like

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