Last night I stayed up until 2:30 in the morning because I needed to see how the old black and white movie I was watching would end. The movie was nothing remarkable, but it's opening line (which began its' enticing work somewhere around midnight) gripped me ("Last night I had a dream that I was once again at Manderley, but no one will ever go to Manderley again...") and there was just enough mystery woven into the plot to persuade me to stick it out.
Until 2:30 in the morning.
That is an inappropriate hour for a wife and mother.
But it had to be done.
Because I need to know how the story ends.
Tonight, our family, crowded around that same t.v., was jolted from our stupor when our youngest son suddenly said, "Mom! Stop it right there! I've never seen the end of this commercial!" And the mute button was released so that we would be privy to how, exactly, the frozen food advert would complete the story of the oh-so-sedate housewife embroiled in her dinner dilemma.
We subjected ourselves to thirty seconds of processed food info. Why? Because we need to know how the story ends.
But in this mysterious and unplottable out-on-the-waves row we call "faith" there are so many stories that are left dangling. Urban encounters, brief and unfinished, with stories just begun and plots half-done.
It takes faith to acknowledge that the chance encounters with a young mom, a business man, the parent of a former client, or the blond stranger I secretly call Hercules (because that's who he looks like...except that he's lost and powerless and, obviously, lacking a centaur) are meaningful and within the realm of God's interest.
Take Hercules, for example. I have crossed paths with him, I think, three times ~ maybe four. There is no reason why our worlds should collide. He is young (twenty-something) and on the go doing, presumably, twenty-year-old things. I'm a mom, travelling in mom-ish circles. Circles where strangers are privately identified by their resemblance to cartoon characters.
Herc and I have never spoken. The first time I saw him (along a walking path in a nearby neighborhood) I was moved by...what? Compassion? Disarmed by his vulnerability, I prayed for him intently that day; he, I was sure, had captured the imagination of his Maker. I prayed about his search for meaning, his fears, his sense of belonging, his mental health. I prayed for a lot of things.
The next time I saw him I was out walking with friends. The girls and I were focused and purposeful. We were out for exercise and our attentions were taken up with each other. I noted that he was across the street, said a quick "Hey! Lord, there's that guy again," or something equally profound.
And then, weeks later, we brushed past each other at the local coffee shop. Again, I was in the company of friends and could not stop to talk with him, but this time we actually physically bumped into each other.
I have never heard his voice. I don't think he has ever seen, or taken notice, of me. But, by chance, Hercules has been at the heart of several floating encounters.
What is my role in his life? I could be dismissive...if I really thought that chance was behind these passing moments. I could be forthright, getting his attention by striking up conversation, "So. Uh. You don't know me, but did anyone ever tell you that you look like a Master of the Universe?" I could pray. That'd be smart. Productive.
That may be all that I ever do for that tow-headed young man. I may never hear any of his story ~ even if I stay up well past bedtime or unmute the walk-by non-meetings. That may not be my role in his life. But I think I am meant to play a role. Because he's there. And I'm here. I know the God who made him. The God who loves him.
Tonight, I'm going to be a smart and responsible mother and turn the t.v. off before I am drawn into a beginning that needs an ending! And I'll end the my own day's story with a prayer for Hercules.