Now lettest thou thy servant depart, Lord, According to thy word, in peace; For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples; A light for revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of thy people Israel.” Zechariah Luke 2:29-32
Faces we Remember
“ I heard your father died.” they said to me today.
I thought of the word “ died” .
My father often said “ your God has died”
And today someone said the same thing about him.
“Not everything dies” I said quickly.
When someone dies… or as we now say “ passes”, we remember. While they are alive we spend our time laughing and complaining and arguing with them . But when they die, when they leave us to silence, we remember.
Some have memorials for those who died. Often services, or “homegoings” shouts of memory are expressed in words or tears or visions in our minds. These are all a gift for us to let us “remember”. Some, who “die” , however, slip away, slip away without anyone remembering. Their bodies are put in paupers graves or burned and contained somewhere in a government-owned yard. Yet, we all know , even the coldest atheist knows, someone once saw their face. Someone could remember them.
When my father died,two weeks ago, he had only a few friends. Mainly he had wives and girlfriends and two daughters to remember him. All his life he imagined he would be remembered. He was not unlike so many of us too who long to be remembered . Yet in his imagination it was grander than most….he wanted to be remembered for being “Lord Makemson” . He wanted to be known as a royal person who had “mastered” it all .
Like a Renaissance man, he had invented and written and designed and performed to the level of being the ” maestro” of all things. All his close friends would call him “lord M” and so would I . It would be many years until I could call him “Daddy”. He forbid that name, but with every greeting of “Lord M” or “Make the Snake” a impish childlike grin would erupt from his otherwise always “pondering” face. He wanted to be remembered for being very great in the eyes of man.
Looking back , I see my father’s face. I see that I grew up being changed every time I was around my father. Some records in journals record my mature love and others record adult years of childlike anger. A range of words at this man who thought too much of himself and of whom I had no name to call.
He thought so much of himself that he developed among all friends an ideology of a system of “one world order”. In the “one world order” ,he was to be the Ruler. The one and only Ruler.There would be no God, no competing “Theocracy” only His “Aristocracy” that of an Artist and Scientist. In his system, only the scientists would have faces with eyes to see. And only what the scientists saw could the artist paint. “No religion !” He would yell.
“But God still sees all and the universe is His canvas,” I would eventually be bold enough to yell back.
“Oh to hell with your God” he would say for many years.
His face in early years red and fierce later to turn pale and pleading.
” I will tell your God to go to hell” he would announce .
But God never went where my father told Him to go . He stayed right near my father on the porch waiting for him to come home.
“I still see his face” my sister texted. We last saw him lifeless , still , stonefaced. But it is not the dead alone that are “stone faced”. Many folks in our lives can become static and frozen in our mind. They stay preserved in a scene as we remember when we last saw them face to face . Away from the scene , we look at them in media but they don’t ever look back. Though we call the place “social ” , it is only a place where the sound is silence.
Frustrated, we tour faces like children in a hall of a wax museum. We prowl across our computers. Every face stares back , immobile frozen , from some moment far away. We cannot make it change with a greeting. It seems No matter what you type at it, it is only an emoji that comes back . Now even your dearest friends face remains the same. It’s an immovable face. One thought away from being an enemy or idol or dead.
But in reality everybody with a face has a face that faces a newness every moment. We are all being changed. And though we think , “ah that is so and so “and they are “doing this and that”. At the time we say it , it is past and God. . . the Creator Of time and events … is forever making something new. Still, we hang , we hold, we hope , that what we looked at a moment ago matches our judgement whether good or bad of someone.
And we proudly say “ oh I knew that all along about them” “yep , they are just. . . “ or “Im happy that they are. .. “ and “went . . and saw and have. . .” We seldom judge rightly. . . . much less than we ought. Much less than God created us to do. It is really because we do not see them face to face
And yet , if we do , if we do see someone face to face, we become so busy with the thing at hand that we do not see them at all. It may be dinner or church or work when we are given the chance to “ see” . . .But here again we are always thinking and feeling and talking. We seldom really see . We seldom really hear. We seldom are in a place where it is just us and our neighbor, loving, face to face.
And so if we cannot see our Brother ( or sister) we just might find we are far from a place where we see Our Father as well. We cannot hear or feel or see Our Father. delighting over them or us… delighting over His children.
Soon they die. And when they “die” we wonder. . . we wonder where they are and where is Our Father in all of this.
Faces that cannot see
So, Since the dawning of Face book, folks have left their life journals and tucked them dusty and forgotten on shelves. Even if we receive journals at Christmas and holidays we now are more distracted to look at Instagram and Facebook. Always we are lured away from the joy of tearing the paper, opening the present and feeling gratitude for the person who thought enough to buy us a little space in the world .
Before us , A sweet little space to record God’s story in us. But , Distracted and wanting, like spoiled children, we quickly toss blank pages aside for the next “posted” thing. Thumbs up and thumbs roll across holiday photos and friends posts of a lives we never ever saw. Of friends we never remember hugging, Of food our families will never taste.
We think we are in a story of time. But deep down we know what we hold with social media is an illusion . We hold a souvenir of a reality Our Father would want us to really enter and enjoy. Our Father wants us to meet Him with our hearts face to face.
So, Rising up away from the gift of a journal , we return to “our network” and consider what others with stone faces on screens are doing. The journal is blank on the floor. But deep down, though we have seen many faces, we are lonely to see the FACE OF GOD in something, in someone. We want something alive and close. In the “now” there is not one we know . We barely know ourselves. Somewhere we have lost what God intended for us to keep . To record. To remember….. To tell of His Story …To Remember in a life he has ordained since Before He ordained time.
Faces upon Faces, Posts upon Posts, we become like James says , walking away and forgetting who we are. Everything seems unreal. And when it is far away and unreal, we then become like prodigal sons who have run away from our Father’s face. We don’t even remember His face. We cannot see it smiling on the one who is sitting in front of us , we cannot hear it we cannot believe it is real.
Our Father, God , who gave us our first blank sheet of paper to describe or draw a reflection of His Goodness waits. Though he seems like a “BabyDaddy” and we his ‘latchkey children” being raised by a TV screen, there is something real and alive with us as a Father every moment . He has a face we cannot see.
Faces in Books
I sit now before photos and notes. Photographs and journals , as old fashioned and far away as they sound, are the next best thing to books. We all know it to be true when we hold it in our hands. We know something deep and mysterious and real may come from something bland and blank. Paper with ink. Photos with images. As trees ache, so do souls groan, for the axe, the axe of a Holy Hand to yield a better story. . . one with our name on it. One that is Alive.
“Scribbles”! My father thought it “common, trite, and close to barbaric” for me to write in a journal. While , he wrote many “great thoughts” on small spiral notebooks he ridiculed “the common folk ” writing in journals. As well , while he took many pictures, few photographs he admired. Yet often , in the last days we would delight in pictures of his ever thinning ‘European face”.
Busy through the years with “lord M’s” health and home, I did not know at the time what was beautifully unfolding. But now each journal entry, each picture, like a presents drop in my lap waiting for me to unwrap little clues to the great treasure that was given to my dad. I only unwrap the clues. The present was a gift only for my father, from my Father in heaven. .
I wish that I had written more clues and situations . I regret that I did not record every discourse and distress, every battle for belief, every tender shared joy of the atheist man and his “Primitive, slave, “ Christian daughter. But most times my entries would be interrupted by another. Mostly ,Jesus would enter between me and my father. the complaint of ours turn to praise and the hurt of ours turns to health. .
“ I prefer you not disrespect me by bringing your imaginary Messiah around “ my father would say “I do not need him to be in the story of my kingdom”
My pen might dry for a moment. But with a shake soon I see I could bring my father ,” The other” around Jesus at least in my journal . And when I did it would totally change my mind about my father on that very paper and for a moment I would REMEMBER HIM AS OUR FATHER KNEW HIM. . . for a moment I would see his face as His heavenly father saw His face . And even if , I could not, even if I were to slam my book shut in unbelief, there remained an eye in my heart opened for the impossible. There was the whisper saying ” no eye has seen no ear heard what God had prepared.”
I begin to write this for my family and For all who call me “family. “But I write it also for any who long to believe for another, for those, like Saint Augustine’s mother ,who prayed thirty tireless years for the salvation of one. And this is also for ones who do not want to grow weary but write to Our Lord about their wrestling in hope. And this is for my father, my sister’s father, the writers, to bear patiently with my grammar and to hear what we share. . a Story. .. A Story of a very GREAT GLORY that Our Father wants us to see . . FACE TO FACE!
So at the right time, a time when we see Glory in the end was a Glory we never saw in the beginning ,we might Believe Him much more! Yes and Amen there is Something about the way Our Father created us, all of us. We continue though all time to write stories and take pictures.
Perhaps, I said to my father “ there is a story being written about you by God. What if He is not dead but a brilliant writer ? ”.what if He is the most brilliant writer whose story he wants every one to remember ? And what if His story remembered Gives Him Glory ? ( to be continued)