A mother’s goodbye

 

Photo by Matthew Smith via Unsplash

Photo by Matthew Smith via Unsplash

She wore a red shirt that declared she was the proud mother of a Marine. With two smaller children in tow and a husband walking alongside, she trailed a step or two behind a young, muscular man. He might have been over 20, but probably not.

He walked to the security checkpoint to present his ID and boarding pass. She stood by the rope line, watching intently.

He turned to the trays to begin the tedious travel routine – unloading pockets, taking off his shoes, removing his belt. She stayed close talking quietly.

He nodded a few times before he moved to the conveyor belt. She watched as the security official waved him through. She craned her neck for a glimpse of him as he gathered his belongings. She stood on tiptoes as he walked out onto the busy concourse, watching intently as he turned first one direction then the other in an attempt to find his gate.

He strode away, full of confidence, disappearing into the crowd.

After a long moment, she turned away, a hint of sadness in her eyes as she looked at her husband.

The boys, by now, were already heading down the escalator, but she walked away slowly.

She was still very obviously, very openly, very beautifully the proud mother of a Marine.

 

An act of devotion

Fork

Photo by jcarlosn on Flickr

They slowly followed the young man to the table. He walked well, but slowly. She walked slowly, but not as well with a slight tilt to her head and an arm in a permanent bend.

He smiled at them, handed them menus and helped them settle in — both of them on the same side of the table.

Curious, that. I turned my attention back to the conversation at the table. There is, after all, a delicate balance to people watching.

Their order came quickly. Two identical plates piled high with broccoli.

I feigned interest in the repeated scenes of an empty racetrack and the incessant scroll along the immense television screen mounted on the wall behind and above the elderly couple at the next table. My peripheral vision focused on the action.

An act of devotion. An act of love. An act of beauty.

He gently reached over and cut her meat. Picking up her fork, he jabbed a chunk of chicken and turned the fork, placing it in his wife’s hand so she could eat. Then, he turned to his own plate to have a bite for himself.

The process continued, their gray heads almost touching as the fork was passed back and forth in quiet conversation.

They smiled at the server when she came to deliver their bill and graciously declined dessert before they began the slow journey back out the door.

This. This is commitment.

This is devotion.

This is love.

The small beginnings of grace

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Photo by Paul Garaizar via Unsplash

Settle into the book of Isaiah. Soak in the portraits of Christ that we’re going to see in the poetic prophecies of the servant songs.

Isaiah 42 is the first of the songs, appearing in the book just after God calls out idolatrous religions for their futility. His argument in Isaiah 41 concludes:

But when I look, there is no one;
among these there is no counselor
who, when I ask, gives an answer.
Behold, they are all a delusion;
their works are nothing;
their metal images are empty wind.
(Isaiah 41:28-29 ESV)

Against these delusions and works of nothingness God introduces his servant. Where the idols are abomination, the servant is delight. Where the idols are full of an empty wind, the servant comes with the Spirit’s power.

Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law.
Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
“I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the LORD; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.
Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them.”
(Isaiah 42:1-9 ESV)

Compare this picture of God’s Servant to portraits of Christ painted by the gospel writers. Christ opened the eyes of the blind. He dealt justly with the people around him. He didn’t draw attention to himself with aggressive advertising campaigns and the first-century equivalent of social media buzz.

And, perhaps most impressive of all in a world impressed with power, he was gentle with the weak and patient with the questioning. John Wesley, in his Explanatory Notes, described it as “cherishing the small beginnings of grace.”

Bruised physically, emotionally or spiritually by events in your past or present? Christ will not break you. He will restore.

Faith weak and full of questions? Christ won’t abandon you. He’ll protect what you have so the flame can burn strongly again.

Discouraged when you see the way our culture treasures money and fame but rejects the poor and oppressed? Christ will bring justice.

Closed in by darkness and depression? Christ is the light.

Imprisoned by addictions? Christ offers release.

In these little moments when we seem weakest and furthest away from God, we turn to the servant to see and cherish our own small beginnings of grace.

 

This post originally appeared on an older blog. I reposted it here because the single post on the new blog looked so very lonely.