Nondescript, yet funky, the bookstore stood as a refuge from the mad world careening by, just beyond its plate glass windows. It was a tranquil setting, an oasis for those who wished to revel in a few moments of self-indulgence. Sentinel like, the books upon the shelves silently supported each other as if tired from the thoughts and passages of time. Yet, under the watchful eye of the shop proprietor, the recorded nuances and reflections of life offered beckoning pages of picture and word to the seeker.
She entered in a charming and expressive way, full of life and spontaneity. In the proffered silence, amid the racks of books something caught her attention. Bending low to examine the treasure of her pursuit, an embarrassing and all resounding resonance of ripping material cascaded off the shop walls echoing in the ears of those caressing their literary choice. Caught in an unredeemable predicament, the young woman stood up and in an audible yet, unflappable voice asked “…and the diet section would be?”
For better or for worse the unexpected is always present. It is an unpredictable force that seems to demand our attention. Potentially delightful, but at times equally disruptive it can test to the core. Whether through curiosity, challenge, anger or opportunity, taking ownership of such moments and turning them into stages of nurture and growth is paramount. Such is especially prudent for the Christian, for by proclaiming a belief, a faith and a story, moments of awkwardness, embarrassment and even fear will beckon throughout the pages and chapters of life. It is our call, our mandate and our mission to respond with discernment, purpose, knowledge and wit, thereby offering witness to God through Christ with unflappable grace, proclaiming the eternal title on the book of life “…to God be the glory!”
Certain things from my childhood days, beyond the friends and the escapades of growing up remain etched in my mind. One of the haunting memories is the peel of bells. It seemed that no matter where I was it was only a matter of time before I would hear their toll echoing across the countryside. They offered a primordial call to an ordered discipline of prayer and devotion as the day was transformed from the business of doing to the stillness of being in relation to the Almighty. Especially significant on the Sabbath, I was drawn to ring them, to learn of their intricacies, to feel the rope between my palms and to hear the clapper hammer its note home.
I remember the day when I thought my dream was to come true. My Father had been posted to a new military base and we were leaving the congregation. It was the perfect send off for a little boy. As the priest stood beside the car saying his farewells to the family, he put his arm on my shoulder and pointing to the steeple said, “It is to bad that you are moving for next year you would have been old enough to ring the bells.” Crushed, I turned away with a grieving heart and more than a few tears.
Though the years passed, I carried the hurt of that moment deep inside. Upon my own ordination, I vowed with the best of intent to never prohibit anyone from ringing the church bells. Recognizing that I may be breaking an age-old order of the “ Carillon and Bell Ringers Society”, I prefer to do so than to shatter a little one’s heart.
Not so long ago I found myself looking up at the infamous steeple and at the un-rung bells of my youth. I entered St. Jude’s and spoke with the receptionist who in turn spoke to the curate. He emerged with the keys to the belfry and said, “Mr. Dean, let me right a wrong.” Forty years late, I rang those bells to my heart’s content conscious of our Savior’s words “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.”