March 10, 2013
Sunday, 11:00 a.m.
Letter #268: Muddle in the Puddle
One of the greatest blessings about living in Arizona is the vastness of the sky. Truly spectacular in size and scope, it provides an endless display of God’s creativity as He splashes pastels across its canvas. Many times a week I am stunned by a new skyscape of colors and clouds all orchestrated by the Master’s Hand and inadequately explained away by weathermen as “shifting weather patterns.” It’s all in your perspective.
It rained overnight, and in the morning as I walked to visit I was pleased to see Olympic swimming-pool-sized puddles framed by cement walkways. Our normally dusty, plain-dirt facility had been transformed into a beautiful Japanese tea garden oasis, minus the ornate buildings and Koi fish. My fascination with puddles had me gazing longingly at one, plotting a mud football match with immediate shower, post-victory.
An officer, seeing my gleeful observation of the out-of-bounds puddles, called out to me that he’d pay me “$20 to roll in one, right now.” I laughed. One of the yard crew inmates hauling trash bins to the dumpsters had to wait at Gate 5 with me, as we both needed an officer escort to proceed. The air was fresh and cold and felt like a ski lift deposited me there. I pointed out the sky, resplendent in a myriad of tones, as if God had spilled a carton of Rainbow Sherbet ice cream then tossed handfuls of cotton balls into the mess as He watched it melt. “Isn’t God awesome, to give us such beauty to look at?”
The yard crew worker looked up from his trash to see the flavorful sky above. He nodded. “I never get tired of it,” he mused.
I noticed that I could see an exact reflection of the sky in the massive puddle I’d just passed by. Bright blotches of color swam in the puddle with puffy white islands strewn about. And something else was in the puddle with the sky: barbed-wire loops atop a chain-link fence. Out of place in the midst of soft colors, it seemed to snag the cloud puffs, holding them in the puddle as they struggled to free themselves from its grasp. A light breeze rippled the puddle’s surface and disturbed the reflected image, freeing the clouds and my thoughts with them.
There is a man in my pod housing unit who everyone thinks is crazy. Whether actually insane or not, he certainly acts the part, often dancing oddly, speaking in a high falsetto, or laughing for no apparent reason. My new resolve to speak to men here about their relationship with God and a prompting by the Holy Spirit led me to ask him how he was doing. He gave a cheesy fake smile and said he’s doing fine. I pressed further, asking more specifically how he was doing with his health. He got serious. “One day at a time,” he told me, revealing that he is taking medication for his failing liver, heart problems, diabetes, back pain, and high blood pressure. Poor choices in life have affected his health, and he knows that prison life has saved him from himself.
I asked him what he thinks will happen to him once he dies, and he shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know—Heaven or Hell, but I’ll find out soon enough.” With no hope for the future, he’s stuck looking down at his circumstances. I had to leave for choir just then, so we said we’d talk more later.
I know I have to get him to look up from what he thinks he knows about life and see the splendor of God wanting to bless his life with an eternity unfettered by the puddles and barbed-wire of this broken life he’s created. I Corinthians says it this way in chapter 13, verse 12: “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.”
God, help me see as You see. Beyond circumstances or fences or quirky personalities, I want to look up to You—Your will for me, and Your saving grace that others need.