Every so often we put the breaks on debating theological positions and share an experience, a song, a rap (Dwayne), or some poetry. I’d like to share a bit of a journey my family has been on. Hope you don’t mind.
I have four amazing children. They all grew up as missionary kids in a cross-cultural context. Half my life and most of my kids’ lives have been spent outside the United States in the Middle East. As our kids approached their eighteenth birthday, their Mom and I would settle on a ‘life-gift’ that captured each child’s call, gifting and personality. Our oldest daughter’s gift was a ‘compass’. She’s a therapist now. Our oldest son’s gift was a ‘cymbal’. He’s a worship leader on staff at a church in Texas. Our youngest son’s lift-gift was a special ‘magnifying glass’. He’s a composer (among other things), very focused. Jessica’s lift-gift was a ‘kaleidoscope’. She’s colorful, creative, adventurous and artsy. If you don’t have anything else to read, you can find the stories behind their life-gifts here.
Jessica left home a year ago and became a third-grade teacher in Beirut, Lebanon, at the same British school she attended growing up there as a missionary kid. And while there she met and fell in love with a young Syrian gentleman, Samer, a musician/artist. No surprises on the musician/artist part! Now, since this is a theological blog about the Christian faith, I might as well confess that I was challenged with — what’s the word? — ‘processing’, ‘digesting’, ‘accepting’, ‘making room for’ the fact that Samer is Muslim. I wasn’t quite really read for that. Just to be clear, at university Jessica struggled with her own Christian faith and heritage and ended up renegotiating her values and commitments. We all have to own our beliefs, and in the end ‘Christianity’ wasn’t a good fit for her, so she’s not a ‘Christian’ by any conventional definition. And Samer it seems is in a similar position with respect to his own faith tradition. Be all that as it may, they are both engaged and hope to marry next year.
There are a lot of words floating around in my mind that express bits and pieces of what I feel about all this, and those words haven’t yet all fallen into place to form meaningful sentences. But I know this much — I love my daughter without condition. And I don’t think I’ll have any trouble loving Samer as unconditionally as I have my own children. I’m beyond wanting or needing to pass judgment on the paths that others take. That takes too much time and energy away from what I need to do to stick to my own path. I think if I get my own path sufficiently right, I just might make following Jesus an amazingly inviting option to others. If not, what’s the point? That’s all I’m working on at this juncture in my life. So it may surprise many of my religious friends to hear me as a Christian minister say it, but I’m looking forward to welcoming Samer into my home and heart. It’s brand new territory for me. But given my faith, hey, all territory is Christ at work anyway. So I can be at home wherever I find myself.
All of that to introduce Jessica’s poem (each of our kids have their own I wrote for them). Hope you enjoy it.
Your Eyes tell Blue To Be —
Jessica, your eyes tell blue to be
And form the skies for sailors set to sea;
From your hair gold acquires its fair hue;
And your tears when shed become the morning dew;
Where‘er you trod the sky is a cathedral made,
The ground beneath your feet a pew within its shade
Where weary souls, bowed low in offered prayer,
Find sacrament and grace imparted there.
Earth’s finest moments do within your smile combine
And in your eyes colors all rest until you bid them shine
By gazing on a world whose heavy darkness weighs it down;
The joys it finds become upon your brow a crown.
Oh how can this meek poetry of mine proclaim
The beauties that lie restlessly within your name?
Shakespeare set you first upon Venetian streets*
Where he with a more sacred text by far competes;
For Holy Writ describes the wealth which your name frees,
The treasure of our knowing that Jehovah sees**.
From your first days you saw within all colors charm
And could by no means bring the smallest thing to harm;
But when your touch or stroke of pen or colored brush applied
No darkness of the mind or heart could ‘ere abide,
But all would spring to life and take its final form
In celebration of life’s pleasures there adorned;
Oh sweet child! You have brought a father’s heart such rest,
Safe from life’s storms I am with you locked deep within my chest.
When first in Venice it was said, “All that glitters is not gold,”
Who could have known the truest treasure would be just to hold
Within my arms the art and beauty that you are and in your eyes to see
The place where God decided to bring blue to be.
* The first appearance of the name “Jessica” in English is in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.
** “Jessica” is the Anglicized form of the Hebrew ‘yiskah’ (the niece of Abraham, daughter of Haran, in the book of Genesis). It means “Jehovah sees.”