Saturday, October 5, 2019

Dance Parties and the Dean

"Rhythm 'n' Blues Portraits" by Chiara Tovazzi is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

It was after the dance party.

After I had shown him black and white television footage of timeless classic dance songs, and I had danced wildly around the green carpeted living room. He had curled up in a black and white zebra blanket while I showed him The Token's "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," the Beach Boys' "Surfing U.S.A." and The Temptations' "My Girl." He had grinned weakly, and bobbed a small foot occasionally. Queuing up grainy black and white video footage of the Beetles singing "I Want to Hold Your Hand," we had watched and grinned at the screaming, star-struck girls in the crowd. I sang along and clicked the next song.

"This is Chubby Checkers teaching a popular dance back then called 'The Twist,'" I told him. Laughing and weaving, I had tried it out, spinning around in black exercise pants and a yellow college t-shirt.

Daniel had grinned, his face looking pale. On day two of feeling ill, he was weaker than yesterday, and nausea had added to his symptoms. Sore throat, chills, intermittent fevers, runny nose, and aching shaky legs... the last part sounds like the beginning of a fifties song, doesn't it? Poor guy.

This morning we cancelled an afternoon play date with a moved-away neighbor friend, and had settled in for a cozy rainy sick day. He laid around the house most of the day, my sweet eleven year old, moaning and faint. Coughs and weak sighs expressed his heart. I poured coffee and curled up beside him in comfort, running my fingers across his forehead, or curling the hair at the back of his head.

Mid-afternoon, the house was silent. Daniel slept in a blanket nest on the living room floor, and I sat quietly nearby, reading and studying. Scratching pen across paper, I wrote out portions of an ancient psalm from the Bible, its words filling me.

"Oh how I love your law! 
I meditate on it all day long," Psalm 119:97 had said.

Well, I want this, God, I had written it to him, writing the verses out again this time as prayers, saying, I want this to be me, I want this to be my attitude. The psalm continued, pointing out the source for wisdom, insight, and understanding, and I wrote each verse out in prayer and excitement.

And then a line caught me, and it swelled my heart. In tender love, God declared it boldly. In a world abounding in podcasts and experts and coaches for hire on every website, God tucked this truth into his word. "I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me," Psalm 119:102 said.

You yourself have taught me? God is the one teaching me? He is my teacher? And suddenly it seemed so intimate, so bold, so audacious and wild to think that I had access to the God of the World. Like a college dean who offered daily appointments for me, the image struck me in a new way. With my computer email inbox overflowing with experts clamoring for me to buy their courses, to sign up for their online lessons, to buy their latest books, we have a God -- the God-- who says he teaches me. He teaches you. The intimacy of it hasn't worn off yet. The God of the Universe is my teacher, and his heart is gentle, encouraging, and it helps me to not depart from his law, he says.

Half an hour later, my pen still scribbling in joyful journal prayer, Daniel stirred and woke up.

"Hey bud."

After the dance party and the simple supper that he was too weak to eat much of, we sat together on the green carpet floor. He was swirled in his zebra blanket, and we stared outside at the fast-flying clouds. The rain slowed. Grey clouds moved on, and the sun slipped in and out from behind the storm.

I traced his forehead and cocked my head, trying to remember any and every worship song I knew. I sang and sang, wanting Daniel to know his source of strength, this foundation of God's love that is never shaken, and this God who walks beside us always.

Running low on choruses, I picked up the refrain of "Jesus Loves Me," and he startled me. In a quiet whisper, Daniel sang along, "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong, they are weak, but he is strong." Daniel's tiny cheek moved as he sang from his spot on my lap, small mouth moving as his face lay half hidden on my leg. "Yes, Jesus loves me, yes, Jesus loves me, yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so."

His voice trailed off, his eyes still shut, and he lay there quietly, waiting for the next song. I chose one he knew, and we both sang along.

In sickness, we can still sing. How I love your words, God, your presence, your truth. They teach us, give us wisdom, and help us make wise choices. They sustain us in the storms, and in the sickness we can still sing. 



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