Sunday, January 29, 2012

Incident at a Bus Station

During my college life in the mid-seventies I carried on a long distance love affair. Most of my readers know how problematic such an arrangement can be; but when you’re in love, no obstacle is so high that it can’t be overcome. And we were in love.

On one of those storied warm and dry summer evenings that would prove instrumental in transforming the sleepy little city of Colorado Springs of my day to the urban sprawl of today, my girlfriend and I sat in the bus station waiting for the 9:15 to Denver.

The crowd was fairly sparse that night. A thirty-something woman sat alone reading a book on a bench that made up one side of a U of which ours was the horizontal member. The remaining bench of the triad was vacant. An older couple sat on one of several benches behind us; he read a newspaper while she knitted something from out of a large tote at her side. Paula and I held hands, quietly recounting the events of her visit and making plans for the future.

At some point during this serene public happening, a twenty-something man staggered his way into the depot. Quintessential in his attire of bellbottom jeans, sandals, paisley shirt, turquoise jewelry, and long unkempt hair, the stranger moved about the room hesitantly as if he were in two different places at the same time. He ended his meanderings standing before us in a state of calm agitation.

With each twitch, shiver, shake, and shift of his body, my admiration of the human brain grew. I marveled at how his brain worked deftly through what had to be nearly insurmountable adversity in order to keep him erect. He paused as if trying to remember something before he spoke.

“Hey, man,…d…an…to…y…am…id?”

“What was that?” I replied.

He blinked a few times, and repeated, “Hey, man, …d…an…to…y…am…id?”

This time Paula answered, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand you.”

Then from what appeared to be nowhere, a flash of lucidity that would only last a moment, like the glow of a firefly, managed to part the clouds in his mind; a luster returned to his dull bloodshot eyes. He looked at Paula, then me, and back at her. Convinced we were genuinely interested in what he had to say, he straightened his head and said, “Hey, man,…do you…ant…to buy…sum… acid?”

Oh,” Paula and I responded in stereo, “no, no thank you.”

Our disinterest with his wares didn't seem to bother him much. He collected himself, made some calculations in his head to negotiate the necessary turn, and stumbled over to the woman with the book. We watched to see what sort of pitch he would use on her.

“Hey, man,…d…an…to…y…am…id?”

She looked up from her reading. “What?”

“Hey, man,…d…an…to…y…am…id?”


The would-be salesman heaved a deep sigh, tried to stand more straight, and said, “Hey, man,…do ya…want…buy…sum… acid?”

The woman scrunched up her face, and said, “No.” She paused as if convincing herself she was even having the conversation, shook her head slightly, repeated, “No,” and plunged back into her book.

By this stage, the doings of the curious fellow fully engrossed us. We were careful, however, to avoid gawking at him. Instead, we discretely followed his erratic movements, periodically exchanging glances of amusement. Eventually he made his way to the cluster of benches behind us. Paula peeked around surreptitiously and nudged me. He had landed in front of the older couple. He hovered there a moment as he had done with us and the woman, and recited his script.

"Hey, man,…d…an…to…y…am…id?”

The old man let the top of his newspaper dip slightly, and peered up at the stoned quest. His wife stopped her knitting and also attended the stranger. Her husband said, “What’s that?”

Flailing his arms, the hippie complained, “OH, WOW, MAN!,” and hurried for the exit, catching himself on a trash receptacle here and a pole there on his way out.

In the morning, a couple of weeks later, I was sitting in the same station waiting for the 10:15 from Denver, when a voice came from behind me: “Hey, man, wanna buy some acid?”

I turned to find my dad in his three piece business suit. Knowing I’d be there waiting for Paula, he had snuck in from his office only a block away. He always does cool stuff like that; sometime I’ll have to tell you how he came home one evening with a 45 rpm recording of Hey Jude when it first came out because he had heard it on the radio during his lunch hour and liked it; or, because another girl I had liked had a near obsession for carnivals and carnies, my dad went to a carnival one afternoon and took the owner out for a cup of coffee just to learn what it was all about. I’m telling you, they don’t make many fathers like mine anymore.

Do you see God’s love at work in my father’s actions? God’s love says I understand your situation because I have come to your level—your world. My dad left his own adult world and comfort zone to enter my world to try to see things through my eyes. Similarly, but at a scale beyond comprehension, God took on flesh and dwelled with us. Not that God needed to learn something about us—the infinite/ personal God knows everything and is unchangeable—but lowered Himself that we might be assured of His great love for us, and confidently trust Him. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way: Therefore since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.[NET]

God’s love also protects. It recognizes our weaknesses and our blindness, runs interference for us, and opens our eyes to the dangers ahead. My father went before me to see what I probably didn’t see in my twitterpation, so he could effectively guide me to safety. As the Psalmist avers, our Father in heaven loves us the same way: Indeed, you are my lamp, Lord. My God illuminates the darkness around me. Indeed, with your help I can charge against an army; by my God’s power I can jump over a wall. The one true God acts in a faithful manner; the Lord’s promise is reliable; he is a shield to all who take shelter in him. [NET]

My father’s actions illustrate for us why we can confidently walk with King Jesus by faith in His kingdom; God is faithful to His promises to keep us secure and progress us in His kingdom, even in our ignorance or self-deceptions.


Jeff said...

A good Chemist would have asked "You got any hydrochloric?"