Monday, February 13, 2012

Of birds and donkeys....

     A couple of nights ago, this verse caught my attention: Psalms 32:8 (Complete Jewish Bible).  It goes like this, "I will instruct and teach you in this way that you are to go; I will give you counsel; my eyes will be watching you."
    As I read this, I thought, "Who wouldn't want instruction from God Himself?"  
   Then I thought about the last part, "My eyes will be watching you..."  In our society, those words can be kind of creepy.  But I don't think the Psalmist meant it that way.  Instead, I think he meant God would watch over us the way a parent does when he sends a child on an errand.  It seems to fit the context here:  I will instruct you and teach you... My eyes will be watching you...
  I thought about when David was younger and I might send him across the street to take something to the neighbor's house.  Because he was small, I would stand in the door way and my eyes would be watching him the whole time, making sure that he crossed the street safely, ready to run to his defense should the neighbor's dog scare him, etc.
  But then another example came to mind, a more serious one.
  About 6 years ago, we had a neighbor who was always slightly drunk in the evenings and who would pass out about 8 or 9 p.m.  I don't know how to say this in a nicer way - basically he was a mellow drunk and even though he was easy to get along with when he was sober, he became even more laid back as he tossed back one beer after another.  It was really a sad situation because the man was  tenderhearted, extremely smart, and very gifted. He could grow any type of flower and landscaped his yard beautifully but then when the flowers came up, he neglected them and they died quickly.  He came over to our house once, half-drunk and even in his inebriated state, he played Chopin from memory on our piano and it sounded wonderful.  His life was a mass of contradictions but in the end, alcoholism won out over all his giftedness.
   This man had a 12-year-old son and the son was passed back and forth between foster care, grandmother, mother, and dad.  The mother also had an alcohol problem although the last I heard, she won her battle by sticking with AA and had gotten an associates degree in middle age, a major accomplishment.
   At any rate, during one period when the boy was with his father, things changed suddenly. One night the boy, Michael (not his real name), came running over to our house, wide-eyed and breathless, saying, "My dad is mean. Real mean. I'm not kidding. I gotta hide." It was early June and we'd had our door open for the evening breeze so Michael just ran straight into our house and didn't stop until he was in our son's closet with the door closed.
  We didn't know it at the time but Michael was taking pills twice a day for ADHD until the dad started giving Michael one pill and taking the other one himself. Needless to say, this was not a good combination. Practically speaking, it meant that when the dad should have been falling off  to sleep, he became wired and hostile instead.
  After Michael ran into our house, the dad came over to our fence, asking for his son. By that time, he was relatively calm, saying over and over again  that the boy should come home so he wouldn't be a nuisance to us. I pretty much  kept apologizing for having promised Michael that he could spend the night without consulting the dad first and as I went on talking about how both boys would be disappointed if Michael couldn't stay, the dad gave in.
  This went on every night for a couple of weeks and on most of those evenings, by the time the father got around to coming to our house to ask for his son, he was okay to talk to and Michael got to stay without any problem. One night however, the dad was loud and belligerent  when he came to the fence. I went out to meet him, praying as I went, not knowing what else to do.  (The child had told us what was going on but insisted he would not tell authorities because he would never get his dad into trouble. He really loved his dad and during the day, his dad was sober).  This night, the dad demanded Michael, insisting that he was a lazy brat who needed to work his butt off, do his chores,  and learn some manners, etc.  The father's words were slurred but he was pretty steady on his feet and I had no idea where our conversation would end up.
   Basically I used my nicest voice and just told the dad that I was so sorry but I had already put the boys to working on chores in our house - he would argue and I would just keep on  explaining how hard Michael was working  and how much David needed his help getting his room cleaned up, vacuuming, etc.    We batted this back and forth for a while but then the dad suddenly caved in and agreed that Michael could stay one more night.
  Eventually the whole thing came to a head on Father's Day, unfortunately. Because at that time the father forced his son to go home  with him that night, even though the boy was sick and had been lying on our couch, throwing up. Bottom line: the dad had used up all of Michael's prescription and he didn't want us to know that there was no evening pill to give the child.  So he dragged Michael home against our protests.  Before we could call the authorities, the boy broke away from his dad, came back to our house and used our phone to call his mom.  At that time, she had entered AA, was sober,  and was able to come and get him.  A scene ensued between the mom and dad - a shouting match really. But  Michael was in the back seat of the car throughout that scene, no one actually came to blows, and within a few minutes, the mom was able to drive off with the boy and he was able to live with her.
   You may be wondering what this has to do with Ps. 32:8 and God keeping His eyes on us.
   Back to that evening when Michael's dad was pretty belligerent and I was praying the whole time I was talking to him;  one reason I had the courage to go out and talk to the dad was because I knew  my husband had slipped out onto the carport and was standing in the shadows watching everything, ready to move at the slightest sign that I might be in trouble.  I knew the dad could go ballistic but I also knew that Phil  was serious about defending me and also very capable of doing it.  At the same time, as long as the dad didn't make a move toward me and my words still had a chance of getting through to him,  I knew Phil would  watch and wait and pray for a peaceful resolution.
   I was nervous talking to the dad that night, but nothing like I would have been if I hadn't known that Phil's eyes were on me the whole time.
   Sometimes God sends us along paths that are complicated and maybe scary to us. The Psalmist goes on to say  that we shouldn't act like a mule who has to have a bit and bridle to make it obey.  Mules balk because they are scared or because they think they have a better plan than their owners. Sometimes I do the same:)

   Still,  God is our father and He  knows we feel uneasy or even at times  want to  "put our ears back" and say "No way am I gonna do that! You've got to be kidding!!".  That's why He gives us instruction and promises to keep on counseling us as we go forward. And then, on top of that, He assures us  that His eyes will never leave us the whole time we are talking  to that unknown neighbor or walking  into that hospital room with a bouquet of flowers held in clammy hands, not sure what we will see, or standing up in a civic group to voice an unpopular opinion.  We are His hands and feet and the truth is: He has a deep love for even "the least of these"; yes, even  for a dad who has a drinking problem and  a young son who loves him.

1 comment:

  1. great post. grateful that His eyes are on the sparrow and on me