February wanes, and with loud laughter. Today sings to me that spring will be soon! A late afternoon sun plays her accompaniment to Saturday’s song, with her rich, golden notes that surge strong upon chilly bursts of wind. All the world beneath her hears the music, and some of us tap our toes. It’s not an impatient tap, but one that contentedly enjoys the Now by joining in on this harbinger-song of spring.
The evening is exquisite and I share River Road Park with Jeff, who shares Duke with me. We walk briskly. At intervals, Duke paces between our bodies or drifts away from us. Jeff holds his lead with strong arms. I’m enjoying the adventure of this new friend. -Who knows where it will take us?
Our conversation, curious and bright, mimics the weather. We share smiles and warm greetings with the handful of humans we pass along the trail. Duke drinks the river. I drink the colors. Jeff drinks my presence beside his. He does not speak to win my affection, to impress me. He is just Jeff, and that’s attractive.
He’s concerned for his parents’ happiness at 62, 63.
–That’s sweet, Jeff, I say with brio.
He conjoins, “Well, I just think that when I’m in their shoes, I want to be happy.”
–And happy at 35 (his age, at present). And 32 (my age, at present), I add, my face shining at his, with meaning.
“Oh there are moments when I’m happy. I’m happy right now,” his voice rises, hopeful and lite at the end, and he shines back at me.
I am listening to his words, to the emotion behind them, and I ponder. Happiness can be a raw and redemptive conversation, if only gently thrust in the right direction. But I won’t thrust. I won’t manipulate this conversation. In this moment my soul is me, at rest. My voice trills, natural, into a pleased, girlish laugh -I’m happy right now, too, and I cast an enquiring glance at him.
But Jeff is looking downward and, uninterrupted by me, tries to continue his thought: “I know He doesn’t give me more than I can handle…” but his voice trails off at the end, revealing that his thought in its fullness, though perhaps true, is dissatisfying to his soul.
Simple, I answer him with a question. –Why do you believe that, Jeff?
“That God won’t give me more than I can handle? Well I’ve always believed that,” turning to me, “and besides, it’s true.” But again his voice ends with a question.
Gently, I probe deeper. -Yes, but how did you get the original thought? From where did it come?
Jeff, pensive, “I guess my mom has always said it.”
We have turned to each other during this brief exchange and time has slowed. Quickly, not to avoid his gaze but in thought, I turn away from him. –I wonder where she got it.
“So you don’t believe—“ Jeff is beginning to guess the motive of my questioning. He's right. I don't believe that little axiom, not theologically nor practically nor experientially.
We’re walking slower, stepping intentional. My thoughts form with each step, building. He has invited my reply and I say -Life itself is so full of more than I can handle. That’s the point, I’m looking downward, scanning where my feet will walk, it’s why I need Jesus.
Sun sets red behind February’s naked trees. I turn my face to Jeff and I am a flash, a grin. The sun catches my eyes and lights them into a green blaze. -Every day life gives me more than I can handle, Jeff. That’s why I need Jesus. Every day.