A thing of beauty, part 2
The heavy doors of the Byzantine Chapel swung shut behind me, sealing the cool air inside the building. All at once, I was back out in the infamous Houston humidity. As I made my way to my car, a figure danced into my periphery. Turning to the left, I noticed a young man using his bike to carve lazy circles in the parking lot. For some unknown reason, I became apprehensive. I don’t know why – it was bright daylight, a Friday afternoon, and I was in a quiet, well-to-do neighborhood. Something inside me hoped that he wouldn’t talk to me. But of course, he did. The man slowly rode up to me and gave me the biggest smile I’ve ever seen.
“I just got a new bike,” he said, “and I thought I’d bring it over to show Jesus.”
“That’s odd,” I thought. This guy must be nuts. No one takes his or her belongings to “show Jesus”. Besides, this is just a building. Maybe he’s Catholic and the relics actually mean something to him.
All of these thoughts and more further heightened my “flight!” response. However, as he slowed down near my car, I could see that he wasn’t anything I expected. Tall and lean, he was wearing coordinating cycling clothes and nice shoes. His short brown hair, stringy with sweat, framed his piercing blue eyes and playful grin. He balanced himself and his bike with one foot, and kind of puffed out his chest in pride.
“I just got a new bike. What do you think?”
I looked at the specimen. It was silver and clean and it reflected sunbeams. However, the most beautiful thing about it was its absolutely radiant passenger.
“It’s shiny! I think it’s awesome,” I said. He looked so happy, proud that his purchase had been affirmed by someone else. As he began to ride away, he gave me a wave and said, “Thank you for being the first person that I showed it to!” I thanked him and wished him a great weekend. He rode away.
I sat in my car for a moment, allowing the experience to settle. Nothing extraordinary had happened, yet I felt as if time had shifted. I thought back to what the man had said and knew that God was already answering my prayers for a glimpse of Him. I pondered several things, including why I don’t bring things to God as proud offerings. I’m very comfortable with asking God for things and then thanking Him when I get them (or puzzling over the request when I don’t). However, I’ve never brought a new purchase to Him in any sort of dedication or offering as this man had. I was also struck by the way he effortlessly let slip that he was coming to commune with Christ. I always think twice before letting anything like that slip.
I found myself evaluating and re-evaluating every thought that was now ricocheting around inside my skull. The man wove out of the parking lot and began down the street. I knew I should have said something more spiritually uplifting. I should have engaged him in conversation. I should have prayed with him. But, no – all that came to mind was, “your bike is very shiny.” As I backed out of the parking space, I knew I had to say something to him. I chose to exit the Menil via that road he had taken. As I came up alongside him, I rolled down my window and shouted, “God bless you!” He gave me a huge smile, a wave, and then a “Thank you!”. I drove off, feeling strangely elated. All the way home, darting in and out of Houston traffic, this encounter played again and again in my head. I thanked God for the glimpse He had shown me and of His love for all of us. I prayed that I would be in heaven and that this man would as well. It sounds kind of nuts, but I asked God to let me recognize him. Wouldn’t that be wild? I hope I see him there – perhaps I’ll be able to pick him out from the crowd of saints by the circlet of “Jesus is Lord” tattooed to his upper arms.
When is enough enough, and when is it not enough? I’ve gone through too many days in my life thinking that just a smile is enough when perhaps a kind word would be just that bit more that someone needs. Every so often, stuff like this happens that reminds me that life on this earth will end soon and that there is no time better than now to share what we have. If what we have is beautiful and precious, shouldn’t we be so open and free with it? Our faith and our salvation are things of beauty. Rather than the commonplace boring old objects that they’ve become – pale in comparison to our “exciting and busy lives” – we should dust them off and revisit them. Let’s ask Christ to rekindle the fire within us so that we see these promises as the lovely and amazing “pearls of great price” that God intended them to be.
Let them be a thing of beauty.