I remember I stopped dead in my tracks. I had been walking along the flat, dark shale bed of the ravine behind my grandfather’s farmhouse in southern Indiana. There on the ground, still in perfect alignment, lay the skeleton of a cow that had wandered away one winter many years ago and had slipped and fallen into the ravine. The bones lay in precise order—the head bone connected to the neck bone, the neck bone connected to the back bone, and so on.
God calls us out of the metaphorical tombs in which we are buried: addiction, hopelessness, guilt. But I believe God also calls us out of the tangible tombs of entrenched poverty, poor education, and limited opportunity.
To understand what I am going to tell you, you need to know that my parents were scientists and that my mother’s mind had a decidedly unpoetic bent. Nonetheless, they read me poems from the time I was very young because they paid attention to what gladdened my spirit.
It was a hard time. I was not sure of a direction, and felt like my movement was blocked at every turn. I felt like I had made many mistakes, and was not sure yet if they were fatal mistakes. I wasn't sure if my gifts were valued, or even if my gifts were worth valuing.
Near the end of serving my last church, I helped a family bury their 44-year old brother. But he was also son, husband, father, and grandfather. Let’s call him Sam. One of eight children, Sam met and married his wife when they were teenagers. Soon, they gave birth to two daughters. And the daughters had children.
Many at the funeral were under 50, and quite a few were parents with kids. Throughout the service there were bursts of giggles and sudden loud cries. For the children, a sanctuary was unfamiliar, even unsettling.