Twenty-five years after Praying the Prayer, when my new life was supposed to snap in place like elastic, the smell of crisp, store-rack cotton propelling me to run with endurance toward a finish line I could not see,
I lie on the couch with a sour-smelling terrier curled in the crook of my leg. Today I will bathe him, punch through three Keurig cups, run a trumpet book to the grammar school. No martyrdom here, no preaching in the streets, though tomorrow I might plant another bag of daffodils so in April I can kneel in the gold and thank All Things New once more.
But now I turn my eyes to things above in the window, squirrels gibbering in the canopy of my backyard maple. I doze and wake to their claws skittering down the trunk, mentally etch the face of Christ in the bark.
He doesn’t need me. He wants me. Neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, tired nor on fire. I will slip into newness again, fluff the shaking, sodden dog in His name as He drapes me with his soft and silent weaving.
Back in the mid-1990s I wrote a book on sin. Each of us knows sin experientially, of course, but few of us know it comprehensively even in that way because we are parochial even in our sinning. So I had to study sin. For a couple of years I read about sin in the Bible. I read commentaries on the Bible, theological encyclopedia articles and books on virtue and vice.
“Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” Most of us can identify with that request. It’s only fair: each member should receive their own portion of a family’s wealth when the time comes to divide it.
Ken Pyle was in his final year at Louisville’s Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1966 when he met Sheila. She drove up to a barbecue in her ’64 convertible with her dark hair flowing and her guitar in hand—and Ken was smitten. But as Sheila was divorced with two young sons, she was not the sort of wife that Ken’s denomination had in mind for him.