The Apple of His Eye

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Whump!! They come out of the blue. What is the purpose of your life? What will you have gained at the end of your life? What is your life worth? These questions are innocuous in themselves. It is what they insinuate. That I did not have a purpose in life. That what I did until now, was of no consequence to anyone. That I was worthless and useless and my choices meant I would end up alone and friendless. My significance roller-coastered to nothingness in the blink of an eye. Till I remembered “your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour:

It happens to the best of us. When we’re least prepared for it. An event, a word, a meeting, a comparison will set us off questioning our self-worth and actions. What is my ministry accomplishing? Am I a good Mom? Am I making the right choices? Should I be making more money? Am I obedient enough? Maybe I should just listen to my neighbours. Maybe I should invest in some real estate. Will I ever make a difference? Questions that never end. Questions that depress, gnaw and takes one to edge of sanity. Questions that dam the flow of hope and evaporate purpose from life.

Though such reactions are natural and sometime bog us down for days and weeks, what we must understand is that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy“. To destroy our peace, to destroy our relationship with Christ our strength and to destroy the Church. Nothing affords the evil one greater joy.“It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” says C.S.Lewis in his celebrated book The Screwtape Letters.

But what a pitiful foe he makes. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” Jesus has given us the assurance that no one, NO ONE can snatch us out of the Father’s hand. In Zec 2:8, an angel declares about Israel, “whoever touches you touches the apple of His eye“. We are the apple of His eye. We are the people, for whom when we were still enemies of God, He sent His Son to die for us. We are the one of whom He has said “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

I am reminded of an illustration I heard the other day about David, when he was a shepherd boy tending his sheep. I would imagine that the sheep he tended would be part of his inheritance later on. When a lion or a bear carried off a sheep, he went after it, struck and rescued the sheep from it’s mouth. David knew who it was he had placed his trust in to rescued him from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear. That is all we need. To wrench our inheritance of peace, of righteousness, of holiness, of sonship from jaws of the roaring lion. “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

 

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So long, Will Estes

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It was a beautiful autumn day in October, a Saturday. I was having lunch with my cousin at the corner Italian restaurant. He had flown in from Houston to help me house hunt. To find a place to live, to call home for the next year or so, in Stamford.

There was a big stone church, yellow leaves chasing each other in their annual fall ballet, grand parents taking their grand children out for a stroll. I maintained I would never stay anywhere else. Not after the sidewalk cafes, the promise of farmers markets in the summer,  the public library in walking distance and two theaters that existed to screen movies that were Oscar winners in some obscure category and almost never ran commercially. I was already overwhelmed by the stark beauty of New England, and I felt that Stamford was where Robert Frost met Lorelai Gilmore. Where I would meet poets and dancers, and investment bankers and plumbers and just plain “neighbours”.

I moved in a month later, on a wintry day in November. It’s proximity to New York and my proclivity to travel was my justification to moving into so horrendously expensive a city. It was New York without steroids. We had no subways, but the Metro North Railways of the MTA was what we in Stamford depended on. NYC, New Jersey, Chicago, Houston, Providence, all these journeys started at the Stamford Railroad station, the only reason I never needed a car.

The days and months that passed by was magical. Postcards to India, fairy lights that lit up the streets at night, parades where the whole city turned up with children on their shoulders and wonder in their eyes. The rappelling down of Santa and his reindeer, Santa and his elves on the elf mobile to light the tree at Latham park, the Police Day parade, the St. Patricks Day parade, the Arts and Crafts where the local artisans turned up with their wares. Yes, gypsies and artists, traveling to each city in New England. The Bridal shop and the chocolatier.  McDonalds and the Ferguson Library. How ever, ever can I forget you?

The Mexican super market that slaked my craving for coke late at night, my quiet ache when it closed down when they couldn’t afford it any longer. The over-conscientious guy who was a staff at the local CVS. I never told him how much I admired his attention to detail. The cab drivers, almost without exception, happy to be in a land much fairer than their own. I liked the cabbies. They were available almost any time of the day. I was returning home after watching the Macy’s fireworks on July 4th when heavy rains brought down a tree on the train track. I reach Stamford 3 hours later, but lo and behold, at 1am in the morning, the taxi drivers are out there waiting to ferry us home.

I wouldn’t say that the star dust fell out of my eyes as the months progressed, but I had settled into a routine. I would take the train to South Norwalk to catch a connecting train to Merritt 7. From there, a shuttle to my office building with Leo and me chatting away to glory about the weather. I have to admit, I was far mare accurate than he ever was :). In the winter months, I started taking the train back as well, mainly because any waiting could be done in enclosed environs. And that’s how I met my Will Estes.

I have a voracious appetite for books and TV shows. Even without a TV, being in the US allowed me to surf for good shows, and one that I really ended up liking was Blue Bloods. It had a host of actors already well known, it was a police procedural drama set in New York, with the show revolving around a Catholic Irish family and their lives enmeshed in maintaining law and justice. Mostly, I liked it because it had my favourite ingredient – a moral to every story. Will Estes plays Jamie Reagan, the youngest son of Frank Reagan, who is the Police Commissioner of NYC. Jamie is a junior Police Officer with the NYPD, who has chucked a career as a lawyer after graduating from Harvard, since he feels he could give back more as a Police Officer. He is a moral compass, constant in his integrity. He faces temptations, but always decides to do the right thing. Now you know why I like Will Estes.

I would take the 6 o clock bus from Stamford Train station to my home. And there was this guy who was a dead ringer for Will Estes on the bus every day. The Stamford Will Estes had mousy brown hair and a much slighter build, wore a blue jacket everyday, and a worn out back pack. He always allowed the other passengers to go first and was usually the last to get on the bus. It was his unfailing presence, everyday, at 6pm, in the line to get on the bus that has come to signify everyday life for me.

He may not be Jamie Reagan, but his quietness and ordinariness egged me on to be better than what I am right now. Victory lies in the perseverance of everyday tasks. To keep reading my books, to keep writing, to keep in touch with people near and far, to go the extra mile, because there is such joy in service. I have lived in Stamford for 15 months. Every tree, every crack in the sidewalk, every aisle in CVS is etched in memory. The Ferguson Library will never cease to hold my heart in raptures. I have seen the snow and the sun. As my assignment winds up, I wonder how I can say goodbye. To the wonderful card shop that always brought a smile to those who received a card I’d sent them from there. To the McDonald’s that remained open even at 12am when I wanted some comfort food. To the public library that remained open even in the face of an impending blizzard. To the railroad station that was located exactly 1.3 miles from my apartment and took me everywhere I wanted to go. To the downtown ambassadors. To the folks who put up the lights every winter and made Stamford a magical place. To the dog walkers and picture takers. To the bus driver who let me travel on the bus even though I didn’t have change. (“You ride my bus at least 3 times a week. It could happen to anyone”, he bellowed before I meekly went and sat, offering no more excuses).

How do you say, so long, Will Estes?