The Very Scraping Bottom

Some time ago, I spent an afternoon with an old high-school friend and a few other buddies watching some football. My friend is not married and has no children. Now I love this guy – we go waaay back – but the more time passes, the more it feels like trying to have one foot on the escalator and one foot off. Eventually the pants are gonna rip. It’s a strange feeling growing up, getting older. We grow apart even though we are only being ourselves; our pool of common experiences is getting smaller and smaller in the rear-view mirror.

The couches, the pizza, the big screen TV. The intimate knowledge of every player on every team in every sport, the multiple fantasy pools, the sports betting. I’ve no right to look down on all this, because I not only used to dwell there, I am the exact same way in miniature (okay – except for the betting). Their life’s orientation is my occasional indulgence; what they does with varsity-level expertise I dabble in as an amateur.

I don’t look down on it, at least I try not to, but at the same time I am ruined for it. A conflict arises within: in my times of lazy abdication I yearn and seek after this very thing, but which when held in my hands turns out to be so empty and slight. A parable for any lust. This is the land of which my escapism speaks to me in hushed whispers and crooked smiles – that grass more green – and yet it is all a mirage. The reality is a lonely belch echoing through empty bedrooms. Not to be too dramatic about it.

What I found myself wanting to do upon leaving was go home and kiss my sleeping children on the head, take in a deep breath of their hair, and pray a silent prayer over them.

Leaning against the doorpost in that darkened room and holding my wife’s hand, I am simply amazed by the loveliness of a child’s face.

To borrow from Marylinne Robinson in Gilead, those faces makes a claim on me, a claim that goes to the very scraping bottom of my soul.

And I, if the leap can be made, must make a similar claim on my heavenly Father, just by my existing. Now that is something.

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