The tremulous touch of God’s presence is the palpable essence of electricity in the air before lightning touches the barren earth and thunder roars across the sky. This was what I felt when I encountered you. The hair raising slowness of breath when one encounters the Divine. Yet you, the unassuming, the plain, the patchwork pattern of a human being, knew not what was hidden behind your graying cataract eyes. Could you possibly have known? Could it possibly have been you? Cross knitted eyebrows and deeply etched forehead disguised in the baggy weightless clothing of a man lost under his own skies; I found God.
I suppose it took me a while to get to this point. I looked and searched for where it was that I found you, made up my own stories or even pretended I never felt your touch, but now I see with eyes wide open when it was that I saw your face truly for the first time. It was here. Tel Aviv, Israel, lost in the whirlwind of pigeons taking flight, creatures finding their wings, that I first encountered the divine. It may sound silly or even slightly deranged, but it is true, maybe even the truest part of me, that has seen within the faces of ordinary men, the image from which we were created. Felt the lightnings grip grab hold of my heart strings and play my soul like a harp into the deafening thunder of life’s storm. This was the first.
Another day in Israel. I walked in a huge group of my peers and as we moved on from one place to the next I noticed the swarm. The ebb and flow of flight and earth, of nourishment and hallowed hollowness. A man stood in their midst throwing crumbs to the birds who encircled him. He, the host of these winged creatures, the eye of the storm. In the flight of the birds he looked up and gazed right at me. Out of the entire group of forty, I was the one he locked eyes with and I felt the staggering weight of a gaze I could not hold. I thought him homeless, and when he stopped what he was doing to make his way to where I stood, I felt as if I could not breathe. That if I could hold my breath long enough, I could stop the world from spinning, could stop his feet from moving, but he knew the path he had to travel whether I willed it or not. I was afraid of the stranger who approached so directly, who stared deeply into my eyes without ever knowing me, but some how, unwavering and unquestionably he knew. I was afraid as he came so close, and I knew not what to do or where to turn. To shout? To retreat? To escape this force of nature bound in the humble being of this man. I did nothing. I stood still, wired by his electricity that only I seemed to see.
He came to me with open hands, he came to me and called me mother, sister, daughter, he called me home. He looked into my eyes and told me that here, here I would always have a home. He told me he would give me the shirt off his back. He told me that he had nothing, but would give me whatever I asked. He told me I would always have a place to rest my head. He told me that I was home. Why? Because we were family. Because we all were tied beyond the binding of blood, bound by our utter being. We are one, we all have the same Father, and he his son and I his daughter.
He did not even know my name, yet he offered me all he had and beyond that, he offered me what he knew would and always had belonged to me, love. He offered me the obvious, the object of my desire that I had time and time again always failed to see. An eternal love that was beyond me, beyond him into the electricity of non-being.
His gaze never left my eyes as he offered, as he gave, as he sacrificed, as he begged me to understand. I didn’t. Days, weeks, months later, I didn’t understand. But now, now I finally think I am beginning to understand what it was his aging eyes begged of me. He was asking me to come home.
I had long ago lost the way, found myself in a dark wood where the forward way was lost with no Virgil to guide me. I had wandered into the desolation of my own accord, blaming the world, blaming him, and not understanding that through it all and finally at the end of it all, it was Him begging me to come home.
He was not homeless. He had a home that was open and welcome to all who cared to stop and listen to his kind empathetic words. He was direct and almost frightening, but only to the eye that knew not what he was. Strength is frightening, especially when we are so weak, but that does not make it cruel. He seemed a beggar because he was. He was the father begging the son to come home. The mother begging for the life of her children. Begging, broken and bruised, he begged for me, he begged for you. If there be only one righteous, let them live. Let them live let them live.
I didn’t know it yet, but at that very moment the lightning flash of this encounter resurrected me, brought me back to life into this utterly new being. Brought to life in the eye of the storm, I have not yet found my way out of the darkness but with new life comes new strength to forge on into the great unknown. I can, I finally can, knowing that at the end of every road is my ever welcoming home.