For a change, this morning, my dear friend and Music Pastor at Faith Community Church, Kyle Canerday, and I decided to meet at his house in Valdese instead of meeting up somewhere on the mountain for our Friday walk and fellowship. Having had had the week off, it was an excellent opportunity to hike a new route and share in my friend’s usually solo trek. It was a cool but pleasant day for December 31st. There was still a bit of morning mist in the air even at 8:30 as we made our way down the hill and around the curve away from his home.
As we continued up the road, we passed the mailbox of the late Emile Jacumin. I had been fortunate to visit Emile and his family before his passing, thanks partly to his daughter, Lillian, whom I had met at Icard Elementary School when visiting for the Trail of Faith. At her father’s home, she shared with me the research she had been doing into the Waldensian connections to Judaism through Spain. Over the course of our visit, she also shared a piece of history with me that gave me an “Ahah” moment. Looking into the living room, she said that there were no curtains on the windows when they bought the house from the previous owners, original Waldensian immigrants. Lillian noted that ancient Waldensians believe that when Jesus returns, he will come back initially as a bolt of lightning bursting across the sky from the east to the west. She was referring to Matthew 24:27, which reads, “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
A few months later, when the opportunity to visit with my Aunt Norma, one of the last elders in my family that had known my paternal great grandfather, I asked her if she noticed anything odd about their home. She replied that she always thought it was strange that they never had curtains over their windows, at least not in the downstairs area, which was all that she could remember. It was then, as before, that the little light came on in my head, and the credibility of a previous statement began to cement itself into my collective beliefs. Again, the connection to scripture was so literal so ingrained, that it was part of who those ancient people were – even in their everyday lives.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “The credibility will depend on the extent to which the doctrine if accepted, can illuminate and integrate that whole mass. It is much less important that the doctrine itself should be fully comprehensible. We believe that the sun is in the sky at midday in summer not because we can clearly see the sun (in fact, we cannot) but because we can see everything else.”
As we continued walking, I began sharing this foundational acceptance with Kyle and how we often take its work in us for granted. To give him an example, I shared this next story with him, which in and of itself could stand alone. But, its telling will share how a minuscule fact buried in time can persist if its points are based on truth, something to which one can be grounded.
It was 1967, my first year at public school. Having been a sickly child, in part due to double pneumonia at one and two years of age, I was lucky to be alive in part due to a miracle drug known as penicillin. That being the case, they, my mother and the authorities, decided it best to hold me back a year, so that little Timmy would be six years old instead of five when beginning Kindergarten at Fairlawn Elementary School in Evansville, Indiana. My first few days were a little rocky because of my excitement just to be with other little children my age. Living on the farm, one was isolated, without anyone with which to play or converse. However, I was finally free to make friends and talk. In fact, one friend, in particular, the only one that I can remember to this day, was a boy named Mark. Mark and I hit it off the moment we first met. I don’t know what it was that gave us such a strong bond, but it must have been significant. The semester was going well, and we were already in December when it was time to say goodbye for the Holidays. When we were asked where we would be spending our Christmas, my little ears heard Mark say something about him and his family going out west. Instantly, pictures of cowboys and Indians, something we all played as children, popped into my head. “Oh, how much fun Mark was going to have,” my tender heart mused.
Everyone was there when we returned from the Christmas break a few weeks later, except for Mark. Nobody knew anything about his whereabouts, so his empty seat stood out like a beacon – “Where was my friend?” A couple of days went by, and our teacher came into the room one morning in a very different attitude than her usual upbeat, perky self. She seemed burdened by something like a weight was on her shoulders that she couldn’t lift. After the regular morning routines were performed, our teacher had us gather around her on the floor. She began telling us that sometimes not everyone makes it back from the holidays. “People move away, or their parents get jobs in other places, or,” her voice cracked, and her head went down to her chest as she dabbed a tissue against her eyes. Another adult was there with us as she had begun speaking. We didn’t know the person, but they seemed to be there to help our teacher. Finally, she lifted up her head, and with tear-brimmed eyes, continued, “Yes, sometimes even children don’t make it back to school.” She smiled at us so sweetly as tears ran down her pretty cheeks. “Mark won’t be coming back to school.” She paused and swallowed. This was very hard for her, but we wanted to cheer her on, even though we didn’t know why. “You see, there was a bridge collapse, and Mark and his family….” She again bowed her head and dabbed at the river that was now flowing from her face. The other adult moved in close to her and put their arm around her as she continued to regain control. The other adult continued in her place by saying, “Mark and his family died when the bridge they were on collapsed into the river below.”
The children sat in silence. The sound of sniffles could be heard. There was a giant pain in my throat, one that I couldn’t swallow away, but for some reason, I couldn’t cry. We watched as the adults in front of us regained their composure and began smiling once again, for our sake, not their own. “Okay, children, we can be thankful that there is a Heaven and that Mark and his family are there today. Let’s all go to our coloring stations get out our crayons. We’ve got some coloring to get done.” And from there, it was back to business as usual. Yet, the moment would haunt me for years to come.
In 2002 there was a movie that came out starring Richard Gere. It was called the “The Mothman Prophecies.” It told the story of multiple sightings of an unusual creature known as the Mothman because of its winglike shape. The being was seen by several eyewitnesses, and each told of the prophetic sayings to which he would allude. Eventually, at the end of the movie, the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, collapsed. It was suddenly that the memory of Mark returned. Was this the bridge? But didn’t Mark say he was going out west, or was that what I heard? Did he really mean he was going to West Virginia? All of these questions and more began to resonate in my mind.
Not to be undone, I began researching possible bridges that collapsed in 1967. There was only one of significance where there was massive loss of life; it was, unbelievably, the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, where 46 people died that day. Looking over the list of casualties, there was no Mark. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember Mark’s last name, nor if he had used his middle name. The names of those who died also had the states they were from listed, but nobody was there from Indiana; all were either from Ohio or West Virginia. Had Mark’s family never changed their residence?
So, although the tale of my long, lost Kindergarten friend was not solved, the answer to the question was enlightened another step closer to its solution. The credibility of my understanding had grown, and the foundation of belief at advanced. So likewise, in our journey of Sanctification, we gain a kernel of knowledge and at first might be hesitant to accept it, for doing so may alter our previous basis of belief. However, upon learning of other concepts which may enrich that previous suspicious kernel of thought, we find a foundation shift in our own theology – a course correction, if you will. With these miniscule understandings of the greater whole, we must accept and carry on. For we will never know all that God is, nor will be, but must receive it as Lewis said, as the noonday sun sits in the sky overhead.
Did I find Mark – sadly, no? But was my understanding further solidified in truth – yes, to some degree.
Will I ever solve the mystery of what happened to my little friend so long ago – we may never know on this side of Heaven. But Lord willing, when we find ourselves some beautiful day in the presence of the Lord, we then will find the answers to all those things on earth that we were never able to fully comprehend.
What a glorious day it will be!
Thanks be to God.
 Miracles: A Preliminary Study. Copyright 1947 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1947 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Revised 1960, restored 1996 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. A Year With C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works. Copyright © 2003 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.