Friday, June 19, 2020

Same Solar System, Different Planet

When he began telling me how to hunt a bear, I involuntarily stopped to listen.  

He and a buddy drove into the woods for an hour and parked before walking an additional forty minutes to climb a tree.  Ray* spent two hours getting to the hunting site but never saw a bear.  He enjoyed the time so much, when his friend was ready to return to civilization, he stayed additional days to hunt alone.

Ray loaded for bear, drove into the woods and climbed, but the additional fruitless hunting days were spent in prayer and life reflection.  His description at once terrified, and captivated me.

The idea of driving to northern Michigan forests, walking beyond the hearing of anyone able to assist, and sitting in solitude seemed foolish to me.  If anything happened to me, it would be my fault for being foolish enough to assume all would go well.  The difference was that Ray was a white, semi-rural male and I was a black urban male.

Ray's story frightened me.  I was raised to stay away from wooded areas full of men with guns because lynchings are eased in isolation.  Ray's faith, however, captured me.  The more I listened, the more I knew the Maker of the solar system sent Ray to me.  

Eight planets share the Sun's gravitational pull; many boast moons but they are more different than similar.  Mercury's atmosphere is not Saturn's; Venus' calendar year is not Jupiter's; Mars' and Earth evidence water in different ways.  Listening to Ray, next to his red pickup truck, I felt we had things in common, while being from different planets.

Ray's planet allowed heavily armed theological retreats, days of leisure while business ran without him and confidence that if misfortune did strike, everything would be alright.  He wasn't the first person I'd met from such a planet but, that day, God used Ray to spur me.

Natives of my planet had Great Migratory roots, dark skin and big dreams.  They came from Alabama and Maryland, spurred by interplanetary travel.  Their launching pads were sharecropping fields and Jim Crow accommodations but they dreamed of other planets.  Afar, they'd seen inhabitants of entrepreneurial planets, world-traveling planets and advanced educational planets.  Until Ray's casual small talk and storytelling, I did not understand my parents' dilemma.  

They dreamed of business ownership, leisurely travel and doctoral degrees but the only people they'd ever seen do those kind of things were white people.  They involuntarily watched and wondered about the planet where sailboats bobbed, golf clubs were polished and food was art.  Our access to sailboats amounted to glimpses as they were towed on freeways.  Food was not art to us but getting food was a science, an art.

Doc and Pat found out that building a spaceship is an art and a science.  Unlike NASA, they didn't have an outsourcing option.  With stumbling, fear and trembling they began to build a ship in front of their children:      
If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery 
What child isn't frustrated by parents' steady collection of wood and assignment of work?  Meeting Ray, however, exposed my parents' interplanetary travel.  They built businesses, circumnavigated Earth (twice) and were first generation undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree holders.  Their children were regularly reconnected to Baltimore and Birmingham launch pads but we also rode in their spaceship.

Meeting Ray exposed me.  I didn't have a spaceship and still harbored childhood bitterness over wood and work.  Ray was from another planet and, as casually as a bird flies, he told of a world I did not understand.  I would have watched him drive away had the Lord not spurred me to act.

"Ray, you spoke of prayer in the woods.  Will you tell me what the Lord told you?"

He began to speak but his answer stirred tears and inability to speak.  Ray was awestruck by what Christ revealed in the woods.  

"I need a man like you in my life.  Would you disciple me?"

His "yes" connected two improbable worshipers, by faith.  We're closer to ten years of friendship than we are to the day we met.  Along the way, I've shed old ideas and stoked an endless longing for a planet of guilt-free tropical living.

My spaceship is still scattered in different warehouses but I know why I'm collecting wood and completing tasks.  God's movement in Ray's life stirred a jealous wonder in me.  He votes, eats, drinks and recreates in ways I do not but he is my friend.  The Lord sent him to break strongholds in my life and I'm grateful.
* Not real name

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