Update on Driving Miss Caroline: Miss Caroline is now driving outside our cloistered neighborhood! Overall, she is doing extremely well, although she nearly went through a stop sign the other day. To offer the other drivers a heads-up and to give Caroline some reassurance (Seriously, she thought this was a good idea), I fashioned some over-sized STUDENT DRIVER signs for the front and rear windshield. Oh, they will see Caroline coming now!
What is this? As of late, I have been dominating the big TV at home watching the NBA playoffs. Over the years, I have come to admire Lebron James. Yes, he is as fast, strong, and as scary as Marshawn Lynch running at you. Plus, his basketball IQ is off the charts and his skills are beyond formidable. Yet, what most fascinates me about Lebron is his iron will to win. His refusal to lose reminds me of Michael Jordan. This season is, perhaps, his most remarkable as he carries his mostly mediocre teammates to the NBA championship finals. This is his eighth trip in a row. His not-quite-adequate teammates play out of fear, awe, and obedience to the King. Seeing his game-face, I would do the same. What gives this athletic phenom this iron will and weighty personality? Sports Illustrated detailed his childhood as a time of deprivation and high anxiety. Every 3-6 months, he and his wife will go for what they call “the drive”. What they do is return to their childhood locations to remember their roots, all they’ve been through, and to recall again with gratitude the opportunities they’ve been given.
What does this mean? The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is the great faith chapter, where the author reminisces and ruminates about the heroes of the faith like Sarah and Abraham, David and Rahab, Joshua and Noah. According to the author, what sets these saints apart is their faith that is defined as “the assurance of things hoped for”. There is also something at play I will call the “Lebron Factor”. There is this iron will, a refusal to turn back, a weightiness of the soul. Knowing the frailty and fallibility of humanity, I don’t believe for a moment these qualities are all innate or learned by example. No, the kind of gravitas (Cool word, huh?) the writer of Hebrews is extolling comes the hard way; experience, failure, deprivation, and, most of all, a history of knowing God is faithful. Maybe every worship is similar to Mr. and Mrs. Lebron’s “the drive” as we return to the sanctuary to remember and rehearse the story of our salvation. Moses is the OT Lebron. Maybe he didn’t really want the job as Liberator and so what if he wasn’t Toastmaster material. Yet, once at the helm of the Exodus there was no turning back. Through plagues of blood and locusts, Pharaoh’s armies drowning in the Red Sea, grumbling and mutiny from within the ranks of the chosen people, and even arguments with God, Moses refused to quit. His grace-filled gravitas and weighty soul were instrumental in delivering this stiff-necked herd all the way to the Promised Land.
What is the takeaway? Ingrid Parrish was a small, fragile package of a person, yet within there was a titanium will, a substantial soul, and GRANDE gravitas. When Ingrid wanted something, I’d put her unyielding game-face up against Lebron’s and her perseverance over against Moses any day of the week and twice on Sunday. I wonder if even God sits up and takes notice when Ingrid speaks. My favorite Ingrid story was when I saw her at a nursing home. She was in and out of consciousness, as her life was slipping away. I came into her room, quietly said some prayers, and was making a hasty retreat, when I heard a scratchy voice, “Communion”. At first, I looked around, thinking maybe this was an orderly who smoked too much or even an angel of the Lord with laryngitis. Then I heard it again, “Communion”. It was Ingrid, she of iron will and sheer-force-of-personality, as if to say, “Not so fast, Pastor Hasty! This dying soul still requires you to bring me the body and blood of my Savior. Soon, I will be in his heavenly company. But, right now, I must share sweet communion with the Bread of Life”. It was only fitting that I presided at three different funeral services for her: once on board a Washington State ferry, once at our home church, and once at the retirement home where she lived. Her daughter had a hard time letting go. If the Letter to the Hebrews had been written more recently, I think Ingrid might have made the final cut. Thanks be to God for the weighty souls we meet in this life, for they reflect the relentless, steadfast grace of Christ Jesus.