Constructive Connections is a fiction series. They are beginning tales of how each person is crafted by God to fulfill a purpose, to enhance the narrative of life. By contributing unique talents to serve one another, a tower God calls us to construct begins to form for His joy.
Watching the Lower Third
“Just listen to what is broadcasted on the media-feed; make sure the sound and video is clear,” Jacob Meyer said, wincing as he leaned to the left. Recovery from surgery hadn’t been easy. “My video, your feed. Just make sure to push,” pained again, he pointed to the highlighted script schedule with one hand and with the other pointed to the keyboard, “the mute button so we don’t show the copywritten production.
It really was an easy volunteer job. I was used to letting Jacob overexplain instructions.
“Another part of your job is to keep an eye on the lower third,” he said.
“Just make sure you keep on top of the comments,” then he eyed me in classic Jacob stare fashion; mustache twitch, left eyebrow lift, top lip hidden by bottom teeth. “Make nice, hospitable comments, like you were talking on the phone with a friend. Or texting, which is what I’m sure you are used to but don’t use text talk! I hate that stuff. If you want to say ‘you’ don’t use the letter ‘u’. And proper grammar is appreciated by all the viewers.” He stopped and pointed his finger at the screen, “And do not cuss!”
“Check,” I answered. I’ve been working with him for a few months through my friend, Craig, who referred me for some odd jobs at Jacob’s house. He still doesn’t quite trust me even though I’ve always shown up to clean up his yard every Wednesday at 4 sharp.
Fighting the urge to say, Just breath, man! I answered instead with, “You have made that crystal clear, my friend.” I rocked back in my chair, adjusting my burgundy knit under the earphones, listening to the audio output from Jacob’s video feed. Humans are judgmental beings. Suppose we were created to categorize for a good reason. What is an edible berry vs a poisonous one, what is a good kitty vs a vicious one, what is a good cup of coffee vs instant? God might have been thinking he was doing us a favor by giving us this category sorting system, but like all good things; we humans go and mess it up.
I can’t blame Jacob too harshly for putting me into his “homeless” category. My camp residence is a sage two-man tent without address or mailbox. Setting my phone to the white noise of a raging river was my life two years ago. Now waking up to the cool of the morning, a real-time roaring river is actual blessed white noise.
The burgundy knit hat I wear every day is the reminder. Category: Mourning. Cody, my nephew was only 15. When I was having lunch, talking with Craig, he asked if I blamed God for not saving Cody from sickness. Never did.
Just because I don’t have a permanent roof over my head, doesn’t mean God and I don’t get along. Or Just because I live in a tent doesn’t mean I don’t know Jesus. I grew up getting to know God through Dad’s sermons. We had a life of church, school, family, friends. Category: American Dream. But one day, things were not so good. So I ran.“The world is ugly,” I explained, “and it isn’t always kind. But God isn’t responsible for sickness. He’s an artist! Why would he scrap his creations with the ugliness of Sick? Na, sickness is Category: Satan."
My sister Kari, Cody’s mom, is another story. Category: Vanishing. She’s not so good with God right now. Kari spends hours on the computer watching what is going on in other people’s lives. She is living a half-life through the smiles, vacations, thumbs up, and likes. More likely, she’s feeding into the lies. Lies of perfect health, perfect marriages, perfect children, perfect cooks. When I packed my stuff from the spare bedroom to move out, I told her I wasn’t going to watch her disappear. We already experienced heart-wrenching wasting away, I couldn’t experience another. Two years of Kari’s immovable numbing sorrow couldn’t have been God’s plan when he released Cody from his sick body.
Craig asked me to come check out his church. “You know I’m Category: Wanderer, don’t you?” I replied expecting inevitable judgment, wondering if Craig was aware of the line he would be crossing to bring me into his camp.
“Yeah, I got that, Stanley,” he said knowing my story. “But I read about this guy that asked a really great question to this other guy: ‘Do you want to get well?’”
The Jesus reference was clear; I remember hearing my dad preach on it once. In John 5 there is a story of a disabled man who couldn’t get to the water to take a bath. He asks for Jesus’ help. Jesus doesn’t give him a hand, he doesn’t lift him up by the armpits; he just asks him, “Do you want to get well?”
The guy gives him all kinds of valid physical excuses as to why he can’t get to the water, but by ignoring the question, Do you want to get well? he ignores the hope that he could ever be different from how he was in that moment.
In true Jesus awesomeness, He says, “Get up!” and the guy walks! It took some courage for Craig to call me out: Category: Listening to God. It got me through those church doors, and as I turned towards God again, I began to feel well.
I’d be like, “Heck yeah, I want to get better!” But maybe he just didn’t know how to let Jesus know that he really wanted to be able to walk to the water himself? He was stuck in the idea that he couldn’t get better.
When I saw an opening to help livestream the sermon, I thought of Kari sitting captive; enthralled by the water, but unable to walk to it to get clean. Through seeing and hearing the sermon in the place where she is stuck, maybe she could hear God ask her: Do you want to get well?
I sent her the link to the livestream sermon. Pulling up her friend profile, a pic of her and Cody, both smiling ear to ear, pain pangs returned and burned a little. I messaged her about 10 times with quips like; “New job: Check church social media page for live feed at 10:30!”, “Please can you can message so I know you are there?”, “Come-on, help me make a good impression the first day on the job!”, “Help a brother…your brother…out!” I know…Category: Begging. I don’t have the words. Jesus does, though.
Do you want to get well?
“5-minute heads-up,” Jacob nudged, while trying to focus the camera, grimacing as his stomach complained. Jacob knows lots about volunteering; not so much about taking it easy after surgery.
Adjusting my burgundy knit I nodded, ready to watch for the Kari and Cody circle along the lower third.
John 5:6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”