"I sank down to the very roots of the mountains. I was imprisoned in the earth, whose gates lock shut forever. But You, O LORD my God, snatched me from the jaws of death." Jonah 2:6
It seems that life has buried me lately, with all the struggles that I've faced and those still renewing themselves each morning. Sometimes I wonder if the boulders that seem to come down from the mountaintop are directly targeted at me or if I'm just in the wrong place, wrong time.
I can feel Jonah's despair in the first part of this verse....."the very roots" of the deepest of places, with tons and tons of earth covering him. At least that is what the weight of this world's expectations feel to me, a weight that cannot be overcome. The past isn't just the past, it seems, but something that is wrapped around my shoulders like a chain, binding me to the realization of who I was. As if I was imprisioned in the earth and someone has thrown away the keys. Deliberately. With forethought.
My grandmother's passage from the trials and tribulations of this world into the blessed rest of the Father's arms exposed the ire of a side of the family that I've not had much to do with. The obit of my grandmother is modified, by me, to reflect what should've been said with any agenda aside. The items in [ ] are mine. I had heard, for the first time in a long time, the echoes of my father's shame in the halls of the home of one of the 'favored' neices, my cousin.
To be fair, these two cousins were the ones who stood and took care of my grandmother in her elder years, after grandfather had passed away in 1984. They did all of the things with her that she enjoyed and cherished. So I have no issue with the words used to describe them. It is the absense of what they didn't say about my family that has me and my sibling disturbed. All for a father's sinful past............... Every family seems to have that 'dark' side, the part of the family that seems seldom brought up or mentioned, blackened by the action of one that forever dooms the ones to follow.
A past that I claim, even if I don't want to, through the voice and inflections, mannerisms and verbage that is my father's legacy to me. A past I repeated even as I declared I wouldn't be like the man who's likeness I bore. A past that brings into sharp relief that old adage, "The sins of the father are visited upon the son."
Something that seems to bear resemblance to the modern Church and its ability to 'eat its own wounded', as those who are critical of Christianity oft state. Something from my personal history that has bled over into my spiritual journey, it seems.
But, that connection to my father is not all bad. Some of my association to this man is good; stout of heart, strong of spirit, and determined. Things that have stood me in good stead in the dark times of my life's story.
It is also tied into my fondest memory of my grandmother, that connected three generations of men in the Hutson family, and of which I am the last with this distinction.
I had just graduated Aprenticeship training class at Great Lakes Training Center in Chicago, Illinois and came home on leave before reporting to my first duty station in Keyport, Washington. In those days, I was better at staying in contact with grandmother, even thought it was often hard....everytime I called, I would have to identify myself as Jim, Ron's son, because she would mistake my voice as my father's. But, I've already mentioned that........
It had to be early April or May, for I had to wear my dress whites (not my fondest uniform--loved the blues), and it was this I was wearing as I went to visit my grandmother at her home on W. Lewiston in Ferndale, Michigan. I had just come from 'duty' at the recruiter station and came walking up the drive unannounced.....something that I didn't do too often with grandmother.
When I got to the front door, it seemed to take a bit more time than usual for her to answer the door and I was starting to get alarmed when it finally opened. My grandmother stood there, peeking behind the door on the chain, with eyes slightly wider than usual.....something I didn't notice at the time but remember vividly in my rememberance.......and her sweet voice, with a bit of relief in it (again that I didn't realize at the time), saying "Oh, it's you. I thought for a second there it was someone else....."
When I pressed her about it over the typical coffee that I drank whenever I came over as she drank her tea, she told me something that would hold no meaning then...but came back in bright relief as the years passed............
"At first, when you were near the street, I thought you were Lawrence (my grandfather) because you know he was in the Navy and I oft saw him in dress whites....but I remembered that the hat was different (I was wearing the modern Dixie cap instead of the flat cap of WWII era). As you strode up the walkway to the front door, I thought it was Ronald (my father) because he walked so much like you did, so proud and straight, as if the walker was eager to get on to the business at hand.... But then, when I opened the door, I realized it was you. You look so much like your father."
I heard those words again from both of my cousins, one as I walked into the room where my grandmother's body lay in waiting. She told me, with what seemed the same expression my grandmother used to wear, that I looked like Ron. The other, speaking to me prior to my departure from the luncheon, said that I sounded like my father.
In polite company, the past (dark and evil) is never brought up to those unfortunates that are stained with its markings. I wonder if it was brought up in the comfort of 'those in the know', with whispered conotations and sharp rebukes. This resemblance to a man lost to the ravages of time, who I can only hope and pray to the Father above proclaimed the salvation gift that erased the sins away and enabled redemption. For him, this man called my father, time is past. But his legacy lives within me. In voice, physical resemblance, and in parenting habits I fight to overcome.
I smiled, that smile I notice upon the face of the body....a smile of secret knowledge that isn't so secret.....of being in the 'know'. I smiled at my cousins and told them that I appreciated the sentiment and agreed, "I am my father's son. Both of them."
To their perplexed looks, I elaborated "My earthly father and My Heavenly Father."
As I strode away from the home of my cousin, I felt myself walk a bit prouder and with a touch of honor, as if that white uniform of my military service were once again worn upon the body of an older, wiser, and mature person. I walked proud, thinking in my mind that I was indeed the son of Ronald Lawrence Hutson, who once wore the same uniform I did and his father did. Yes, I bore the stain of sin that my father also wore once, because we all bear the sin of Adam upon these bodies. I am my father's son.
But I also am the son of the Most High, the Lord of Heaven and Earth, Creator of everything and I wear the uniform garment of my Heavenly Father, washed clean by the sacrifice of His only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who came to earth upon a midnight clear as a child in swaddling clothing to provide redemption through his blood. I hope that when people look at me, they can see my Father's face in mine.
For I find honor and pride in the words expressed by others that I bear the voice and the mannerisms of my Heavenly Father.........
And I can feel the joy of salvation in this verse......" But You, O LORD my God, snatched me from the jaws of death."
By hanging upon a Cross for my sins...........coming to the earth as a babe....
For that, I know I can do the purpose to which my Father has caused me to be called......for His glory, honor, and grace.......
So that all that see me will see not my face, but the face of the One who calls me....................