The weather-beaten, wooden screen door banged just behind me, but in the second it took to turn, all I saw was a flash of cut-off jeans. Twisting in my desk, I waited to see what would happen; the young man was clearly late. “Ta-dah!” he shouted, while simultaneously executing an impressive leap skyward -- left knee bent, right leg straight out behind with arms spread parallel to each leg. The disheveled red hair bore witness to the reason for his morning tardiness.
“Okay, we all know you’ve arrived. Please take your seat.” Smiling, the instructor shook her head. The class reined in their laughter, all heads facing forward.
Immersed in the subject matter, I finally found myself able to fall into a rhythm of writing and wiping my sweaty palms on my shorts, without losing any content being offered from the microphone. The heat and humidity of Oahu challenged even early morning note-taking. Every once in a while, I glanced over at the young man who’d made the flying entrance. Would he turn out to be the class clown?
On the following two mornings, he repeated the scene, except that the instructor simply pointed to an empty desk, while continuing her lecture. The class stifled their laughter, heads down in an attempt to hide their smiles. Not me, though. I boiled, seeing nothing funny in the young rebel’s repeat tardiness or attention-getting entrance.
Strangely, no one else seemed the least bit put out with the guy. Okay, if I’m the one disturbed, I should be the one to let him know. “Hey, uh, I wondered…” Oh but I wasn’t good at this confrontation thing.
“Yeah? What are ya wonderin’? Anything I can help ya with this mornin’?” His smile under the uncombed, bushy red hair made me laugh and my resolve crumbled.
“Uh, well, I wondered if you might consider coming to class on time tomorrow? But, if you just can’t, would you mind coming in quietly so the class isn’t interrupted?”
Jack threw back his head and howled. I couldn’t help myself, I laughed. Good grief, I was serious and he was going to think I was kidding.
The next morning, the Flying Jack entered the classroom earlier, but still late. At the conclusion of his leap, he bent at the waist, arms extended towards only one desk, and declared, “For you, my dear.” He was looking right at me and so was the entire class. The heat in my neck and face let me know I was a beacon of blazing red. Clenching my teeth while tightly clasping my inter-twined fingers, I remained the lone critic of his performance.
Twirling my pen, I stared into space. I dreaded what tomorrow might bring, while the rest of the class could hardly wait.
Early the next morning, I grabbed my Bible and headed for another confrontation…this time with God. Plopping down on the lawn at the far corner of the property, I began to cry. “Lord, please help me. I just can’t stand that guy. I don’t even want to go to class. What should I do?”
“Love him,” was the only reply I felt in my spirit.
“What? I just can’t, Lord! He’s a show-off and now he’s made me part of his act.”
“If I’m to love him, Lord, you’ll have to give me Your love for him.”
An hour later, seated in the classroom, I waited for Jack’s entrance. The murmur in the class let me know I wasn’t the only one anticipating his performance; not to mention colleagues looking at me and giggling.
Facing forward, I resolved not to turn around when the screen door slammed behind me. As I heard the familiar “Ta-Dah,” followed by the thud of sneakers hitting the floor, something happened. The warm glow of an immense love flowed through me. Looking up at Jack, our eyes locked. The love I felt for him clouded my eyes; my face beamed.
From that moment, the Flying Jack was the little brother I’d never had. His antics never failed to crack me up. Even after our training, when Jack strolled by me on his way out of the ship’s dining room, he would often drop to one knee before me, grab my hand and belt out a Sixties love song, to the delight of the entire crew. I laughed and tussled that mop of red hair. I loved Jack with the heart God had given me.
“Love makes up for practically anything.”*
*I. Peter 4:8 (The Message Bible)
Author’s Note: This is a true story.
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