My dreams last evening were full of beautiful and humbling revelation. I began walking down the small, suburban streets surrounding the campus of the University of Louisville. I didn’t now the specific area, but the houses were reminiscent of the 1950s structures that line the edge of Eastern Parkway. I could see light beaming through brilliantly green trees overhead. I could smell the grass, sweetened with the topping of morning dew. There were no people out in the areas around me. It will still and quiet. I was uncertain of my direction, but felt only a twinge of anxiety at my unknowing. While walking up and down the hills of the unknown neighborhood I came upon a young man. He was a white man who looked to be in his thirties. I don’t recall having ever seen him before, but it’s unlikely I pulled that visage from thin air. He came to me. He was upset and confused. “I don’t know how to get home. I don’t have what I need to get home.” He held out his hand. In the opening fist I saw tiny pieces of silver-mechanical things for which I have no name. He stared at them in puzzlement.
“I need a bearing. If I get that then I can put it back together and make my way home. I just need a bearing.”
He shoved the handful of silver at my face, expectant of some resolution. It was in this moment that I felt myself fear. “I don’t know what a bearing is. I don’t know what it does, but I will help you in any way that I can.”
His response was not one of anger that I had anticipated, it seemed hopeful and assured. “Okay…,” he nodded his head quickly, “Okay, then. I’ll follow you.”
“Sir, I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know what a bearing is. I don’t know if you want to follow me.” I tried to clumsily explain my position of powerlessness for his dilemma. I didn’t want anyone to follow me toward an answer that I could not name in order to seek. I was simply walking along rolling hills admiring what God had laid down for me to journey through.
“I know. I heard you say that, but followin’ you is something. Otherwise I’m just waiting around with and for nothin’.”
I had to acknowledge that truth in the statement. “Okay, then. I’m Katie, which direction do you think we should go to find this bearing?”
“Katie, I’m Bobby.” He extended his empty hand while putting the hardware into the pocket of his well, worn jeans. “I’ll follow you ‘til we figure something else out.”
I return my hand to meet his with a slower pace of shaking and speaking. “Pleased to meet you, Bobby. Let’s find our way.”
At this statement we start walking down the same street; each in stride with the other, but neither speaking another word. I don’t know the mentality of this presence in my subconscious, but I know that I was afraid. I was afraid of not being able to find a damn bearing to help a man put an engine, or whatever, back together so he could find his way home. So, I walked with him toward no place and no answer. I walked and prayed to my God, “Help me help him.”
After a couple of blocks we came upon a couple. They were older, maybe in their fifties. They were African-American and seemed somewhat more refined. The walked up to the two of us, but spoke only to me. The wife asked, “Do you know the way toward a seat for the ride?”
She seemed as desperate as the first man, as did her husband. He chimed in, “You know with the bars that hang and the red cushion? We need it to get home.”
I was thoroughly confused by their answer and their desire to ask me. I answered with the polite uncertainty that I had spoken to the first man. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I’ll help if I can.”
The woman almost jumped out of her skin and she leapt forward to hug me. “Oh, thank God! Someone who can help us find it.”
My response was born out of my fear, which had now increased exponentially. “I don’t know that I can help you do that. I don’t know what you’re talking about and Bobby and I don’t know where we’re going. We’re just going instead of waiting.”
“Yes, ma’am,” she shook her head and wiped the tears from her eyes. “Going is better than waiting any day, especially if you’re going with somebody. We’ll just go, too.”
Now, wrapped in my fears and unable to even imagine that peace I had prior to gathering this crowd of people seeking, I put feet to my prayers. I smiled at each of the faces that had come to me on my walk. I felt the weight of their desperationg and I offered what I could to their search, “Lets go together, then. God’ll take us somewhere.”
They each nodded and turned to walk with me again. We walked. The same scenery, the same houses, trees, and light shown in the path around us, but I didn’t feel serene anymore. I felt lost. I felt shame for not knowing the way to lead. I felt fear for the resentment that would take the place of trust in these three who followed me.
Finally, a young woman came up to our growing pack of persons seeking a way. She was a young woman. I’m not sure of an ethnicity, but her skin had a lovely tan, olive hue. She had big, beautiful black eyes that were crested with tears. She said to me, “I need a spring to put it back together. If I get the spring, then I can make it work again and I can take it home. Just a tiny spring, but it has to be the right one. You see how tiny?”
She too held out her hand. It was full of gears and springs of different sizes. They looked like they might be pieces to a music box or a clock.
Once again, now more familiar with the expectation, I offered what clarity I had. “I don’t know where you can get a spring like what you’re looking for. We don’t have a real plan, per se, but we’re all searching for things together. You are more than welcome to join us. We’ll help you if we can.”
I had decided that the community had formed and I diverted the responsibility for helping from myself. At this point I was frustrated by the requests being set forth; a bearing, a seat cushion, and a tiny spring. I looked up as the woman introduced herself to the rest of the group. I saw something beyond the trees ahead of us, it was a pile of junk. I have been to junkyards in my life and I know that you can find a lot of stuff there. It wasn’t ideal for any of those that were searching, but it’s what I could offer that might meet all of the needs in the foreseeable future. I turned to them, “I see a pile of junk up there. I know it’s probably not what you guys were thinking of as an answer, but it seems like we might be able to find some of what you’re searching for there. What do you guys think?”
They all looked at me, trusting. There wasn’t a snide comment or rebuttal of any sort. They just looked at me. The young woman answered, “You’re the one who said you’d try to help. We’ll follow you.”
I think I felt less fear before I heard those words come out of her mouth. We’ll follow you is daunting to hear from the mouths of desperate people. I almost cried when she spoke it. “God help me, please help me,” I thought over and over again in my head.
“Let’s get going then. Y’all need to make your way home. Is everybody alright right now?” They each turned and looked at one another, waiting for an affirmative answer. Once consensus had been reached we began walking again. It wasn’t far for us to travel to the heap, maybe a block. We each walked, still silent, up the hill toward the junky horizon. Each man and woman, each generation represented in step with the other; we all marched in step like a quiet, peaceful, seeking army journeying toward hope.
We made our way to the heap. There was an entrance. It seemed to be inside walls of stucco. We walked in and the walls were lined with shelf after shelf of this and that’s and things and springs. It wasn’t like anything I had seen before and I didn’t know if the people would find what they sought, but they spread out and began looking. I wanted to know if I could direct them toward their items, but I didn’t. I found my way to the stairs. The stairs led downward to another floor full of this’ and that’s and things and springs; and then there was another. After a little while of wandering the youngest woman came to me, tears in her eyes. “I found it! I found the perfect one.”
She held up a tiny spring and showed it to me. It was almost miniscule, but seemed to be a mighty treasure to her. She hugged me, “Thank you for helping me find this place. Thank you.”
She then ran down the stairs to the floors below us. I felt myself breathe a little easier for the answer she had found. I didn’t have to find it. I didn’t have to do anything except lead her to a pile of junk where she found her treasure. I was so thankful for her answer.
I continued on down the stairs, a smile on my face, searching for the rest of the crowd that had followed me there. I didn’t have to go much further until I came upon the middle-aged couple carrying this large, swing-like contraption. They set it down and then came over to me. “Thank you for bringing us here. We found it. It was just sittin’ over there in the corner gathering dust.”
I smiled and squeezed the frail shoulders that embraced me. I was so happy for them. They had found some resolution. They had found what they needed. After they finished with their thanks and hugs they picked up the swing and headed down the steps in front of them. It was the last flight. I could hear other voices speaking with them as they made their way down. I wanted to follow and I began to, but was stopped before I reached the steps. The young man slapped me on the back, laughing. “Ha-Ha! I found it. This is the baring for my engine. This’ll take me right home. Thanks for bringing me to it. I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t come upon you.”
I was startled by his quick, excited presence, but then settled into excitement with him. “I’m glad you found what you were looking for. You take care of yourself on the way home, now. Alright?”
“Will do. Thanks again.” He smiled as he hopped down the stairs. Once again, I was pleased to have helped. I didn’t do anything, really. I don’t know why bringing people to a junk pile held the thing they needed, but God does many things I don’t understand. I was just happy to be a part of Bobby’s journey.
That was it. So, all the members of our traveling band of trust had found their way out of the heap, all members besides me. I stood for a moment looking around the walls. What did I need? Why would I have been sent to this place? I assumed it was to help the others. I took in the beauty of the many this’ and that’s and things and springs and was thankful for the answers they would be to people. I smiled and headed down the last flight of stairs. When I reached the bottom I was amazed at what I saw. It was a fine, well kept, old home. It had hard wood floors and beautifully ornate window coverings. There was a counter with milk and cookies beside the door. I saw two figures standing there. They turned and smiled at me. I knew their faces, but never had they seemed so radiant. Joe and Liz Hayes had been members of the church I served. They were in their eighties and inseparable. They were some of the kindest, most intelligent, and gracious people I had ever known. They loved each other beautifully. The end of their two lives was separated by a span of only a couple of months. They loved each other with all of themselves and found their peace together. I walked over to them, almost overcome with joy to see them again. I was greeted with a warm embrace from Liz. “Hi honey, how’ve you been?”
“I’ve been very well. You look beautiful. What are you doing here?” I asked. “This is your dream. What am I doing here?” she answered.
I had to think for a moment, even in my dream. Why would I want Jo and Liz here? They were dead.
Liz answered my thought, “We’re not gone. We’re home. Thank you for inviting us here. It’s good to see you using what you got for God’s people.” I was surprised by her answer, mostly because I’m unaccustomed to people answering my inner dialogue, but also because it was a poignant answer to receive. “I’m doing the best I can,” was all that I could say in response.
“And that’s fine. You’re doing just fine.” She smiled and hugged me again. Joe walked over and put his long, lanky fingers upon my shoulder. His bright blue eyes shined as he smiled and said, “You’re doing a fine job. Just keep payin’ attention.”
After Joe had finished speaking the two of them joined hands and walked into another room. I was happy to see them again. I was happy to see them so peaceful, it was overwhelming. They were home. This was home for them. I don’t know that I thought to seek anything else, but I know I turned to walk out the pristine, front door into a beautiful yard. As I walked I heard a voice from behind me. It was the pastor of my home church, Tommy Valentine. He has been with me throughout my entire journey of ministry. He walked toward me with a smile, just like he always does. “Hey there trouble, how are ya’ doing?”
I smiled at the familiar, friendly greeting. “I’m fine, Tommy. How ‘bout you?”
“I’m alright… alright. I hear you’ve done some good work here today,” he said.
I was very confused by that comment. First, I knew it was a dream. Second, I wasn’t sure I had done anything at all. So I ask, “What good work?”
“Well, Joe in there said you got a whole crew here; that good work.”
“Tommy, I was just walkin’. I didn’t do anything. They just followed me here and found what they needed. That wasn’t me, it was them.” I was very confused at this point and feeling frustrated at my lack of understanding.
“You see, Katie, that’s what we’re called to do. Just get ‘em here.”
“Where is here?”, I answer in my frustration.
“Doesn’t matter where here is.”
“Fine, I get that I’ll understand it later or somethin’ like that,” I muttered as we walked along the sidewalk of the neighborhood outside the house.
“No, I think you understand it now,” was his reply.
I tried to figure it out, but I still couldn’t quite add the words to what was brewing inside my head. I looked in front of us at the crossing streets of the neighborhood and asked, “Which way do I go?”
He smiled and answered, “I don’t know. Which way are you called to go?”
I felt myself afraid again, uncertain of which direction. So I asked my friend, my pastor, who had led me this far down the path, “Can I just walk with you for a while?”
He smiled again. “No,” he answered. “We end up in the same place. We both help people find what they need to get home, but we’re called to different paths.”
It hurt to hear that I was alone again. I had begun alone and wasn’t afraid. I wasn’t afraid of the journey. I loved the peace, but now, knowing that I would be met with others who would want me to guide them to whatever it was they were seeking made me afraid. “How do I know if I’m doing it right? How do I know if I’m messin’ up or not?” I asked him, trying to hold back my tears.
He put his hand on my shoulder, turned his body toward an adjoining street, and then spoke some wisdom I needed to hear. “God isn’t like a lot of people, Katie. The fact that you’re trying makes Him happy and that’s plenty right.”
He then turned, put his hands in his pocket, and began walking down the street to my right. I watched him walk down that street for a while. I watched for a while and felt my tears fall as breath left my body. I cried for the relief that came from his words. I then faced forward; before me was the long, beautiful, hilly road that brought new faces to my journey. I began a journey back down to wherever it was that I had been. I could know that as long as I keep walking and try to help people find what they need to get home, God will be smiling at my wayward stroll.