The One-Armed, Fat Man and The End of the World

So, my parents look like normal people as do their siblings but growing up, I quickly learned that if there was an odd character roaming around southern Rhode Island, we were probably related to them. I would describe specific oddities but then you would see their resemblance to me. Suffice it to say that usually I would have been happier learning I was related to the guy who drove his rider lawn mower down the main street and smelled of liverwurst.

This is all to explain the following.

One Saturday when I was in college, I was shopping with my mother and aunt and we’d stopped to explore a local junk shop. It was a large old house with no electricity as full as Mrs. Kim’s place on Gilmore Girls with furniture, furnishings and, for some reason, crutches, walkers and assorted prosthetics. Suddenly, our path down the darkened hallway was blocked by an enormous one-armed man who greeted me like he was on a rescue team and I’d been lost in the woods for days.

“Well, hello there honey!” He hollered and proceeded to embrace me in a sweaty, smothering, one-armed hug, swaying me back and forth like a rag doll.

“Hello to you, too.” I mumbled into his chest, trying not to inhale and becoming as small as I could.

After a long, awkward embrace (the mechanics of which elude me), he finally released me from captivity and looked me up and down. “It was wonderful to run into you here!” he said and I waited for him to greet my mother and aunt who stood behind me. Instead, the humongous, one-armed man simply nodded at them, turned and waddled deeper into the building disappearing into the darkness and debris.

I looked to my mother expecting to hear the name of this man I had assumed was one of her cousins or an uncle once removed only to find her and my aunt wearing puzzled expressions. “Who was that?” my mother asked.

“What do you mean, who was that?” I gasped. “Aren’t we related to him?”

Both women shook their heads and my aunt said “No, we thought he was a friend of yours!”

“I’ve never seen that man before in my life. You’re telling me, I just let a strange, fat, one-armed man bear-hug me and we’re NOT related?”

They both laughed hysterically but I failed to see the humor in the unexpected exchange. I sulked all day, refusing not to blame them and our weird assortment of relatives for my strange, sweaty encounter.

Why am I telling you this story?

Because the end is near.

This week there has been an earthquake in China, a giant meteor strike out west, a volcanic eruption in Iceland and all this is on the heels of flooding in Rhode Island, earthquakes in Mexico, Peru and Haiti. The earth is in labor with birth pangs that are the beginning of the end. (Yes, imagine this blog is my cardboard sign and that I am a ragged woman standing on the road holding up the words “The End is Near” because that is how I see myself).

Now, no one other than Ricky and Lucy Ricardo dash off to the hospital at the first signs of labor pangs but they do pay attention and know it’s time to, at least, pack a bag.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are in training for difficult times. We should be conditioning our souls to endure and so part of what we should do is learn how to pluck joy from the tree of adversity, to seize joy like a brass ring on the merry-go-round of everyday, to lasso joy like a calf wandering from the herd of spiritual gifts and make it a part of daily living as believers. Joy is a gift to us from a loving God and it is as much a part of our witness to the world as our love and our stand against sin.

Are times hard for you? Find joy now. They are likely to get harder. Are you facing trials? Seize joy like an oxygen mask dropped from heaven only it’s pumping helium because that is what fills the atmosphere there. (OK, that’s not scriptural but it is fun to imagine, isn’t it?). Are you mourning? Learn to celebrate in the midst of sadness because soon we will be awash in sorrow and we need to know how to inflate the flotation device that is joy.

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. Jesus was a joyful man when he walked among us. His laughter continues to ripple in the hearts of those who follow Him and it’s a belly laugh that comes from the depths of creation because He was there when it began and He knows how it all ends and He will be with us on the long, arduous journey home.

I don’t say this lightly (no pun intended). You know from my previous posts that I have moods ranging from cranky to downright black dog depression but as I grow in the Lord I can see the absolute foodwaterair need for joy as this world hurtles toward the great show-down of the ages. Joy is not always rolling laughter – sometimes it is merely a tickle, a smile, an inner acknowledgement of a visited grace or a quiet breath-long moment of peace in the midst of relentless pain but it is within our reach because it comes from God and He never leaves us nor forsakes us.

So train your soul for joy. Train your eyes to see it, your ears to hear it, your skin to sense it, your nose to inhale it, your mouth to speak it, your heart to receive it and your face to share it. Press in to God everyday and ask Him to school you in joy.

Then, when you meet the fat, one-armed man in a darkened hallway and he greets you like a long- lost relative and smothers you in his bear-hug of welcome, you can laugh, just laugh, at the absurdity and the surprise and the raging weirdness of this life because you know what is coming and you’re ready, by the grace of God, you are so ready.

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5 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Cheri says:

    “So train your soul for joy. Train your eyes to see it, your ears to hear it, your skin to sense it, your nose to inhale it, your mouth to speak it, your heart to receive it and your face to share it. Press in to God everyday and ask Him to school you in joy.”

    Well said, my friend. Well said.

    Hugs,
    Cheri

  2. Eileen says:

    We are most definitely in birth pangs and I remember that particular junk house 🙂

  3. That’s funny, Eileen. We probably shopped there for the apartment!

  4. I so need this! My joy hasn’t been flowing well lately, that’s for sure. But I want to find it again, and I know there is only one place to find it…in Him!