Thursday, November 03, 2011

Adidas On The Asphalt Revisited

I've been thinking a lot today about yesterdays Adidas on the asphalt. Stark, sober, reminders of the fragility of life. Nobody expects to die today. But it is more than that. The picture in my head represents more than the imminent possibility of the unexpected. It is...

The stuff of heaven meeting the stuff of earth. The holy in a violent collision with the unholy. Shoes do not tell much of the story. Not really. The God of heaven stooped down to the dust and formed a man. He breathed life ... and holiness ... into the body of clay. And the profane became sacred. Very sacred, indeed. A life lived without conscious awareness of the nearness of God is a life wasted. But as long as the life remains in the body there is still hope. Hope that the body-dweller will wake up to his uniqueness. Hope that the eternal breath will be recognized. Confessed for what it is. Hope that the life will change and begin living up to its exquisite potential.

Was this the story of the Adidas man? Was he ever made aware of how special he was? Did he know that God Himself created him? Chose him to live in this time and this place? Did he yield to this imaginative God? Was he living up to his potential? Honestly, I am clueless and I forever will be.

But I know this. Each of us bears the image of our creator. Just as those black shoes had the triple stripes of the Adidas Corporation we have the mark of God branded across our very souls. I choose to live my life faithful to my brand. Whether my end comes on an asphalt expressway or a nursing home bed is of little consequence to me. I prefer to exercise my brain cells to focus on the undefined period of time I have before I become permanently horizontal. It is so important to me ... to you ... to recognize the end as imminent without spending an excess moment dwelling upon it. The pursuit of our purpose is far too vital to be concerned about our end. I can do something about the former. I can only accept the latter.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Words from the Bible. God became flesh and walked this fascinating planet Himself. He wove His story into mine. I can barely wrap my brain around that. And then ... and then one day his sandals were stripped from Him and he was tortured and executed so that I would not be. The sinless paying the way for the sinful. Righteousness laying it self down and taking on sin as its new identity. He was not just affected by sin. He was MADE SIN ... for me. And I go free. Free to worship or free to worry. Free to follow or free to flee. Free to live by faith or free to cling to my own folly.

The asphalt saw violence yesterday. It left me breathless in its stark contrast to the son that I was soon hugging and the grandson I found myself caught up in playing with. The violence came roaring back after the lights were off and the distractions melted into the darkness. And it comes back tonight as well. And because it did I realized I needed to finish last nights story. I seem to have ended it too early. To abruptly. I failed to tell you that you are deeply loved. You have a purpose. You are not an accident. Your creator loves you and His Son, Jesus, showed you that love on a cross of death. He desires your love in return. I hope you will offer it to him. I hope the Adidas man did too. It is too late for him to do anything about it. But you ... you still have time.

Use the time wisely.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Adidas On The Asphalt

Today began before sunrise for me. I am nocturnal. I love the night. The calming silence is a healing balm to the often weary soul. My days and evenings are spent trying to love people well. When I curl up with a book or a laptop after my bride is asleep I find my mind coming alive with ideas and fancies that never strike me at the noon hour. Morning bugs me. I smile when people poke fun at my disdain for morning. Most think that makes you lazy. I’m not. It is 11:10 at night and I just finished working on Sunday’s sermon. I prefer it this way.

But today I got up early. I had a meeting to go to. After its completion I began driving through the city of St. Louis to my sons house. I was listening to talk radio … a rarity for me but I was interested in the conversation about local baseball hero Albert Pujols. The sun was bright and the temperature was perfect. The post-rush-hour traffic was light on I-70 until, without notice, the vehicles ahead of me all moved into my lane and nearly came to a complete halt. I made what can only be described as a “panic stop.” My eyes were on the rearview mirror as the tractor trailer behind me squealed his brakes and left tire smoke in his wake. I was grateful that friction completed its task with roughly ten feet to spare. After a moment the traffic began moving, slowly inching forward. And then I passed emergency cones that blocked off the two left lanes. Three police cars and two fire engines came into view. Finally there was a single ambulance-like vehicle marked “Mobile Triage” parked at an odd angle. There were no mangled cars. No sign of any accident. As I drifted by the mobile triage the unthinkable appeared. Fifteen feet to my left lay a blue tarp. Four people knelt around it. From its nearest side protruded two legs and two feet. The image seared in my mind is of black Adidas with red soles.

Not good. Not good at all.

You never expect to see death in the morning. Death is reserved for the late night hospital call or the mad emergency dash to the nursing home. But here? In the middle of the day in the middle of an interstate with no accident? Running shoes that will never again run? What caused this? Was the dead stranger jogging on the interstate? Did he fall off a bridge onto a vehicle and get carried to this spot? How can you die on the middle of an interstate highway without getting in a wreck? Why was he interrupting my happy morning with his unhappy fate?

That's the thing about dying. All of it's sentences end with question marks. The cause of death may be perfectly clear with no autopsy needed but there is always somebody left behind aching for answers. Why him? Why today? Why like that? We live in a world of "why" and the question marks vastly outnumber the exclamation points. It is entirely possible that before the sun rises again my blood may be congealing within my veins. Heart attack. Stroke. House fire. Falling meteorite. Hey ... could happen. Probably not, but it might.

The rest of my day was normal. Like clockwork. Still, as night time has fallen again and I have curled up with my laptop the memory that will forever mark this day is of a pair of black Adidas. Red soles. Blue tarp.

And the never ending question mark.