So we may notice here the beckonings of God.
Beckoning: it’s a great word, and it set my mind sailing until, before I knew it, I had landed on the shores of a memory, of a movie, and there was Jon Cryer, but I remembered him as Duckie. The movie was Pretty in Pink and he was Molly Ringwald’s oddball friend. At the very end of the movie, when they go to the prom together so she can show that Andrew McCarthy she’s just fine without him, true love wins out (as it does in most every John Hughes movie) and Duckie is left watching the two of them walk away. Then he turns around to stare across a room he knows is uninviting and he sees a beautiful girl checking him out. Then she smiles: she beckons for him to come to her. At first, he is puzzled, then intrigued, and then he regains his confidence and steps towards her as the credits roll.
I went searching for the Buttrick quote when I got home from the restaurant and found two things: one, George liked to talk about beckonings, and did so on more than one occasion; and, two, I’ve been swimming for awhile in his stream of thought without knowing. One of his quotes reminded me of something Chet Raymo said (quoting John Burroughs) in my Advent reading about hints and finding things new. Here’s George:
God’s beckonings are always by hint and gleam, lest we be coerced.
I haven’t seen the new movie, Avatar, but consistent reviews have been the story is predictable, but the special effects and cinematographic tricks blow you away, so you forgive the worn out story line. New ways to use CGI may make millions of dollars for James Cameron, but they don’t make for good theology. Our God, though capable of most anything, rarely chooses the big splash, the high tech trick, the crowd pleaser. The tempter said to Jesus, “Turn the stones into bread and everyone will follow you; jump off the building and let the angels catch you and see how many disciples you get that way.” Jesus wasn’t buying then anymore than God was in bringing the Baby into the world surrounded by shepherds and straw. The way God chooses to draw us into the story is a little less Hollywood, and a little more Sundance, I suppose: by hint and gleam. Samuel waited in the night to hear his name called; Elijah let the storm pass so he could listen to the silence; Mary Magdalene saw the empty tomb, but didn’t get the hint until she heard Jesus call her name.
We were all packed into the ball park for David’s service, and Billy Crockett invited us to sing along with “The Depth of God’s Love” a song that brought back many memories of hints and gleams for me. The bridge says:
love expressed in earthy ways
a sturdy hand a smiling face
with graceful eyes that see beneath
what others see and seldom reach
Beckonings: small, sure invitations to open, often unsure hearts.
Maybe that’s why I thought of Duckie in the middle of morning worship. He worked hard to be different, at least in part, because it hurt to much to come to terms with the truth that he didn’t fit in. In the same way I shave my already balding head, he chose to make the inevitable look like a choice. Underneath his stylish (at least to him) exterior, was a lonely young soul. Andie (Molly Ringwald) was his One True Friend. Surely she would wake up one day and realize he was the only one good enough for her. That’s what he thought would happen at the prom, and she walked away with her love, leaving her best friend behind as her best friend. Life wasn’t turning out the way Duckie had planned it, or had even hoped for it. And then came the beckoning.
I’m not talking happy endings here. I’m saying (to myself), that life doesn’t always rise to meet our expectations doesn’t mean all is lost, or even most is lost. It means its time to look for the hint, the gleam, the wave from across the room that lets us see ourselves through the graceful eyes of our God so we can move on to find the next hint that will help us find our way home.
At least that’s the hint I found this morning.