FAITHFUL LIVING: Emotions are pieces of God

“Have we got everything?” I asked my husband Matt as we stood in the driveway of our Southern California home. “Looks like we’ve got the camera, Gabe and his leash. Are we forgetting anything?”

It was an early summer day in 1984 and we were headed to the beach to watch selected runners carry the Olympic flame through our community. The flame was scheduled to stop for just a moment at the historic city hall building. The mayor was to say a few words before the first of the Ventura, Calif., residents would begin his run toward the beach with flame raised high.

It was somewhere along this beach route that we planned to stand with our faithful golden retriever. We wanted to observe a bit of history as one honored torch bearer after another moved the flame ever closer to its destination: the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympic Games at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

It was a simple time in our married life, as I look back on that day 20 years ago. With only our dog to parent, we piled into our 1965 Mustang and flew down the highway, our windows rolled down and rock and roll playing off a cassette tape. We wondered what it would be like to carry the torch and what it would feel like to be Amy, my sister-in-law, who was a torch bearer.

For days we had gazed at her uniform and held the surprisingly heavy, yet beautifully designed bronze torch in our hands. But we understood that soon that torch run was to be her event. As an accomplished runner, carrying the torch would be her opportunity to join a historic moment and we were thrilled for her opportunity.

And what an electric day it turned out to be. Families and flags. Balloons and children riding decorated bikes. Thousands of exuberant Americans, filled with patriotism and energy and wearing hats and sun glasses to combat the sunshine, lined the route. They cheered and clapped, photographed and whistled. I stood there and cried.

And just this week, as I watched tapes of various Americans carrying torches through their various home towns, did I once again experience that lovely summer day in 1984. The TV images took me back and I felt the same ache in my throat that I did when I watched my much loved sister-in-law slowly jog by me with her torch held high.

The wave of emotion once again grew until my tears spilled out, despite all efforts to get a grip. Only this time there were my own kids and their friends to watch me and comment. To shake their heads and reassure themselves that the emergence of Kleenex is just part of how I respond to some events.

Happy tears are forceful and frequently unmanageable for me. They come when Navy jets fly overhead. When I read Abraham Lincoln’s words or pause in front of the Vietnam War Memorial. When I imagine what it must be like to learn that my son has been kidnapped in Iraq and subsequently beheaded. When I sing, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” with other worshipping Christians. When I hear people tell how Christ has moved from mere theory to actual reality in their lives.

Each time that I desperately work to preempt such raw emotion I recall the work of West Indian-born U.S. poet Audre Lorde who once wrote, “Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge.” With that reminder my embarrassment is replaced with thanksgiving that God gave me His spirit the moment I asked Him to become a daily part of my life 30 years ago.

I called Amy this week and we happily reminisced about her torch run. I also took a moment to thank God for the flame that burns brightly, deep inside of me. I asked Him to help me remember that each time I am moved to the very depth of my soul He is taking me ever closer to the knowledge that His spirit resides deep inside of me. It’s a miracle worth smiling and tearing up about.

Freelance writer Joan Bay Klope’s e-mail address is jblkope@hotmailcom.

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