Every year at my elementary school during the fall, we had a spaghetti supper followed by a festival of games. The supper came before the games that were set up in the gymnasium and other classrooms. It was a fundraiser, which really didn’t mean much to us children. I just wanted to buy tickets to do the contests in order to win the trinkets. The colors, booths, and people created an electric, magical celebration.
The cake walk was the funniest, to see big people laughing and being excited when they won a dessert. People brought things from home to donate as prizes, or we could win pencils, erasers, or key chains with the school logo. In my opinion, key chains were only meant to be decorations. I did not have keys, yet. My parents had keys.
The duck-floating game with the numbers on the bottom of the ducks caught my eye. On the top shelf of three shelves were the best prizes. I saw a picture of Jesus, the one in Gethsemane where he looked up to God for help, but God wouldn’t give it because God wanted to help us through his Son, so he couldn’t help. I wanted that picture. I knew that Jesus was alive still, and I wanted to be near him. I liked him a lot, and needed him a lot. He cared. I could tell by his face. He also hurt. God liked him, too. I played the game and I won.
When we all left the celebration, my paper sack of prizes in hand, I tripped off the sidewalk just outside the cafeteria. I fell into the grass in the dark. My sack landed on the edge of the concrete. I heard glass crack, and I knew it was the picture that I had won from the top shelf.
I looked when we got into the car, and the crack went three ways. Nobody knew why I cried, and I didn’t know how to say. The picture disappeared sometime later. I guessed that people didn’t fix glass during that time. The broken glass meant the picture was ruined. I had no idea where I would put it. I just wanted to be near what it all meant.
God was like cool green fescue, and he could paint with colors like blue and yellow. He loved the sounds of meadowlarks and crows, rolling thunder, rain, and laughter. He loved stars, the flickering of fireflies, and the spicy taste of persimmons. He liked pumpkins, our feelings, the sun, and baseball. He loved his son. He was crazy about his son; they talked all the time. God sent his son to us to tell us about these things and we killed him for it. I did not understand that part yet. I do now. I’m still sad about it. I’m grateful, too.
We all know somewhere in our hearts that life as we know it is not like it was made to be—that there is more to life than the reality we see. Jesus came into this tragedy of survival and brokenness to reconcile our hearts and life to a great God who has greatness for us. He reminds us to remember pumpkins and sparrows’ wings, cool fescue, and each other. He can make us fully alive to ourselves, to him, and to each other. He can show us to remember what we were like, and make us like that again, and much more. The stars and fireflies remind us to believe and reach towards what is behind them.