It was a dark, windy, cold night in Waco, TX. I was probably only 5 or 6 years old. My dad owned a Gulf "fillin' station". That means a gas station for those of you not from Texas. For some reason, I was at the station with him on that blustery night. I honestly don't remember all the details or if anyone else in the family was with us or not. Parked on the dark corner of the station parking lot was my dad's old truck and he had told me that he had caught a big tortoise and put it in the back of his truck. I was a precocious, insistent child and was determined to see the tortoise. Dad was trying to close up for the day and warned me not to go out there in the high wind on a scouting expedition. He said he would take me out to the truck as soon as he finished. I was a little bit of a girl, but I had courage. I waited until dad's back was turned and then I quickly slipped out the door to head toward the lure of the tortoise. Just as I ventured out, a big gust of wind swept me up and caused me to almost sail in the air. It was dark and I could not stop my little body against the wind. I was being blown uncontrollably toward a busy street where cars were zooming by. Just as I was going into panic mode, I began to cry out for help. I saw a flashlight coming at warp speed and my dad's tall, 6-foot + frame and strong arms swept me up to safety. Instead of scolding me and admonishing me for my foolish disobedience and risk taking, dad held me in his arms and said, "Tinsy (his nickname for me), that wind is strong isn't it? Let's go see that big tortoise together."
I began to think about the poetry of Isaiah. God does call us to the challenging duty of caring for all people everywhere. All of humanity and creation is connected and the task of caring for one another and our planet is not really optional if we are to survive and thrive. In all that we do to provide light and care, God has our backs. We are not alone. God is described as our rear guard. God is the one who says, Here I am when we cry out for help. Listen to these beautiful words:
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. Isa. 58:8-9
As we search for light to come into our lives and show us the way, we can depend on guidance and healing from a God who has our backs and illumines our paths. This light of God spotlights the ways we can offer healing of fear, hate, and brutality in our world. Scriptures and ancient stories bring us to our present day and demonstrate time and again what care for all people really means, but it is a care not done in isolation. When we cry out for direction or yearning to listen for our various callings, God says time and again, "Here I am."
I remember the size and wonder of that tortoise on that wayward, windy night. But what I remember the most was a dad who shined the light, swept me up, and had my back. I was not punished, but I am pretty sure my dad's example of love taught me a great deal about God's unconditional love and call to me to BE that love to all people everywhere.