Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Tuesday, October 20, 1942, around 11:30 a.m., I sat in Mrs. Sharp’s first-grade class at East Lake Grammar School in Atlanta, Georgia, with my head buried in my arms splayed akimbo on the varnished children’s table in front of me. In my dark brown, corduroy knickers squished between the oak chair and my posterior, there resided a substantial accumulation of reeking poop.

I was two weeks into my sixth year of life on this earth. Across from me sat Beverly Ann Taylor, with whom I was madly in love. She sat there with her blue eyes, light-brown hair cut into a cute page-boy, sniffing the air. Bunky Allen sat next to me on my left. Suddenly Beverly Ann Taylor’s hand shot up into the air. “Miz Sha-arp? Miz Sha-arp?” intoning a musical Southern drawl.

“Yes, honey?”

“Miz Sharp, sump’n smells awful ‘roun here.” I was bowliskied!

Beverly Ann Taylor, the love of my life, had, without shame, shucked me f’sho! Miz Sharp, dressed in her flower-print teacher’s coat, came ambling over to our table – on my side – sniffing! She stopped right behind me and sniffed. I didn’t move a muscle, head buried in my arms on the table. She leaned over. I imagined her coiffed, brown-red hair and spectacles perched on her nose, looking at me, and then she sniffed again. Right there, hanging over my reeking rear-end, she sniffed.

“David?” Pause. I didn’t stir. I ain’t sayin’ nuthin.

“David, honey pot? Is that you?” Well, that’s it. The jig is up. I’m busted. No way I’m gonna get outta this.

“Yes’ m.” I heard Miz Sharp muffle a snigger.

“Well, honey pot," sez she, "What did you do?”

The tears came. “I went to the bathroom in my britches,” I wailed. Bunky started to snigger and held his nose. I almos’ pol’ axed ‘im right there in front of ev'r-body.

“Well, sweetie,” she said in a sweet-holding-back-her-side-splitting-laughter kind of voice, “what do ya’ll wawn't t’ do?”

I wiped the snot, which was considerable by this time, onto my sleeve and tried to speak, “I-I don’t know whut t’ do, ma’am.”

“Do you want to go to the bathroom down the hall?”

“No’ma’am!” said I with finality.

“Well, why not, David? You have to clean yourself up.”

“The big boys are in the bathroom. They’ll laugh and beat me up.”

Miz Sharp considered.

“Hmmm. Well, honey pot, you wawn't me to send you home?” Amazingly smart woman. How did she know that very thing was a'buzzin' in my noggin?

“Yes’m.” I whimpered.

“Kin’ I go wid’ im?” from Bunky. I looked at Bunky, grinning from ear to ear. Bunky had the face of a rodent. I swear -- brown, beady eyes close-set, a button of a nose with a tiny brown mole on it, and lips; look lak’ he been suckin’ on a crabapple all day long, at which, with that chasm between his two front teeth, he was no doubt the bestest in the whol’ wide worl.’

“You want Bunky to walk home with you?”

Nodding my head which was back buried in my arms on the varnished first-grade table, “Yes’m.”

“I ‘spose it might oughta' be aw-right,” said she. And with that, Bunk scraped back his chair on the asphalt-tile floor, and Miz Sharp pulled mine back as I stood up, wet condensation on the little wooden chair; damp, dark spot on the bottom of my brown corduroy knickers.

* * *

The walk home was four-blocks long. I turned to Bunky who was a lot shorter than me and said, “I think the dookey is a-slidin’ outta my drawers.”

“Oh no!” cried Bunky. “Is it dropped all the way down?”

“No, not yet.” I realized, of course, that since the knickers ended mid-calf with elastic holding them tight against my leg, that it just might slide all the way down, git stuck at the bottom -- my leg a'sloggin' it back and forth as I walked. I was so mad and embarrassed, I could spit green blood. We reached the gravel road that wound into the cemetery. Three mo’ blocks to go.

Bunky asked again, “Is it dropped yet?”

“It’s a slidin,’ Bunky, it's a slidin,' an' it feels bodacious slimy.”

“It stinks bodacious awful, too,” laughed Bunky. I balled up my fist and smacked him on the arm.

“Hey, that hurts,” he yelled.

“I’m gonna whup yo' ass, you laugh agin!” I threatened. We came to the familiar corner of Boulevard Drive and Fourth Avenue, where the patrol-boy usually stood. There was no patrol-boy because school wasn’t out yet. Later, when I got to fifth grade, me and Billy Rocker became patrol-boys at that very corner. By then, I had forgotten this dreadful day.

“Is it dropped yet?” asked Bunky again.

“Yeah, it’s sho ‘nuff dropped. It’s slid down on my leg now.”

“Where is it”?

“Right there.” I pointed to the soft bulge in the lower reaches of my knickers.

Two mo’ blocks of painful mis’ry. Half-way up what seem’ lak’ a hundred-mile trip on Boulevard Drive, between Fourth Avenue and Third Avenue, there was that dawg. He warn’t a big dawg. Jes’ a little ‘ol dawg. I remember when I tried to pick him up and got bit right on my cheek. They put the po’ dawg in sumpthin’ called “quarantine,” tel’ they figgered out if it had rabies. He was a yappy little dawg. As we passed his yard, I could see’im laying up on th’ front step. He jes’ eye-ballin' me. He ain't come out yappin’ his fool head off lak’ he always does. Sometimes I think dawgs jes’ know when to leave a body alone.

In what seem’ lak’ several years, we drag’ ourselves through the las’ block and finally arrive at my house at 32, 3rd Avenue. We walked past the magnolia, crabapple and sweet-gum trees in the front yard kicking at the cockle-burs and the fallen magnolia leaves. Past the big front porch with the swinging settee on it, and on up the steps of the smaller porch to the front door on my side of the house.

Lizzie Mae met us at the door. The school had already called her. She swung the screen door open and said, “You come on in here Mr. Davitt, (David is my middle name. Folks call' me that when I was a chile.) honey-chile, an’ les git you cleaned up.”

“Kin’ I come in, too?” asked Bunky.

“You git on home now, boy. I got enough to scratch here wid’out botherin’ wid’ you.”

Bunky Allen could not possibly have known whut was a goin’ on in my head. I could not have felt more embarrassed or ashamed. I reeked more of humiliation than anything else. Pooped in my pants, right there in front of Beverly Ann Taylor an’ all. Walk’ all the way home with that stuff a slidin’ down my leg. When I saw that sweet black face of Lizzie Mae, the tears erupted again.

Bunk knew better’n t’cross Lizzie Mae, so he back’ away and disappeared. Lizzie Mae took me into the house, sat down on a chair and began to unbuckle the military-web-belt holdin’ up my knickers. When they fell to the floor, there was a brown streak down the inside of my left leg. “Whooo Boy! You is a sho’ nuff mess!” said she. I just bawled.

Then something wonderful happened! Something that took away all the pain and humiliation and made me stop crying in an instant. Lizzie Mae took my six-year-old tear-streaked face in her brown hands, with my poop-stinkin’ to high heaven, and said to me, “You be proud, boy. You ain’t done nuthin’ wrong, jus’ a little accident, thas’ all. You be proud an’ you’ll grow into a real man.”

I don’t know if I ever made it into what Lizzie Mae or anyone else, might call a real man, but she made me feel like one, from that day until this. I’m grown up now. Well, maybe not. In any case, I often still feel that lump of smelly stuff a-slidin’ down my leg. I look at the corduroy knickers of my life and I don’t see much difference between what I see, and that smelly lump. But when these humiliating and self-abusing thoughts assault my brain, I try to see Lizzie Mae’s beautiful black face. And when I do, I think I catch a tiny glimpse of
. . . the Face of God.

Friday, June 19, 2015


Last night, while struggling with disciplining my thoughts so I could go to sleep, I asked God to make it happen. It seemed that as soon as I did, other thoughts came. I was impressed with the possible error (if not error, then possibly the misconstruing) of the idea of "accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior." There appears to be more than adequate biblical evidence for such an idea, yet the construct just doesn't ring entirely true. This is intellectual acceptance and possibly faith. Both are affirmable, especially the faith part. But something is missing.

Something is wrong with this doctrine.

What struck me is that it might not be an individual "accepting Jesus," but, instead, Jesus "accepting that person." I thought, if so, how does that come about? What are the dynamics that make this happen?

It reaches all the way back to the creation of humankind. Knowing full well that they would disengage with God, why did he do it? Knowing that having given us "free will," and that we would turn away from him, why did he go ahead and create us anyway? There is a passage in Justus that may answer this question:

The scene -- Jesus and the disciples were vacationing at the house of Simon the Tanner, on the white beaches of the Mediterranean near the city of Joppa. They were seated around a campfire in the sand, the afternoon fading into darkness . . .

"There was a time beyond the way men measure time,” he began, “when I and my Father lived together on the other side of the stars . . .”

What can I say to them? How can I speak to them of love that transcends their capacity to comprehend? How can I tell them that they, each of them, are both the objects and consequence of that love? That they, and they alone, are the objects of the deepest stirrings, the deepest feelings in heart of him who is Omnipotent, of him who is all-knowing, of him who is everywhere present, of him who cannont change, of him who is eternal?

“We considered what you might think imponderable. Our love for each other . . . infinite, eternal, and absolute. I and my Father are One. It is beyond the reach of reality for us to be anything else. Yet, in all the endless realms of omnipotent possibility, there was something we did not have and could not possess.”

“What could that be?” from Matthew, the intellectual among us. If any of us besides Jesus could wear the mantle of ‘theologian,’ it was this tax collector. The irony, as well as the curiosity was lost on none of us. “How could God, who is wholly contained in himself,” Matthew asked, “How could God not have something, anything he could have wanted? How is it that an omnipotent, infinite Sovereign lack anything he desired? If he lacked something, how could he be all-encompassing? How could he be God?”

Jesus smiled. It was the question he wanted. “One cannot have what is not his to own.”

“And what is there amongst all of reality that does not belong to Yahweh?” Matthew looked at Peter to his right and James to his left as if seeking their concurrence and support. He got it. The intense interest in their expressions compelled an answer.

“Your love,” said Jesus simply.

A breeze, or something like it, provoked the flames and they leaped slightly higher, illuminating faces. The puzzlement on each face evidenced profound lack of comprehension. “Simon,” he said, “You are a tanner of hides. You create fine leather for king’s houses. You love the work of your hands, do you not?” Simon thought of the end product of his labors, its softness, its rich fresh leather aroma and smiled in affirmation. “Tell me, Simon,” Jesus continued, “does your fine leather love you back?”

Simon’s eyes averted, “Well, of course not, but . . .”

“It may please you, but the pleasure is of your own creation. It cannot think or feel to love you back, yet you cherish its beauty and think it is love. It is not. Love that responds from the object of one’s love is not something that can be generated by the Lover—even if the Lover is the Sovereign God. The love of which I speak is not a mere decision, as if it were something one can move, shape or discontinue, as if it were something that can be shut off and on. Love, true, authentic love must come because one feels it deep within himself and expresses it because he cannot contain it. To "make a decision to love," is pure nonsense. You can decide that you can treat someone in a loving way, but that is a decision to control behavior in a certain way. It is not love. Such a decision does not require passion. It means that you have decided to be nice. Something you should have learned as a child. No! Love must spring, irresistibly, from the well of one’s being. That is why you have being. You were created in order to love, freely and confidently.”

"Do you think the Father and I, do you think the Holy Spirit of God, do you think that we do not feel heartfelt love and compassion for each one of you? Do you not know that when you suffer, we suffer? Do you think we, ourselves, would not empty our life for you, or die for you? Do you think we just "decided" to love you, like one decides to move a stone from one place to another, in a children's game? No, we are touched deeply and emotionally for you. We want you in our life and we want you to know it."

“It is not possible to love without the force of its power within you. You have no power to choose to love, you have the power to choose whether to express it. If it is there, you have the power to repress it. If it is not there, you cannot generate it or choose to express what does not exist.”

* * *

The shadows on our faces flickered with the flames. They were covered by consternation and seeking to understand—no, to appreciate what he was saying to us. “The Father has placed within you the capacity, the power, to irresistibly love him, yet you have the choice to release that love or not. You also have the power to determine by what measure it is released. You are free—free to release love or repress it. You are the only creatures on earth with that power.” Was he saying that we were created so that the Father would have someone to love him because we chose to give it to him, or withhold it from him? Such an inscrutable thought was too high for us.

“My Father and I wish that more than anything your minds can imagine,” Jesus continued. “Look above you.” Our heads lifted to behold a canopy of brilliance spread like a glorious, sparkling belt across a field of velvet darkness. “Can you count them? What you can actually see is an infinitesimal slice of what your eyes cannot see.” I thought about that. How could there be heavenly bodies that we could not see? If they were there, why could we not see them? “Before these,” Jesus said, “there were angels. Like you, they were created with the ability to love or withhold it. Those that loved were confirmed in their love. Now they love the Father because the thought that they could not would never occur to them.”

It did not occur to me then, on that lovely, starry night, but on reflection I realized that what Jesus was giving us was the very rationale for creation. Moreover, he was telling us why he had come.

“Yet, even they were not created supremely. They were not created in the Image of God.” He paused only for the briefest of moments, just enough to create a hunger, an anticipation for his next words. “You were,” he said. “You were created more like God than you can now comprehend. Of no other living being can it be said that it was created in the Image of God.” It was too much. Our minds were reeling. We needed closure and Jesus seemed to sense that. “That Image has been corrupted. I have come,” he said, “to give the Image of God back to you so that once again, you may freely love the Father and his Son, whom he has sent. There is much to say; there is much to teach you, but this much is enough. For now it is all you can absorb.” With that, he rose and shook the sand from his garments. “This day has ended. Let’s get some sleep.” He turned and walked toward the house. The twelve and most of the others followed. I remained. I needed to think.

It is clear to me now, that the notion of "accepting Jesus" does not entirely grasp the meaning of genuine engagement with God. Jesus desires to accept us. And the only thing -- the only thing -- that creates the venue for that is our desire to love him. If he senses, or knows, that we love him, that is all that is his acceptance requires. Changes in behavior (repentance) are not a part of this requirement. That may, or may not, come later; and if it does, it comes naturally, borne and energized by our love for him, but it is not a part of our acceptance by God. It is true, he already knows whether or not we will love him. That is the premise upon which the biblical teaching of predestination is built. So that when we come to love him, we discover that he knew it would happen all along. And, given our proclivity to evil as evidenced by our sorry lives, that stuns and amazes us. But the core issue is not predestination, it is the plain and simple fact that Jesus, God the Father, God the Holy Spirit are simply hungry for our love. It explains the reason for the cross, and since he first loved us, comes the full circle of his love for us, forgiveness of our sins and the rest of eternity in his blessedness.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. The apostle Paul -- 1 Corinthians 13:13