I made a run to the market this morning.
As I pushed my cart somewhere between bread and frozen stuff, a store manager came up to me.
“I haven’t seen your ‘helper’ with you in awhile. I hope he’s doing OK.”
By “helper,” he meant Joey, who used to accompany me to the store. But in his teenage/young adult years, he’s taken to sleeping in on the weekends, which is just his age, not autism. So now I shop solo.
“He’s fine,” I explained, along with the stuff about his late sleeping.
The manager, to whom I’d never spoken before today, expressed his pleasure at that news, then went into an extended riff on what a good dad I am.
I held it together, but I could have shed a few tears of joy. The last month has been less than pleasant for me – in fact, some days were miserable. We were clubbed with ridiculously high, out of budget bills for medications and home furnace repair. In other news, folks with whom I’d been on good terms became unhappy with me and were arrogant and unkind in expressing it. Work sucked for about a week. And that’s for starters. I could share TMI but some of it is too painful to type.
So this stranger, basically saying, “Hey, over the last couple of years I’ve been watching you, and you are a good guy” was like medicine. Or at least a soothing shot of Tequila (good stuff only, I don’t drink swill).
Good spiritual advice is to never, ever get so hung up on compliments that you start to believe your own press releases. But I didn’t take this praise unrealistically – I know my failings as a dad but I am also aware that I’ve done things and endured in situations that send plenty of other men running out the door. And Joey’s happiness and well being is something to which I’ve contributed considerably.
I’ve never watched the show Dr. Who (that confession causes a number of my friends to roll their eyes), but someone recently shared this clip from the series. The Doctor is a time traveler, and in this scene, he’s fetched mentally tormented artist Vincent Van Gogh from the past and taken him to a present day museum display of his work. What happens is… well, watch the video clip. It’s just a couple of minutes long:
We all need affirmation. It is a blessing when it comes in some out-of-the-blue intrusion of grace.
I believe that life is full of dress rehearsals for eternal things. Coming up a few Sundays from now, many churches will hear ultimate words of affirmation,
His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21 ESV)
The great and eternal affirmation will come for those who did “holy” things unknowingly while muddling through “normal” stuff. Grace, out of the blue, affirming that in ways known but to Him, God made us vessels of his grace to help others through the painful world that is passing away, and toward eternal joy.