Note: I recently returned from a three day retreat at the Jesuit Retreat Center in Los Altos, California. One of the days my director asked me to pray with Jesus’ hidden years, those years growing up that we know almost nothing about. He instructed me to allow God to use my imagination to experience what it might have been like growing up with Jesus. The following verse is the result of that prayer time.
We are no more than four or five years old.
We’re playing “carpenter” with Joseph’s tools.
We’ve produced imaginary doors and chairs and stools.
We’re as proud as four year olds can be.
Every moment that our parents will allow
we spend together doing things that boys enjoy;
hikes, and hills, and throwing rocks,
and chasing dogs, and catching bugs;
enjoying life the way that only little boys know how.
Life with him is life lived as life should be lived;
full of joy and cheerful chatter;
doing things that matter when you’re young;
mischievous, but not crossing the point where hurt results;
just the right amount of fun to cause the old and young alike to grin
that knowing smile that says good times been had by all.
He seems to have a knack for it.
Hard to believe that he is my best friend.
We especially enjoy a rainy day.
We sit inside the door and catch the raindrops from the roof.
I don’t know why we find it so much fun. But we do.
There’s something fresh and free that keeps us sitting there all day
and we’re saddened when the rain has gone away.
We’re also saddened when we have to part,
he to his home and me to mine
counting the time until we can be side by side again.
We grew, as boys are apt to do,
and chasing bugs turned into chasing other things,
but what he chased seemed richer than the things my heart longed for.
Unlike the other friends I had, no one could match him
for the love, a wholesome, true, and faithful love
that touched a place inside my soul I didn’t know was touchable.
We shared a bond I didn’t know was shareable.
I felt so blessed he shared that bond with me.
Though life was full and rich and free,
we also shared some darker things.
The darkest was the day when Joseph died.
We were in the midst of teenage years.
The sorrow of that day rings loudly in my ear.
There are no words sufficient for the pain we felt.
Thankfully, our history of life and love had laid foundations
upon which a day of loss could rest.
Solace was found in our togetherness.
Evening’s approach found us astride the bluff
that marked the edge of town.
We watched the sun slip slowly down
below the Galilean hills.
As its rim sank just below horizon’s edge
he turned and looked at me.
I saw a look that I had never seen.
There was the slightest twinkle in his eye.
I thought at first it was grief’s tear until I realized
it was as if he knew a secret thing kept hidden until now.
I had the sense that he knew something I did not.
It seemed as though suspected truth had been confirmed,
a knowing became known, a doubt was laid to rest.
Suffering shifted something deep inside his human breast.
Though the setting sun had brought the dark of night,
it would surely rise and bring the morning light.
I watched his grin grow gently to a smile
and wondered then what days ahead would hold.
That marked the day when he and I
journeyed together on a different sort of road.
No less time was spent in treasured company,
but what we did seemed purposeful in ways I can’t explain.
Carefree became more caring.
The work became like worship.
A new point on the compass steered the heading of his life.
It felt a privilege to join him in the tasks at hand.
Finally the day came that I knew would always come,
the day for him to walk his road and me to walk down mine.
One last trip out to the bluff, we sat there side by side,
and I saw that look, that knowing look, I’d seen when Joseph died.
I realized what he had known back then.
Death was a beginning, not an end.
Though our parting felt a lot like death,
a voice within said, “Take another breath.”
Longingly, I watched my friend leave town today.
I watched him slowly sink below the far off hill
and thought of sunset on the day that Joseph’s breath grew still,
and I recalled again that knowing look.
Though my human eyes will never see my friend again,
that knowing look is now upon my face.
I know the sun will rise upon a better day.
We have not enjoyed our last embrace.
Danny Mullins © 2017