Dougie and Steve Are After You
“You are a hiding place for me. You preserve me from trouble.” – Psalm 32:7
All the kids in my neighborhood were free range. But Dougie and Steve were feral. They threw rocks, robbed the 7/11 blind, swore constantly. If I didn’t run out of school, they’d find me. Kidney shots and headlocks, chestnuts from a wrist-rocket, lessons in how to take a punch.
One May afternoon Dougie and Steve had me on the run. They were breathing violence. They were after me. I rounded a corner and saw a gigantic lilac bush, the size of an RV.
I dove in and found a small clearing. The lilacs had me hidden. I lay on my back, tried to quiet my breathing. I could hear them circling, muttering, “chicken” and much worse.
The wind blew through the bush. Branches rustled louder than my pounding heart. The noise gave me cover. The scent of the flowers was intense. I could still hear Dougie and Steve. They were close, but they felt distant.
Minutes passed. I lay on my back and stared up at the springtime sky. It was gigantic. Clouds the size of our entire town moved quickly across it. Purple sunlight played through the branches. The air inside my hiding place just glowed.
The sky was huge. Dougie and Steve were near, but I could feel them drifting away. They were small. Soon they’d discover girls, beer, fast cars, things more exciting than torturing a fourth grader. They were small. The sky was huge.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer says the world will always scare us. But when you hide in Christ, you have more than the world. You have life with God. And life with God pulls us into a love so expansive it renders every threat inconsequential.
Dougie, Steve, illness, despair, mortality itself, they all lose power when held next to the love of God. Are they on your heels? Dive in. There’s no shame in hiding. And the lilacs smell incredible.
God, thank you for hiding us in plain sight.
Matt Fitzgerald is the Senior Pastor of St. Pauls United Church of Christ in Chicago. He is the host of “Preachers on Preaching,” a weekly podcast sponsored by The Christian Century.