So last Saturday I was taking all those knickknacks off the shadow boxes in the bedroom and, to make the job less annoying, thinking about where those various gadgets came from. Piano students and family members were the biggest culprits—vases of all sizes and materials including one made of olive wood from Bethlehem, cups and saucers with cute pictures and sayings, dinner bells, porcelain figurines, seashells, a few pictures, a whiskey bottle inside of which Keith's uncle had whittled a wooden airplane. (Yep, after he drank the whiskey.)
Then I took down the brass candle holder. It used to have a twin, but it was broken long ago in one of the many moves it has made since I received it over 45 years ago. It came from my best friend in high school years. We did not attend the same high school because we lived in Tampa across town from each other. Even 45 years ago, Tampa was big enough to have several high schools. But we attended church together and did our best to call one another and spend the night every so often. Her parents owned some lakefront property and every summer found us out on the raft, a la Huckleberry Finn, talking, laughing, and planning our lives as we soaked up the sun.
We were different in a lot of ways. She was a petite blonde with big blue eyes and long hair, interested in becoming a secretary. I was a not so petite, beady-eyed brunette with long hair, planning to attend college and eventually operate a music studio. We traded lessons—she teaching me Gregg shorthand, and me teaching her music theory. I can still do some of that shorthand, but I doubt anyone could read it!
We were both introverts and loners, both had distinct likes and dislikes especially in clothing styles, which amounted to high neck Victorian collars, billowy sleeves, Bell bottoms, and granny dresses in those days. We both wrote in our spare time and had things published in the school literary magazine. We even wrote spiritual poetry together in some of those late overnighters. We taught the children's Bible classes, brainstorming together about techniques and take-homes since no one had bothered to actually teach us how to do it. We discussed our favorite hymns and their deeper meanings. We took sermon notes in shorthand and always sat where we could see the overhead projector, the precursor of power point.
All of that came flooding back as I picked up that well-patina-ed candle holder. I have done a little purging lately, not as much as I should, but some. I don't even use this thing any more, I thought, especially since it lost its mate. While we lose our power often out here in the country, we have plenty of flashlights and a much more powerful propane camp lantern, not to mention a generator for the long hauls. I have much prettier candle holders in my china cabinet now for special occasion dinners. So why not throw it out?
I suppose part of the problem is that I have completely lost track of this friend now. She was in my wedding and asked me to be in hers, even though I had moved a thousand miles away, but by the time the wedding came around I would have been 8 months pregnant and that just wasn't going to work.
We also married differently. Her husband was a professional, a PhD in psychology, I think, and a city guy his entire life. Mine was an Arkansas hillbilly who had been in the Marine Corps, and then became a preacher. They were as different as night and day, and though she did convert her husband before their marriage, we still had little in common.
But we kept in contact, visiting one another a few times, back and forth, anxious, at least I was, to keep that old friendship that had meant so much alive. But then, after about thirty years, it was only a matter of Christmas cards, and now that has gradually come to an end, and I don't even know how that happened. Right now I cannot find out if she is even still alive, and no one from the congregation we used to be a part of is around who knows where she might be. When I checked the address on Google, she is no longer listed as a resident there.
So, what about this candle holder? Well, I still have it. It isn't that it would be hard to throw it away. After all, it isn't even worth much now. What's hard to throw away is the relationship. I think God has the same reluctance. When I look at those churches in Revelation, the symbolic seven (there were many more in the area) have so many problems, you wonder that God had not already angrily destroyed them. Leaving their first love, sexual immorality, idolatry, lukewarm faith, but still he warns rather than simply throwing out their candlestick—the symbol of their identity as a church of the Lord, giving light to the world. Even in the Old Testament, he waited for centuries, hoping that his people would turn to Him again. He was their father, and they his firstborn. But finally, he did come in destruction, just as he will for us someday if we follow their footsteps instead of our Lord's.
But maybe, for a little while longer, I will keep dusting that brass candlestick. Maybe I will someday find my old friend. I will hold out hope a little longer, and try a little harder to find her before I discard this candle holder. What we used to have was wonderful enough to be worth it.
How about your relationship with the Father? Does He even have a candle holder to remember you by?
For thus says the LORD: “Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, ‘O LORD, save your people, the remnant of Israel.’ Behold, I will bring them from the north country and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn. (Jer 31:7-9).