As my son-in-law swept up the toddler for her evening nap, I stepped silently out the front door for an evening walk, rosary in hand. It was dusk, and the sky was alight with rose colored clouds. Everything looked pink.
As I walked, the beads slipping quietly between my fingers, I alternately poured out my heart about the heavy crosses of injustice in my life right now that seem sometimes too heavy to bear, and then I brought my attention back to the mysteries. Eventually I had a tapestry of the events of the Gospel interwoven with my present sorrows.
I held the entire weaving up to the Lord. And I walked resolutely down the dusty sidewalk, looking from my bare feet, then up the sky and back again.
“God the creator….(mumble mumble….)
I looked around. There was a diminutive man a little older than myself standing across the street, back pack on his back, wearing something like a backward shawl drawn across his chest and over his shoulders. His skin was a deep reddish brown, his choppy hair graying.
“That sounds like a very good sentence,” I shouted back, with cars roaring between us. “What was the second half?”
He tried again, “God the Creator….. ”
I didn’t hear. A car dashed past, gunning its engine, taking his words away.
I decided to cross the street. “Hang on!”
“Hi. I couldn’t hear you, I’m sorry. What was that?”
“God the Creator is only a breath away.”
We smiled at each other. “Thank you. I agree totally with that!”
He said his name was Juan. I told him my name, too.
He had large, dark, peaceful eyes that conveyed immense inner strength and joy. I smiled back.
He said he thought I could use a word of encouragement.
He said he had been walking for 860 days now. He just decided to walk and talk to people to try and lift them up. Was there anything I would like him to pray for me about?
I said yes, lots of things. I told him something that had been on my mind, but avoided the heaviest of my crosses or any of my tangled anguish. He seemed to know I had not really told him much but he didn’t seem to mind, either.
He asked me how the planets stay in their places and spin at just the right beautiful speed. “Gravity?” I thought.
He smiled. “Besides gravity,” he said.
“God’s Word,” he said. “It is God’s Word that holds all things and directs the universe.”
“And it does not come back to Him void,” I said, “but does what He sent it to do.”
He liked that.
We enjoyed talking in Scripture verses for a while.
He reminded me that I must not give up praying and asking for my petition to be granted, even though things seemed bleak. God would respond, he said. I told him I was “the persistent widow.”
He told me a story he heard in his travels that made my eyes damp. It had a resemblance to one of my deepest wounds, that has been re-opened lately. He was on target. That surprised me- but only a little.
I studied the wrinkles on his face, and around his eyes, as he talked to me. I liked his face; the earnest eyes, the high cheek bones. It was the face of someone simple of heart, wise and kindly and strong. He seemed familiar somehow.
He wanted to pray aloud together so we did. We joined hands there on the sidewalk with the cars whizzing by, stirring the scattered leaves around us.
He prayed for me, and I prayed for him.
He said he would be getting on now. He said he enjoyed talking to me, and that every time he thought of me, he would pray for me. I said, “Same!”
He recommended I read the book, Spiritual Authority by an anonymous author, and also The Purpose Driven Life.
I had a book to recommend too. “The Way of the Pilgrim.” I told him about it. He said, “I would LOVE to read that book!”
“You remind me of that story,” I said,
He asked if he could hug me and I said he could. He kissed my cheek. He said, “Goodbye, Sweetheart. That’s what you are. God wants me to tell you you’re His sweet heart.”
He gave me a big happy smile. “He’s so pleased with you.”
“I bet He is very happy with you, too.”
We each went our way.
I was late to my birthday party. My friends threatened that they were even going to eat Andrea’s home made cranberry bread (my favorite) without me! They had written me cards, brought flowers, donated to a charity I was raising money for for my birthday. Paula gave me a shawl with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the back. I loved it.
Later, as I was falling asleep, I thought about the conversation with Juan, and tried to remember it all. I realized I had forgotten a lot of what he said.
“Sometimes, the Devil will try to come at you through people,” he had said. “When you’ve done everything you can, sometimes, you just have to stand. In your spiritual authority. It’s time to stand. ”
Ultimately, in the battle, it’s not about the people, but- ”
“the powers and principalities of darkness!” I had finished.
“The Father has given Jesus Christ complete authority,” he wanted me to remember. No matter what is overwhelming us, “He is GREATER!”
“In love,” had had told me thoughtfully, “We have to remember we’re not in it just for ourselves.”
I remembered the story he had told me about a woman evangelist, “She felt she had a word. And she knew where she needed to give it. And she went there, but along the way….”
I enjoyed the conversation very much. But the effect being with him had on me is what I remember the most. The infusion of strength and lightness of heart he communicated are still with me.
Just as I was falling asleep, I got a phone call, and some disturbing news that if given to me even a few days before, would have been heart crushing and upsetting. I received it in peace, and was even able to calm and encourage the caller.
I know while I was standing there with Juan the stranger, something lifted from me, and I was made able somehow. Days later, this lightness and new hope is still with me, along with a gentle surety that I will know the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living; that yet again in this life, I will rise and walk.