A Closed Book

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. John 12:24

I just finished a book. It has kept me up for two nights. Thankfully, yesterday was a public holiday and I could afford a late night of reading. It was one of those books that demands a second reading. For now, it will return to its place on my book shelf. I am beginning to have a small library. It seems like I am always rebuilding my personal library. It coincides with the new phases of my life. This one is four years old just like our ministry here. I noticed that I am reading books that I never thought that I would read in another time. Before, I was more indiscriminate in my reading. Maybe it is a sign that I am getting old. I remember a pastor whose sermon I can no longer recall but I remember one small digression he made in his discourse. He observed that when he was young, he had tons of friends. Now he is older, he only has friends that he can count with one hand. Perhaps it is this way with everything. As we mature, we realize that it is not quantity but quality that really counts.

Some reading this might remember that I used to write frequently about Igor. Much of our reflections centered on our interactions with him then. I haven’t written much about him lately. For those who are not familiar with him I will give a brief introduction. He was a homeless young man who had lived in the streets since he was 8. For a short period, we were his parents and he was our son. I think this best describes our relationship. Thankfully, he is no longer in the streets. He managed to find his way out. He has not found a completely stable situation but he is at a stage where the streets no longer hold any appeal to him. He used to come by our house time and time again, kept us up to date with the ups and downs of his life. However, it has been a while since we heard from him. The last time was a phone call in the beginning of this year. The conversation was different. He called and then he was silent. It wasn’t a worrisome silence. It was a silence that informed our souls that things have changed. We live in different worlds now but it was good while we existed in the same one. I think that he just wanted to see if things have really changed. Perhaps, this was the reason for the call.

I had to bring up subjects to talk about. I spoke about Janaina. Now, I have to say something about her. Not everyone might know her. Well, the most succinct way to do this is to say that she was someone we knew when she was a homeless child 20 years ago. Today she is a mother of a beautiful child and a caregiver in a group home for mentally-ill adults. We never thought that we would be in contact with her again. Now, she comes to our house on a regular basis. Igor has met her once. I commented that she came by our house and was doing well. Then, he asked, “Does she have Jesus in her heart?” I have heard this question so many times but it was strange hearing it from Igor. He is part of a Pentecostal Church. It is his spiritual home presently. He has adopted its culture and mannerisms. The church divides people into two categories; those with Jesus in their hearts and those without. I understood his question but I don’t believe in its simple mathematics. I am an Anglican. We don’t open windows into people’s souls. I told him that Janaina is very concerned about doing what is right in God’s eyes. I hope it answered his question. He did not say much. He changed the subject and talked about his church activities. He is helping his pastor in the church and working with the pastor. The conversation ended soon after this.

Igor has moved on. He is detached himself from the street life. We are still connected to it. It is the place where we are going to be staying for a long time, God willing. It means that he has to let us go. If not, his link with the street will be sustained through us. It is not a positive connection for him now. He needs to move forward and forget everything that was behind him in order to reach his goal. Unfortunately, we are intrinsically part of his past. Perhaps this was the nature of our last conversation. It was a realization that our time together has come to end. It was time to let things die. We understand. He needs to grow and discover for himself what it means for him to be a child of God in this world. We discovered that our place is in the streets. He has different books to read. We were glad that we were a chapter in his life. Now, I can close this chapter and put it on the shelf. We would like to read this book again, maybe sometime in the future.

Janaina was a closed book for a long time. One day the Holy Spirt blew the dust off the cover and loaned this precious book to us again. We get to read another chapter with her. She is studying English with Mary and, afterwards, we usually have lunch together. It is interesting that when we knew her in the streets, we never imagined this present scenery occurring. The English language was the bridge that connected us to Igor. It was the first thing he wanted to learn from us. We had regular English lessons with him in the streets and this was how our relationship grew. Perhaps one day 20 years from now, Igor will be having lunch with us on a weekly basis.

Igor is gone from our lives for now. Unfortunately Igor is not a book that belongs to my library. He belongs to God. We just had the privilege to read his book for a brief moment. Perhaps God will allow us another glimpse at it. I hope so.

Do we consider Igor a success story? Well, there is no such thing as success or failure in what we do. There are just blessings. It was a blessing to know him and it is an extra blessing that God has brought Janaina back into our lives. To call it a success would be reducing this wonderful thing into something trivial. I like the idea of books. They invite me into their world and I leave being deeply enriched. It was a wonderful gift from God to read a chapter in the life of our dear friend and one-time son, Igor.

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3 thoughts on “A Closed Book

  1. Fr. Stephen, we found your analogy of chapters and books very insightful. We like it so much, we will use it in the future as an avenue to tell your story as we know it to those we meet.
    We all have so many chapters in books in our lives and it is good to check our bookshelves regularly for those books we need to let go…some a little more difficult than others. Wanda and I would like to hold on to the Dass book we love so much a little longer.
    God bless

  2. It is interesting how God puts people in our lives when we most need them, or when they most need us. And similarly, might “remove” them when it is better for each to move on their own. At different ages of our lives, and under different circumstances, our needs change. We might be very close to a friend for years, and then drift apart. And the “drifting” might be what is best for both parties. I like your analogy of the unread book or twice read book analogous to a “friendship. Thank you, as always, for sharing your insight and keeping us informed.

    • There is a thief called the devil, and Jesus said he comes only to steal, kill and destroy. God gives us beautiful relationships, then this robber comes and steals them from us! I think somstimes we fail to pray for the Lord to place a hedge around these relationships. If they are not “fenced in” and protected by God, they are fair game for the one who loves to break people up.

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