It was an ordinary day. Schedules were turned upside-down and inside-out. It was a Wednesday, and I had already experienced some degree of anxiety and frustration. My husband was dealing with higher-than-usual blood-sugar levels, despite all efforts to get them dropped down. Both of us were edgy and somewhat irritable. Peacefulness seemed elusive at best and irretrievable at worst.
Considering our distracted state of being, I decided to accompany “hubby dear” as he went to the Centering Prayer group he led. I had work to do at church as well. Our mutual commitments had a calming effect on both of us. In my view, we were simply involved in our ordinary tasks—no fuss, no muss.
Then, life happened.
I entered the church kitchen to warm up my cup of coffee—fuel for laboring over my list of chores—and went to start my work. But first I opted to chat with the two women who were filling bags for the food pantry. In the midst of our conversation, laden with funny stories, I noticed a gentleman who stood nearby. Jokingly, I told him that this was “girl talk” and he shouldn’t be listening. He took a few steps . . . then stopped.
I thought he was simply waiting for me to finish talking so that all three of them could continue what needed to be done. So I waved goodbye. But before I could take one step, one of the women asked me who I was. I responded and she said, “Oh, I know you!”
Her comment evoked an identical one from the male bystander. He said, “I know you. You probably don’t recognize me. I’ve got a beard now.” I knew his voice! Uh oh—this is beginning to be a little scary, I thought, and echoes of Scripture sounded in my being. With a quick exchange of memories (our having been acquaintances through the common connection of dear neighbors, his brother and sister-in-law), he remarked that he had better continue his volunteer work. Nothing more was said, nor was anything needed. At least so it appeared. But before we parted company, he—I’ll identify him as “J.”—asked if my husband was in the building. I knew he wanted to speak with him.
An hour or so later, my husband emerged from his session and I told him that J. was in the building. Contact was made. A second, deeper encounter ensued—and the heart of my story became clearer to me. This time, it was a three-way conversation: a “trinitarian communication” of sorts!
J. began the dialogue with a longer description of his life. It was an account that was far more intense and personal than statements of age, occupation, health, wealth, and welfare. In essence, he divulged his spirit, his very heart and soul. He began with statements of loss and gain. This evoked an understanding of who he was and is and would always be.
We were mesmerized and profoundly affected by his authenticity. Here, speaking with us, was a man who once was a silent bystander. He gained his voice when he lost his love, fishing. He shared the fact that the loss still devastated him. It was a way of life for him, yet losing it was transformative. It evoked in him a call to help others live with their losses. He emphasized this fact multiple times, as if to embed its power in us as well.
J. now lives to help others see how loss can empower a vocal, prophetic stance in life. Losses can enhance our ability to stand in compassionate communion with others. We can gain our voices through and with our losses.
I did not tell him anything he did not already know. I only affirmed it. J. had incredible clarity regarding who he was and who he must be. I knew we were in the company of a prophet, a man of God. Before he left to return to serving at the food pantry, he gave us a command. He told us we had to visit a family he knew was suffering from loss of companionship. Former friends had ceased stopping by. Save for family members, they were essentially alone. We had enjoyed an acquaintanceship with them years ago, but had lost touch over time. J. commanded us three times—an auspicious number—to pay this couple a visit. He stayed until he heard us promise to do so. Then he left to return to serving others.
God called us that morning. God called us both individually and as a couple. God called with reminders of our past connection and with the need for a return to that earlier acquaintanceship, renewing it in the present time. God reminded us that true friendships span the years. They prevail in good times and sorrowful ones. They gain strength in sharing joys and sufferings, in tales told and stories heard.
Life changed that morning. Honed in laughter as well as serious attentiveness, we did more than reminisce over fishing days and changing times. We connected the dots on the map of our lives as we discovered them anew. Something beyond a quick encounter had occurred. Whether to identify it or not was neither an issue nor a need. This was abundantly clear when we exchanged farewells. Words were insufficient. In one swift movement, all three of us gathered in a communal hug. More than an expression of renewed camaraderie, it was the expression of a trinitarian God viewed and experienced as a human trio embraced.
This was not a reunion. It was a new creation, a divine intervention. It was an expression of God’s real presence in the ordinary everydayness which, too often, clouds our vision with what we sadly view as mundane. That day, in that exchange of life, I heard God calling. I heard God’s voice speaking with a Southern drawl. I heard divinity reminding me that loss brings gain.
I also heard my own voice speaking words from Scripture as I gently reminded a fisherman who lost what he loved—catching fish—that this loss was itself an entry into a new love. I reminded him that he was like those early apostles who had been plying the same trade. As they were told then, I was telling him now that he also was being called to be a fisher of humans.
Our communal hug opened our hearts. Our sharing opened our lives. Our goodbyes opened the way to new hellos. Slowly, we moved from encircling each other to spanning the world in which we live. Our friend smilingly stated the he’d better get back to helping the pantry workers. We returned the smile with our own need to get back to our commitments. This trio had not disbanded. It had expanded into a trinity of love, baited and ready to be shared with renewed vigor and vitality.
We left the room together—to go fishing! ♦
Fran Salone-Pelletier holds a master’s degree in theology. She is the author of a trilogy of scriptural meditations, Awakening to God: The Sunday Readings in Our Lives, from which this selection is taken. She is also a religious educator, retreat leader, lecturer, and grandmother of four. Reach her at email@example.com.