MARCHING TO A WORTHY DRUMMER INSTALLMENT #33

Chapter 14: Implications for the Future

I’d very much like to say that our family was a decent representation, at the human level, of what the Family of God is all about. But, given the dysfunctional nature of our particular grouping, I most certainly hope that God does a better job of it than we did. It would be great to blame the disorder on mother’s constant disappointment in us and as a result of that on dad’s pretty constant wrath.

Truth be told, however, that’s just not the whole truth. If mom and dad were incessantly on our tails, it’s because we richly deserved it. The three of us, our sister, my brother and myself, are very close now. But that wasn’t always the case. In our teen years we were a bad lot. My brother and I were shifty and were given to frequent bouts of anger toward each other, almost always involving physical conflict, most often hitting and choking. The rancor only intensified as we grew older. On one occasion it so happened that we both were home for the weekend on 72-hour liberty and sharing a bedroom. Late that night after returning from our dates I decided to take a shower, which in itself, given the lateness of the hour, was thoroughly inconsiderate to my brother. I made it infinitely worse by singing loudly in complete disregard of his well-being.

He didn’t take it lying down. He arose from the covers and, knowing that I’d eventually have to open the door next to his bed, he stood on the mattress and assumed a posture that would bring his tight-knuckled fist downward into my belly with maximum impact. He waited there a long time, as I was in no particular hurry, and as he did so, his adrenaline level kept mounting.

I eventually opened the door, whereupon the fist connected with my stomach so abruptly that I was on the floor almost unconscious before realizing what happened. That was just one little event among a long string of sordid episodes where we both participated with equal fervor.

Our sister wasn’t clean in all this. Oh, no. One evening when I was twelve she had a party at our house with several friends from her all-girl school. Our parents were gone, having left her to baby-sit, as, for good reason, they didn’t trust us to be on our own. The girls had so much fun together that my brother and I were completely forgotten. One of the girls opened a bottle of rum and the party went into overdrive. Somebody mentioned how sad it was that there was no dog in the house. It would have been so much fun to get it drunk. While they were dwelling on that, with the imaginary dog on their minds, I came down the stairs in my pajamas to see what the noise was all about. That’s when the light bulb clicked on in my sister’s head. “We don’t need a dog!” she screamed in hilarity. “We have my brother!”.

Whereupon she invited me to sit and poured a very large dollop of rum into a glass and handed it to me. Not having any idea of the consequences, I thought it was a pretty good idea myself and proceeded to down the contents. I looked at them with a silly grin, held out the empty glass, and said “More!”

They were only too happy to oblige. Judging from the screaming that followed, I guess that I did pretty well as a drunk dog. But then the room began to spin. “I don’t feel so good,” I told them, and staggered back up the stairs to my bedroom. The bedroom spun around too, and continued to spin when I lay down. I hurriedly opened the window overlooking the flat-roofed garage and hurled out my guts. After a lengthy time of misery, I managed to fall asleep, but the next thing I knew my nose was being assaulted with the disgusting odor of pancakes. “Breakfast is on the table!” dad shouted. “Geddown here now!” My stomach continued to ripple with suppressed retching as I reluctantly emerged white-faced to the breakfast table, which was laden with nauseating objects that, somehow, I managed to force down my throat without puking back up. Dad looked at me strangely, wondering if I was coming down with the flu. When I left the table greatly relieved that the ordeal was ending, I discovered to my horror that another one was just beginning. There, right in front of dad’s desk through the glass door that led to the roof of the garage, was an enormous pile of barf. I can’t remember how I managed to get rid of it without attracting my dad’s attention and subsequent wrath, but somehow I was able to do so.

I quite clearly remember harboring bad thoughts about my sister for quite some time.

Bad as we were toward our parents, they do need to assume some of the blame. Dad had a desk job, which was truly mundane. At least he thought so. To him his job was so tediously commonplace that he sought excitement elsewhere. The open road fit that need nicely. Before the world reached mid-twentieth century, the highway patrol was not so large in presence, lacked sophisticated detection equipment, and, best of all, maintained a culture of generosity. Behind the wheel, dad became, in his imagination, a race-car driver, or at least a cop in hot pursuit of a wicked criminal. The way he shook his fist at others who had the audacity to usurp his personal highway, every other motorist in the country had a shady past. Sometimes they’d lash back at him. I remember once in my late preteens raising up from my sickbed in the back seat upon a curse and a burst of acceleration to witness a 15-mile road chase with dad close on the tail of someone who had gravely offended him. When I questioned mom about the cause of this outrage, she pursed her lips and responded with a terse statement of his ugly crime: “He made an obscene gesture to your father.” We children knew full well that the unfortunate driver in the car ahead of us had simply replied to his bullying with a one-finger salute. We silently applauded the poor fellow, whoever he was.

I would have thought that if he would have tried to pull off such tactics in a more recent setting, he would have been jailed for attempting to commit a hate crime, or at the very least, for aggressive driving. But no. He was still driving in his 90s just a few years back. Carolyn and I made a mistake, almost a terminal one, when we agreed to sit in the back seat of his Buick Century for a drive to the pharmacy. We should have jumped out of the car while he attempted to locate the shift lever, removing his foot from the brake in the process and allowing the car to drift into the side of the garage. But no. Accepting the new dent with aplomb, he finally found the lever, backed up from the scene of his latest accident, and emerged onto the roadway, where he was astonished to find that he had to share it with other cars. Within ten seconds he had his window down and his fist pumping away at the first offender he’d happened upon. Of course it was also the first car that he met on the road.

Thankful to have emerged from that trip with all of our body parts intact, we asked for his car keys with the intent of leaving his car in the garage forever after. He didn’t need the car. They lived in a very nice senior development that was well-equipped with shuttles and other help, even to the extent that volunteers were available either to take them shopping or do the shopping for them. But no. His pumping fist turned in our direction for our brazen attempt, causing us to fall back to Plan B, which was to contact the local police. We weren’t prepared for the levity with which the police treated the situation. They laughingly referred to the senior development as “Death Valley” and told us that the denizens of the area, being well aware of the hazards posed by drivers like dad, had learned to “run out of the way”. We left feeling like Alice in Wonderland. But then we realized that we were in California, which explained everything.

Most highways also were two-laners back then, which gave dad an opportunity to display his prowess at passing. Coming around a bend to find a car in front of him, he’d quickly assess the distance to the next curve, taking into account various factors like his current speed, the ability of his engine to accelerate to passing speed, and the risk of coming into the upcoming bend with insufficient braking distance. Almost invariably, his computations gave him to green light to proceed, whereupon he’d jam his foot onto the accelerator pedal, swerve out into the oncoming lane, and urge his steed forward into the fray. Sometimes, if an oncoming car came around the bend ahead at speed, he’d be forced to swerve back into his lane, sometimes (but rarely – he was pretty good behind the wheel back then) forcing the vehicle he’d passed to brake hard to let him back in. All I can say is that we had a lot of close calls involving speeding, braking and swerving, and we were pretty much occupied full-time either being sick or terrified.

His cars were all top-of-the-line. One day while we were still in our pre-teen years, mom was real excited. She told us that dad had gone to get a new horse, and when he returned home we saw what a champion he’d picked up. It was a powder-blue Pontiac convertible. At that time the horsepower race of the mid-‘50s hadn’t begun. Most of the garden-variety cars of that era, the Fords and Chevys, were way underpowered by today’s standards.   But the big straight-eight in that Pontiac was ahead of its time. By that time dad had taken a sales engineering job, which dovetailed well with his love of driving. Once in a while he would take one of us on a trip with him. I remember falling asleep in the car between Bakersfield and the grapevine as we headed south on Highway 99 toward Los Angeles. The screeching wind woke me on the downhill slope. I sat up in the seat and observed us rushing past other cars like they were parked. Glancing over at the speedometer, I saw that we were doing 105. Dad had a smile on his face. He was in his element.

I will say this about him, though. Despite his flaws in wisdom-judgment that prevented his passengers from ever relaxing, his racing judgment was superb. His reflexes were those of a cat, almost as good as Beltre at third base. When the time came for my brother and me to learn to drive, his capability as an instructor was as good as it gets. For that particular task he was surprisingly patient, and rather quickly passed on his advanced skills to us.

The downside of all that is that in the process of teaching us to drive, he unleashed his progeny onto the unsuspecting public after thoroughly embedding in them his faults. He paid for it, though. Until we bought our own cars we used his. Within three months he had to put his beautiful ’52 Merc into the shop for a new clutch and rear tires. I don’t understand how the U-joints and the rear end held out. We didn’t tell him, but we wouldn’t have given two cents for the rest of the drive train. I think he finally figured that out, because within a year he bought a beefier vehicle, a Packard Patrician. I think its engine was the one that kicked off the horsepower escalation – it was huge, one of the first 400 cubic-inch engines to grace a standard car. Despite its size and weight, propelled by that mill as we eagerly verified, the car was a rocket. Its only drawback was its brakes, which were wholly insufficient for the car’s performance. As I remember, whichever one of us who had the car on a date would have to allow an extra half hour before returning it home to let the brakes cool off enough that the stink of the asbestos compound wouldn’t alarm dad or the neighbors. It went to the garage for new brakes at intervals not anticipated by either the manufacturer or dad.

As I said, I sincerely hope that God does a better job of this family business than we did. Thankfully, we have every reason to expect that to be the case.

Given an understanding of the Holy Trinity as a divine Family, one is naturally led into a consideration of its role with regard to a primary family function: procreation and reproduction of kind. Scripture itself suggests that the Church, as the spiritual Bride of Christ, will also be the daughter-in-law of the divine Father and the Holy Spirit, enlarging the Godhead from a Trinity to a divine Four. There is a beautiful Scriptural passage, Romans 8:14-17, that openly suggests this very notion of Family continuity in the spiritual realm:

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs – heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ – if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”

 

In the context of our future marriage with Christ, the entire book of Ephesians reads like a marriage manual, or a prenuptial marriage counseling session. Ephesians 5:1 also expresses the notion of the Church’s inclusion into the Family of God:

“Be ye, therefore, followers of God, as dear children.”

These passages, in turn, suggest that just as the union of Father and Spirit resulted in the Son Jesus Christ, the Church Herself will assume the same role in the spiritual realm as the Holy Spirit in uniting with Jesus to produce another divine Child, further enlarging the Godhead from a divine Four to a divine Five.

In contrast with a vague, rather static, understanding of heaven as encouraged by the prevailing gender-neutral view of the Godhead, the spiritual realm may be a place of excitement, action and adventure. I touch on that possibility in Part 2, Chapter 2 of Family of God:

“Regarding our own union with Jesus, the book of Revelation clearly states that His Church will be raised up on the seventh day, to reign with Jesus for a thousand years on earth. Our reign with Jesus will resemble the function of our Divine Mother the Holy Spirit as we furnish the means that, in union with the Will of our Lord Jesus, gives birth to a new Creation. It will be a marriage of great joy, as specifically confirmed by our Lord in the second Chapter of John. As John recounts, Jesus reserved the first miracle that He performed on earth to demonstrate this to us by turning water into wine at the wedding ceremony in Cana.

“The implications of this possibility are large. It confirms the nature of the Holy Spirit as diffuse, and explains why our God has discouraged us from falling into the worship of a female deity. For to worship this entity would be dangerously close to worship of self, or at least to self as it might exist in the future next to Jesus, our Lord and our Husband. Even now a false, arrogant, and self-serving form of this hope is manifest in the New Age belief that we ourselves are gods.

“In the context of Jesus as the Husband of His Church, an interesting topic for further speculation is this as the Jewish procedure for divorce is recalled: in thrice denouncing the Pharisees, did Jesus annul His relationship with the religious leaders? And in His threefold request of Peter to feed His sheep, was He in effect betrothing Himself to His Church? We do know this: when Jesus in John 14 gave us the promise of a place in heaven, he was speaking according to the custom, current at that time in that society, of the preparations that the bridegroom makes for his wife:

‘Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.’

 

          “We also see in viewing Jesus as Husband the potential for a union that bears fruit. In Part One we arrived at the fascinating notion, albeit speculative, of the Godhead as a dynamically continuous Family process, a recursive drama in which the human pattern of one generation receiving the scepter of activity from its predecessor and passing it on to its descendents is truly an image of its Godly counterpart. There may be large differences, of course. The original God must still be active in an open and expanding universe rather than lying dead in some heavenly grave. But the essential functional passing of the torch, at least with respect to earth, yet may be a reality.

“One very happy corollary to this view of our eventual relationship with Jesus is a picture of heaven that is more substantial and infinitely more interesting than the usual diaphanous place of clouds, harps, and a rather boring stasis. To the contrary, our future time with Jesus appears to be a busy one, full of creative effort, quite possibly rich in adventure, and certainly with love.”

Will there be an eighth day of God, one in which we, the Church, are intimately involved?

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