“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
I had wonderful aunts and uncles on both sides of the family. And I may get to say something about our family reunions later on. But, in the context of my early life, there is one experience that stands out beyond all the others, at least when it comes to seeing God for the first time.
It was probably about 1950. I was seven years old. Mom and Dad had taken Magum, Babs and me to visit our aunt Helen in Nauvoo, Illinois. Babs and I were told that Helen was Magum’s sister and she was head of a beautiful Convent (Catholic girls’ school for all you Baptists) that sat on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River and the neighboring state of Iowa.
Can you hear “Sounds of Music”?
The grounds were absolutely immaculate. Perfectly manicured lawns and gardens that were breathtaking in their colors and iconic representations of Christ, Mary and the Apostles.
Earlier in the day, Dad had purchased a beautiful pocket knife for me and had given it to me just before we arrived at the school. Mom was not all that thrilled with my Dad’s decision.
As the family entered the administration building to meet our aunt, I excused myself and took my knife to the middle of the huge front lawn, knelt down and began practicing the game called “Mumblety-peg”.
Suffice it to say, it’s all about flipping the dagger off of every exposed body part and sticking it in the ground. Competitively the one wins who can successfully complete sticking the blade in the ground without sticking it into the competitor’s body. Can you get my Mom’s failure to endorse the whole process? Kinda reminds one of the “Christmas Story” and the Mom’s admonition, “you’ll shoot your eye out!”
Anyway, it was a glorious sunny day and I was lost in the reverie of the moment when all of a sudden there was a shadowy presence above and behind me. When I turned and looked up from my crouched position, the silhouetted personage spoke to me in a woman’s voice. “Hello Bobby”, she said. “I’m Sister Mary Paul but you can call me Aunt Helen”.
Aunt Helen moved around in front of me with the afternoon sun full on her face. Wearing the nun’s habit, her face was outlined in white and she was likely the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“I’m playing Mumblety-peg”, I replied.
What she then said was totally unexpected. “Can I play?”
She gracefully dropped to one knee, pulled up her sleeves and held out her hand to take her turn.
Even today I get a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. For the first time in my life I wondered if this might have been a divine visitation. Seriously! Is this not a childhood experience with the incarnation? A woman of God humbly sought to represent Christ to a little boy.
I was still “good and lost”, but…
“The Word became flesh and played Mumblety-peg with a young boy named Bobby”. (John 1:14, paraphrase) Had I just seen God?