© 2015 Lynn Abbott
After my mother died, I spent considerable time in my basement sifting through boxes filled with my mother’s things. Cold and dark best describes that part of my house.
But empty does not. Perhaps, you have a “basement” of your own.
Ours just happened to be filled with unpacked moving boxes. Since our family, which included my mother, had moved at the same time as I had embarked on my chemotherapy adventure, the boxes still sat there waiting a better day.
And because my mother was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer just two weeks after I completed my chemo, that better day didn’t come for a long time.
But the time had come.
And it would take some time. After all, Mom had not completed the sorting of my grandparents’ things despite the fact that they had been dead for more than twenty years.
With this in mind, I was determined I would get the job done, and so I doggedly visited my dark place daily.
As I unwrapped many of the moving boxes which had been previously left untouched, I discovered my mother’s treasures as well as some very unusual items.
One group which particularly surprised me was a set of 1970s trivets. They certainly did not exemplify my mother’s classy taste.
Made from some sort of inexpensive wood, topped with cork and decorated with a painted stamp of cooking utensils–all colored in burgundy, gold and avocado green, those trivets made me laugh.
You see, I knew who was responsible for bringing this Martha Stewart nightmare into our home . . . Uh, huh. You guessed it. My ten-year-old self had given Mom those trivets.
I had diligently put aside money in the budget envelopes that Mom had encouraged me to use. Twenty-five cents each week were deposited into the envelope designated for gifts, my early imitation of a line-item book-keeping.
And come December , I had accumulated enough money to spend four dollars on each family member for Christmas. Our local equivalent to today’s Dollar Store, known to me as Pic n’ Save, served as a child’s Neiman-Marcus.
My shopping sojourn became a December ritual. For this reason, I know that Pic n’ Save produced those trivets . . . or perhaps they were the handiwork of someone in a foreign land.
I dug through more boxes and found an old manila envelope filled with correspondence from my father’s bedside table. And you guessed it . . .every Hallmark and Ambassador card I ever gave him had a home in that faded envelope.
In nearby boxes, crumbled and yellowed pages of photo albums pictured Mom and Dad . . .and, of course, my older brother– invariably making smart Alec faces for the Christmas camera.
And I remembered . . . dragging the old, water, vacuum cleaner into the living room, and pushing it about in an attempt to tidy for my mother so that she would not have to spend her weekend working after a full week at the office.
I recalled standing in the middle of our Bay area suburban driveway as dusk descended, waiting, watching and listening for the noisy sputtering of the black, 1957 Volkswagen bug, the signal of my mother’s return home after a long day at work.
Later, I would pull out some old vinyl records, and my Dad would help me carefully place them on the drop-down arm of his state-of-the-art stereo system. To the big band sounds of Louis Armstrong, and the bluesy vocals of Sarah Vaughn, I danced.
Pirouetting in the middle of the slate blue, area rug that covered the marine varnished, wood floors of our living room, I delighted my parents.
To anyone else, the events held little significance. But for Mom and Dad, these were the essence of life and love.
I chattered. They never grew weary of it.
Yes, Mom and Dad were the audience for whom I performed, and with whom I shared my every dream. I wanted to please them, to give to them, to make them happy, and to simply show them my love.
My world revolved around them.
No accomplishment–be it drawing, painting, poem, story, game, or school report– was complete until I had shared it with Mom and Dad.
But in the dark and cold of that basement, in my middle-age, I now understood fully what it meant to be an orphan.
They were both gone.
And I wondered…
Who would applaud me? For whom would I dance? To whom would I turn when I needed a safety net?
In my grief, I clung to David’s words in Psalm 68:5, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”
A father to the fatherless…
David’s words would have been particularly surprising to his contemporaries since the Jewish faith held Yahweh in such awe.
Yet, David apparently knew God as his heavenly Father. David recognized Yahweh’s tender heart toward His children.
In fact, He also described God as a loving Shepherd, the one who tenderly cared for the flock (Psalm 23).
David’s relationship with God stands out in the Old Testament. Whereas most of the Old Testament saints stood in fear and reverence, David looked to God with the loving familiarity of a child. He acknowledged his dependence, comparing it to that of sheep.
No wonder Scripture calls David a man after God’s own heart. David’s love for his Lord expressed itself in terms that the disciples would later consider radical.
When Christ taught them to pray “Our Father who art in Heaven…” He brought them close to God who had seemed far off.
Indeed, grace invites us to cry out, “Abba,” or “Daddy,” (Romans 8:15). Paul writes that there is no longer fear since the Holy Spirit confirms that through Christ, we are Abba’s particular children.
While I had acknowledged that I am a child of God, I don’t think I personally comprehended the full extent of Abba’s incredible gift of grace until both my parents were gone.
In my parent’s absence and my grief, I reread David’s story with fresh eyes of empathy. My heart found refuge in the book of Psalms.
But it especially resonated with the account in 2 Samuel 6 of David’s response to the return of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.
Although 2 Samuel 6 gives a short account of the event, David’s childlike delight reveals his wholehearted faith and humility as well as his complete dependence upon God.
And given David’s history, I could understand his actions.
After all, David had seen a lot of trouble. He had spent years running for his life from Israel’s king, and his own father-in-law, Saul. He had lived in caves. His best friend, Jonathan, had died.
The once shepherd boy, although chosen for great deeds, had suffered much.
When I read the book of Psalms, I sympathized with the raw heartbreak of many of David’s lyrics. And tears welled.
Maybe, you also have known the pain of a shattered heart. Like David, you have cried in the midnight hours. You may even have felt lost and alone.
That summer, in the basement, I poured out my heart and echoed David’s words: “Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me; O LORD, be my help,” (Psalm 30:10).
And in those moments of broken humility when heartbreak stripped away all self-sufficiency, I found hope.
David showed me the way.
Through heartache and trials, David had recognized his dependence on his Heavenly Father: “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance,” (Psalm 32:7).
He thus sang with gratitude, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,” (Psalm 30:11).
The ache in his soul had been satisfied by Abba. For this reason, when God’s love and grace, symbolized by the Ark’s return, transformed his life, he danced with gratitude.
It wasn’t a sedate waltz. Nor was it a tentative two-step.
Scripture says, “David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might,” (2 Samuel 6:14).
He danced with all his might…
David put aside all the pomp and circumstance of kingly garb. He danced like a child before his heavenly Father. He likely leaped and spun. Perhaps, he even did cartwheels.
David certainly created his own street dance that day. I can only imagine his wild enthusiasm. And it certainly must have been a sight to behold for God says David danced “with all his might.”
And David’s wife Michal, Saul’s daughter, was ashamed. She sarcastically chastised David for his so-called “undignified” behavior, (2 Samuel 6:20).
She didn’t understand. Not everyone will.
But sitting in the midst of packing paper, sorting through my mother’s things, I pondered David’s story and began to understand the heart of worship for the very first time.
Over the years, I had frequently viewed worship as a formal event. Yet, David’s grateful dance before Abba redefined my concept of the personal nature and nearness of worship, (Hebrews 10:22).
Overwhelmed by God’s Grace, David danced with all his might before his Heavenly Father. In David’s reply to Michal, I hear David’s childlike humility: “It was before the LORD, who chose me…”
I suspect that David was shocked by Michal’s lack of understanding. Abba had chosen David. Grace anointed a young shepherd boy, and had delivered him from all his fears.
David said, “I will celebrate before the LORD.”
I believe David danced with complete trust and abandon, the way I had for my parents. Like a child who wishes simply to please, David longed to delight Abba.
And I remembered.
Indeed, Christ’s words recorded in Matthew 18:3-4, reverberated in that basement storage room, “‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'”
Yet, I run to Abba with my bucket of sand. I show Him my treasures… the broken seashells I have collected. I pirouette before my God.
Yes, I dance. I sing. I give Him my paltry gifts.
I talk to Him about my dreams, my plans. For His sake, I try to clean up the messes I find in this world. And after many long days of work, I eagerly watch for His return.
Some might laugh at, or even scold, such childishness. That’s okay.
For our Heavenly Father, such childlike gifts are the essence of love.
In fact, Grace invites you and I to climb up into the lap of the Sovereign of All and to cry “Abba, Father.”
David certainly wasn’t flawless. But he didn’t act for the approval of the world at large.
Instead, he performed for an audience of One.
Yeah, it’s a family thing. And that’s how I know God delights in our dance as only a loving parent can.
“Behold, how great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God, “~I John 3:1
“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father,'”~ Romans 8:15