The era for blue jeans swept my generation like a swarm of locusts preying relentlessly on ripe luscious fields. Every teenager was on to bell-bottomed denims. It had to be the original, though. I remember a sad uprising of jealousy whenever a peer would show up with the iconic standard.
I constantly prodded and pestered my father to find generosity in his heart to get me the Levi’s. He would of course nod his head, somehow registering some fumbling reflections, and then proceed to whatever was occupying his moments. I kept on appealing for his sensitivities to at least understand why I cannot continue walking the streets of my generation, naked.
It was a humid afternoon when my old man came early from work. He had a crisp brown bag from the Big City department store clutched in his arms alongside his briefcase. There was an unusual glow in his countenance, which betrayed a forthcoming surprise.
He handed me the present with a sense of accomplished pride, while I felt a sudden rush of adrenaline. This is the day that I had been dreaming of. A young boy finally clad with swag.
The glad tidings quickly got ransack by confusion when I tore the bag: there was no Levi’s. It was blue pants but with an unusual horrific twist. The pockets, front and back, were laden with feminine-accented paisley flowers: the kind that simulated a stained glass cathedral for lost souls! I was aghast at what I perceived was a cruel joke. I threw the jeans back to him, and hollered some bee sting invectives.
The jeans remained untouched throughout the day resting on his bed. I somehow retrieved the blue corpse, forcing my senses to befriend the insult. It just wouldn’t happen. I was so caught up with my own version of how the world was made and of how it ought to serve my self-actualized definitions.
There was surely a hidden dragon underneath all my self-serving needs. I felt the invisible entrapment of a raging flood that ensnared my personal glory, at the expense of others. Although, I sought to flee, the shackles seemed locked for good. Too proud to admit this, I kept silent. I did not speak to my father for a week.
Levi’s or leave it.
A song of ascents. Of David.
If the LORD had not been on our side–
let Israel say–
If the LORD had not been on our side
when men attacked us,
when their anger flared against us,
they would have swallowed us alive;
the flood would have engulfed us,
the torrent would have swept over us,
the raging waters would have swept us away.
Praise be to the LORD,
who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken, and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
John 16:13 NIV
When delight takes its form in the believer’s life, words are somehow commissioned to bear witness to its wonderful occurrence. The fifth aspect in our syllabus deals with the necessity to speak. We are called to serve as witnesses to the comprehensive triumph of God in our lives by way of rehearsing what He alone has done in and through our epic struggles.
We serve notice to the stark contrast of how we used to battle the insurmountable enemy using our own feeble munitions and of how God’s mere breath petrifies the opposition.
We join the shouts of remembrance: “If the LORD had not been on our side …” We speak of our redemption from sure doom. We make reference to our own myopic efforts as the root of our own damnation. We detect some nuance about the enemy and we quickly feign competence on how to quell the imposing dragons. If it were not for God’s intervention within our fateful rounds, we would have been utterly destroyed.
But, God had intervened. Alas, we have been extricated from our deep dungeons, set free by his emancipating grace.
And so, we are called to speak our praise of the LORD!
The fowler’s snare speaks of the cunning nature of both our personal and corporate entrapments. We are quick prey to our mindless preoccupations. We are quickly driven into passionate pursuits without reviewing their vital connection to God’s purposes. We tend to create our own little stories and magnify their imagined significance so that we can acquire a semblance of pragmatic reason. But anything done, apart from the primary point of serving the praise of God misses the mark. No matter how grand the enterprise is, no matter how monumental the endeavor is, if God is not in the equation, it is a mere entrapment; a snare that distracts us from our true point. We wonder and wander about the viciousness of the cycle we are in. And so, whether it is mere clothing or career, we need an honest scrutiny of why these things revolve either from within or from without. It is only then, that we find a way to escape from the invisible traps that are set to swallow us alive, engulf and tear us apart.
When we intentionally speak the praise of God, we cause every conversation to rush back to Christ’s victory at the Cross. When this witness is spoken, demons literally outsprint their intent to do us harm. Satan and his cohorts stand paralyzed at the mention of the Blood of the Lamb. When we speak God’s redemption as our life’s preface, we boldly call out the freedom that has been endowed to us by grace.
The name of the LORD is our refuge. This matters only because the Maker of heaven and earth knows us by name. His name meets our wandering identity and as we turn to him for help, we are granted so much more than a first, middle and last appellation. We are handed a white stone: a new name, known only to Him who has bought our freedom.
Through our desert experiences, we are granted a chosen identity, a chosen race. Suddenly, the ethnocentric hold of culture loses its grip upon us and we enter into a realm of new citizenship. We have been infused with a kindred blood from the consular station of the cross: Christ’s crimson spill delineates our shared DNA.
We have become a royalty of priests. We are granted direct access to God’s holy throne as intercessors: who serve the world with Kingdom prayers. We represent the transforming will of our Father as He seeks to change the world of darkness into a realm of everlasting light.
Such is our pedigree: a holy nation, delivered from entrapment and reserved for God’s exclusive use. We have received our designated assignment to speak in behalf of his glorious work. With the testimony of our transformed lives, we describe the darkness of our former way of life and expose the stunning resplendence of our new life in Christ. We cease being silent. We open our mouths wide, both to receive God’s provisions and to declare His praise.
Because of God’s help, our speech is forever altered. We articulate the holy wardrobe of praise-worthy vestments. Our new life becomes our dress, while our witness becomes the sacred tattoo of our grace-laden heritage.
My youngest daughter is alluringly quiet. You always got cued when she is excited–her feet wiggles in a rhythmic pendulum. She was born in mid-September, which somehow catalyzed the mild yet effervescent purity of her soul. After but a few minutes via normal delivery, I took her in my arms absorbing all the vestiges of a grand miracle.
Her sense of purity is epochal. She spoke few words, yet her vertical extent released a chorus so magnanimously refreshing. Everyone gravitates to her guileless world.
She weeps in whispers, not because of any fear but due to the ineptness of words in representing what she thinks and feels. And so, she resorts to the unabridged capability of her soul to non-verbally declare the foreign language of unmitigated truth.
Barely three years old, we were visiting her cousins in California when she got invited, along with her elder sister for a swim. This was all too exhilarating for our little mermaid!
What was not quite foreseen was her penchant for solitary adventure. Driven by sheer delight, she wandered alone into a separate pool. In a split second, she was drowning without any boisterous yelp. Water filled her lungs and stomach; her lips blistered to gray-pale; but somehow, defying gravity, held afloat by her guardian angel.
Within these precious moments, without any provocation, her sister providentially moved to the other pool where she spotted the floating body of her unconscious sibling. Immediately lunging towards her, they eventually got pulled out to safety.
It was a long night of resuscitating silence. I cradled her next to my heart, while tears and prayers sought to assuage my vacillation between hope and anguish. The miracle of breath was restored but not a single word was pronounced.
The following morning, I was shocked to see the spectacle of running and frolic like nothing transpired. The purity of her resilient life cannot endure silence. She emblazons the horizon of every sordid doubt with unrelenting witness.
The years have gone swiftly. When beauty and purity are choreographed with symbiotic craftsmanship, design is etched to speak. She is currently pursuing Visual Design in Fashion as her call to describe sacred glamour.
One winter day, she asked what I thought about her desire to acquire a tattoo. I always had reservations with embedded marks just because I prefer clean skin. I did not have much leverage, so I just braced myself for some aesthetic surprise. She chose word marks: one for each inner forearm where the elbows swung. “I am yours” and “You are mine.”
When I first saw the almost microscopic encryptions, I was quite repulsed by its visible audacity. But then, the more I looked at it, the more it made pure sense. I was being drawn to its message. Indeed, her true help, the Maker of heaven and earth, had vanquished the torrents of dragon and raging waters sweeping through her life.
Why must she hide the only reason why her life still breathes with boundless joy?
She is left with no choice, but to speak.