1. “Somehows”

Ephesians 2:1-10 (FNV)
“We all once walked a dark and crooked path that led us to death. Our broken ways caused us to miss the mark and wander from the good path, following the worthless ways of this world.
     We all once walked the dark path of the evil one who rules the spiritual atmosphere of this world, that evil spirit who is at work in human beings who have lost their way. This is how all of us once lived when we followed our uncontrolled emotions fed by bodily desires and dark thoughts. The broken ways became our natural condition, and, like the rest of humankind, we were children deserving of Creator’s anger.

But the Great Spirit, who is kind and forgiving, because of his deep love, raised us up from spiritual death. Even though we were walking the road of death, he made us alive again with the Chosen One. This is what it means to be rescued by the gift of his great kindness.
     He lifted us up with him to the highest place in the spirit-world above and put us on a seat of honor alongside the Chosen One. He did this to show us the overflowing greatness of his kindness and mercy, not only in this age but in the many ages to come – all because of what the Chosen One has done.

It is by trusting in the gift of his great kindness that we have been made whole. It is not because of any good thing we have done, but only by accepting a gift that we could never earn. In this way, no one can brag or boast about themselves, but only humbly give thanks. We are like clay in his hands, molded from the Chosen One, made to be like him, and walking the ancient pathways he originally created for us.”

Have you ever wished? Have you ever wished upon a star, a horse, a ticket, or a stick of wax burning on top of a sponge of sugar and icing? It’s funny that how when we age, we forget to wish. As a Christian I believe in wishing. It’s not a childish wishing based on superstition, but rather a wishing on something greater, called “grace,” in pursuit of childlikeness. There is, of course, a word for that kind of wishing, and that word is “hope.” It’s the “something” and the “somehow” of faith. I don’t know how I will get there, but I will. I don’t even know exactly where “there” is, but I know it’s out there, and as sure as I am this thing called a “Christian,” I’m a wisher and a dreamer. Even when I was child, I was a dreamer. Far off lands were never out of my reach, no mountains were unclimbable, and as for Narnia…all I had to do was pull my blanket over my head. But as I’ve grown, maps have tied my arms to my side, reputation has shattered my legs, and Narnia, others tell me, is a “child’s game.” But something happens when we come face to face with hope, when we wrestle with grace, cry with joy, and laugh in brokenness. Somehow a person changes. Somehow a person loses a part of themselves or finds a part of themselves. Somehow.

When I was in my early 20’s I started doing cross-cultural ministry in Native America. I began working in the kitchen at a Native American Christian mission. I disliked working in the kitchen – a lot. I washed dishes constantly, I burned lots of food, and listened to more 80 and 90s Christian music than a Christian should. After a long arduous summer of working in the kitchen I was promoted (or defaulted due to vacancy) to become a dorm parent. As a dorm parent I helped to oversee the in-and-outs of off-school-hours for 17 Kindergarten through 8th grade age boys – two weeks at a time, during the school year. Now, I was 21 years old, and if you ask me, a 21-year-old person shouldn’t oversee 17 anything. The boys and I had our ups and downs. I helped with homework, bandaged wounds, and did every other task in between. I’m sure that I’ll be including many stories about the kids in this collection since there is no rhyme or reason to this writing except for randomicity. I loved those boys and still pray for them, think about them, and hope that they are making all the right decisions in life. They taught me a lot, whether they know it. I hope that I taught them as positively as I’ve been taught.

One of the things that stands out from that time is how the boys had an interesting way of talking – their own slang and shorthand. For instance, very often a person’s name would be replaced by the word: “Whosit.”

Example: “Whosit just got a new four-wheeler for Christmas.”

Or the pronoun “we” would be replaced by the word “us guys.”

Example: “Us guys are playing tag outside.”

Or how about my personal favorite: “somehow.” Just when I thought that I was getting the hang of this game called “small talk” I’m hit with this one. “Somehow” is the answer to the question, “How are you?” It takes the place of what would normally be the boring play of words in everyday life like: “fine…pretty good…alright.”


Joel: “Pedro, how was school?”

Pedro: “Somehow.”

Joel: “Oh, ok…Hey, didn’t you have a test today? How did you do?”

Pedro: “Somehow.”

“Somehow” is as if to say, “I don’t know yet” or “If you really care you’ll stick around long enough to find out for yourself.” It brings with it a sense that something is off, and not right, but very often those conditions are prime for a miracle. Maybe (in the most optimistic sense), “somehow” is a hopeful silence that sits like a mine, waiting for something great, or not so great, to step across it so that it can explode all over you. One day I was thinking that maybe there’s something to these “somehows.” Maybe these “somehows” are the things that we all think but never say. Maybe “somehow” is an answer, and not just to casual conversation, but to everyday wanderings that our hearts are always looking for – all the things that are off and wrong, but could be made right.

I see these “somehows” everywhere.

These “somehows” infiltrate our lives whether we expect them to, or for that matter, want them to. Grace will somehow happen today even though, by what I can see, nothing good will come of today. It seems to me as if “somehow” is the miracle of realistic thinking: taking what we can see with our eyes and trusting what we know with our hearts to come to pass. Because from what we can see, a miracle is the act of God coming in an hour too late, after the field is swept and the “fat lady” has sung. Not knowing how God will keep His promise but knowing that He will keep it. After all, somehow Jonah was swallowed by a fish, and somehow, he stayed alive in its belly for three days, then somehow, he was spit out onto shore. Somehow Abraham and Sarah had a baby…way past prime. Somehow a virgin conceived the pinnacle of all humanity. And somehow, I will step beyond the confine of these safe walls and share a love that I, in myself, am not capable of. That somehow a Word that is greater than me will plant an everlasting seed in the hearts of those that I will encounter today. And why? Because, somehow, the Throne of Glory met the poverty of a manger. Somehow Universe-Spinning Sovereignty met foot-washing servanthood. Somehow Mighty Omniscience met the tragic cross, and now, somehow, this second, this moment has met eternity. So, as I stare into my own soul each day, as I look into the mirror, I somehow know that God will somehow use me that day, despite myself, for something eternal.

I’m starting to find the “somehows” in my own life, they portfolio themselves into my memory, making grace less like an empty concept and more like a daily landmark. I remember one morning of “somehows” very well. It took place in my second year of working at the mission. I oversaw the teen boys’ dorm. It was a rough morning. The boys were loud, and a few were being difficult just because they could. (The boys in the dorm had the upper hand when they discovered that I wasn’t a morning person) So somehow, I woke up that morning and, as I stared at the cracking brick walls of what I called “home,” I knew that somehow, I’d make it to my feet. Then, as the rest of my body protested, somehow, I dragged myself to my bathroom where I looked back at my wilting face in the mirror, knowing that somehow, I was going to have to shave. Wincing at the light of the morning and walking out of my home, I closed the door to my safety: safe because the same cracks in the walls that were there the day before were still there that day and I never had enough strength to fix them, so I knew that they weren’t going anywhere.

I stepped out into the vulnerable outside where I forgot myself, and the outside was vulnerable only because the walls I carried with me could be seen over, and the cracks in the brick were big enough to see something through. As I pretended those walls were not there, I looked to find in others what I had, and still have, the hardest difficulty finding in myself, and if I knew exactly what that was, I’d tell you. Maybe it’s the “somehow” of peace, or love.

On the way to breakfast I looked for something familiar. The tree that looks like a bird whose wing shelters from the elements. The gutter, feeling sad and lonely because its use had never been appreciated. The crack in the sidewalk, which has (I’m sure) great stories that it could tell. The storage-shed painted by Jesus’ hands, and, oh, the children playing.

The little girl with curly hair (the kitchen manager’s granddaughter) was driving her proud three-wheeled vehicle. As I walked, the girl’s happy heart paused the trudge of my tired feet. A life changing heart. A heart that needed not say anything because it had already achieved and said everything that there was to achieve and be said. It had already proven itself the greatest. The little girl with curly hair said, “There’s my buddy!” I shot back, “Good morning” …forgetting the “good” part of it. But I wouldn’t linger. No, no, I hadn’t the time. I continued looking for those familiar things as I shuffled my feet along the ground. Then I heard the rumbling of a wheel…or was it a heart? The view over my shoulder showed the little girl with curly hair pedaling with all the strength of her little legs. The girl with curly hair jumped from her steed, ran across the road in her bare feet, ran up the sidewalk, and charged at me for a leg hug. I said, “thank you” thinking of the kindness of the gesture in view of my moping mood, and with a numbed heart I walked away again. I sighed from being stolen away from the mundane, for the time being, but I was startled as I heard, “Wait! I have a kiss for you!” Turning around, I watched the little girl with curly hair run to me with such joy that it seemed like Christmas to her, standing at my side insistently until I knelt. Once I did, she stood on the tips of her toes to kiss my forehead, as if she were anointing me for a task or knighting me for battle.

Then I saw her turn and run. Her job was done.

That time, as I watched the girl with curly hair run away, I thought that she oddly reminded me of someone else I know. Like the woman in the garden who did a double take at the gardener, and like the travelers who realized that the “stranger” that broke the bread was no stranger at all. Now I’m the one who gazes again as my little friend looked like someone else who has kissed my human face. Yes, now I’m sure that it was Jesus speaking through the actions and words of that little girl with curly hair. Jesus once again came to me as a little child. Despite my agenda, despite my melancoliness, He pursued me, and hugged me. Then as if that was not enough, He kissed me. In moments like these I don’t think the Gospel can make more sense. As the Apostle Paul scribed, I was an object of wrath, and out of God’s uncontainable love and mercy, He made me alive. His beauty for my ashes, His joy for my sorrows, His hope for my hopelessness, and then when I think that that’s it, that there isn’t anything else He could do to show me the depth of His love…He kisses me with His delight. It wasn’t enough for Him that I would only be saved from wrath, but His desire was to seat me in the Heavenly realms in Jesus Christ. He knows that I’ve been looking into my soul. He’s seen what I’ve seen, but He still kisses me. Somehow His love is greater than my perspective. Somehow his forgiveness runs deeper than my humanity. Somehow, He daily woos me deeper into the mystery of Him, even through the ultra-mundane and my fallen humanity. Somehow, He takes me in my impoverished rags; He clothes me and calls me His child when I deserve the punishment that my humanity wants to devise. I don’t deserve this love, most truthfully, but if I did, I guess it wouldn’t be Grace.