It was a rare sunny moment on a Tuesday afternoon. Rain had poured down every day since I touched down in the motherland. I was sitting on the sofa in the front room of my Uncle’s house, watching my cup of tea go cold and exploring some new places on my ukulele.
As I tried to figure out a B minor 7, I looked around the room. These walls held so many memories. These walls were saturated with conversations about times long gone, bouts of laughter that made our sides hurt and everyday family exchanges of “what’s for tea?” and “how was your day?” These walls had watched the hands move around the clock as hours were spent just enjoying one anthers company over a good cup of tea, biscuits, Indian food and Peter Kay.
The last couple of weeks had been filled with precious time with some sorely missed relatives. I thought about the upcoming wedding and the pure delight I had for my cousin as she embarked on a new adventure. Her and her fiancé’s story was one of true beauty that brought me joy and endless amounts of admiration for the One who weaves each of our lives together.
My ukulele, getting worn out from all the exploring, was slowly sliding out of tune. I swung my legs out from beneath me, and began the “eye-squinting, head-tilting, eyebrow-wiggling” process of tuning up. I was fiddling with the c-string when a shadow danced across the wall. I looked up to see a deceptively broad pair of shoulders and a flop of hair walking past the bay window to the front door.
As I listened to the door sliding open, I smiled to myself. A large part of me was still shocked that the hyperactive, skinny firewire of a boy I knew as my goofy little cousin had disappeared with time. The boy who always had a joke to crack and somewhere else to be, he had grown up. Remarkably, the hyperactive bottlerocket grew into one of the smartest, and most contemplative people I have ever met. I relished the time I got to spend with him, picking his brain and asking about his thoughts and ideas.
He strolled into the room, smiled and said “Mum said dinner should be ready soon.”
“Nice.” I replied. My mind still on the walking, talking, breathing timeline in front of me.
“Alright then…” He turned to leave the room and shut the door behind him.
“Wait a minute,” I blurted out. “Could you grab your guitar?”
He looked at me. Slightly uncomfortable and embarrassed.
I had become used to being blunt and forward while I was in England. I had a very tangible understanding that my time here was limited. So, if I wanted to hear somebody play an instrument, or take a photograph (or seventeen) or give them a hug, I didn’t have the luxury of letting these things pan out naturally. Waiting to see if maybe these things would come up on their own in a situation wasn’t an option for me.
And there’s no way to casually drop into a conversation, “I want to hear you play guitar/sing/take a photograph. I need to do it now, because this is all the time I have. We may never be here again, I may never get this chance again.”
But really, isn’t this how we are supposed to function? Asking blatantly for the things we want? Why are we so afraid of confronting the things we enjoy and desire? Why are we so unwilling to yield to someone else’s desire to enjoy us, all the different parts of us and what we do?
He glanced at the floor, and walked out of the room. He returned quickly with his guitar, and plopped down on the sofa. I had a few different sheets of music in front of me. I grabbed the easiest four-chorder and placed it on the top of the pile. I started strumming, and without hesitation, he joined me.
It was just four chords, over and over. C. G. A minor. F. I loved the sound of my bright little ukulele next to the deep, mellow guitar. The sun peeped out from behind the clouds, filling the living room with warmth and light. The walls illuminated, and I wondered if they were enjoying this experience. This one time only, beautiful little nugget in the middle of everyday exchanges.
I glanced over, his hair was flopping into his eyes. I saw the little boy who ran around the house too fast, who kicked a hole into my bedroom wall, who chased me around the garden and pushed me off the trampoline. But now, I also saw the big brother, who helped grandma with her garden gate, her alarm clock, and directions to drive through Liverpool. I saw a guy fascinated by theology and ideas, who wanted to understand some of the mysteries of this world. I saw a good friend, with a good heart. He caught me looking, and a funny little grin appeared on his face.
“Aren’t you going to sing it, then?”
I smiled. Initially I would have been coy, bashful. You’re supposed to act like you don’t want to sing, right? And the other person has to try and convince you, sway you, and eventually beg you.
I loved the blunt simplicity of his request. I wanted to sing, and I wasn’t going to be shy about it.
“Though the Earth Cried out for blood
Satisfied her hunger was
Her billows calmed on raging seas
for the souls on men she craved
Sun and moon from balcony
Turned their head in disbelief
Their precious Love would taste the sting
disfigured and disdained
On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke with keys
Of Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid death in his grave
So three days in darkness slept
The Morning Sun of righteousness
But rose to shame the throes of death
And over turn his rule
Now daughters and the sons of men
Would pay not their dues again
The debt of blood they owed was rent
When the day rolled a new
He has cheated
Hell and seated
Us above the fall
In desperate places
He paid our wages
One time once and for all”
By the time we strummed the last chord, dinner was ready. The house was filled with the sounds of other family members arriving home, the telephone ringing, and the six o-clock news. I put my ukulele down, and He put his guitar back. I knew in my heart that for now, that was all I would get. But honestly, that was all that I needed and it was enough.