Vladimir Putin and I had a cheek-to-cheek dance while Pasty Cline sang “At Last.” We did this under Rembrandt’s beautiful painting, “Return of the Prodigal Son,” which hangs in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. After that we did vodka shots and somehow managed to achieve world peace.
It wasn’t a nightmare. I woke up and remembered every detail of it and it just made me smile. I know where most of the pieces of it came from, but not all.
Putin is in the news constantly for what is happening in the Ukraine and the horrors of another war, including a downed passenger plane. I am a news junkie; I watch and read everything and wish there was something more I could do to end all these situations. I mean anything beside the praying which I do constantly. I fall asleep at night in the middle of those prayers for peace…and then I dream about Putin. And he is really just a substitute for any of those right now who are asserting their own perceived power over someone else. And the someone elses are paying a very high price with lost homes, lost families and lost lives.
My church small group did a months’ long study of that painting as we processed through Henri Nouwen’s book about it. He spent hours gazing at it in the Hermitage with special permission. They even brought in a chair for him for his comfort. He explored the ways that the story of the prodigal son compared to his own life through the years, and how he – and we – progress through all the parts at some time. We are the younger son who wastes the gifts of his father, even wishing him dead, and then comes back empty-handed, only to be received by that same loving father with a party involving killing the fatted calf. We are the older son, jealous that a ne’er-do-well brother, a wasteful profligate child could be received so generously by the same father we have worked so hard to please, certain of our own goodness and deservedness, and yet not realizing the loving relationship we have shared with him all those years was worth more than a party. Hopefully, we become the father, able to pour out that same sacrificial love for our own children, not because they deserve it, but because they don’t. It’s a story about love, mercy, grace, giving and receiving. We can become like the father; it’s modeled for us so amazingly in the life of Jesus.
I’m not sure where Patsy Cline came in, but golly! “At Last” is a tune you can slow dance to. Oh! I know…right before we went to bed last night, I asked Steve if we could have a dance… I never danced before I met Steve. Oh my, the intimacy of a slow dance, holding onto each other in that close embrace, while the music plays on and on. That is the stuff of good dreams. And you can’t hide yourself from each other when you are standing that close; it’s a place of honesty as well as intimacy. And for it to be beautiful, you have to move together, coordinating and synchronizing your actions.
Vodka shots…well, we are red wine drinkers at our house, but I love that scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” when Marion has the drinking contest in her bar up in the Himalayans. It just seems like a good way to come to an understanding. I’ve never done vodka shots, but I am willing to give anything a try if it leads to…
…peace. It’s what I long for constantly. Pray for incessantly. Desire for everyone on this planet.
If we can look across the table or the border or the sea or the world and see that other person – that Democrat/Republican, that Israeli/Palestinian, that Christian/Muslim, that gay/straight, – as a brother or sister and recognize our common humanity, we can figure this out.
I saw this today on Facebook today and I think it covers it pretty well:
The Moment of Dawn
By Paulo Coelho
A Rabbi gathered together his students and asked them:
‘How do we know the exact moment when night ends and day begins?’
‘It’s when, standing some way away, you can tell a sheep from a dog,’ said one boy.
The Rabbi was not content with the answer. Another student said:
‘No, it’s when, standing some way away, you can tell an olive tree from a fig tree.’
‘No, that’s not a good definition either.’
‘Well, what’s the right answer?’ asked the boys.
And the Rabbi said:
‘When a stranger approaches, and we think he is our brother, that is the moment when night ends and day begins.’
I am hoping that my dream of peace with Vladimir Putin can be one of those moments when night ends and day begins.