It is no secret to anyone with whom I’m well-acquainted that I am a book lover; always have been, always will be. I love the look of books, the feel of books, even the smell of books. Physically incapable of walking past a used bookstore without ambling in to dig for treasure, I’ve somehow amassed a queue of unread literature that could keep me busy for months, and it’s not uncommon for my wife to have to ask me what
impulsive literary purchases I’ve made on Amazon when the credit card statement comes in (I may be a good candidate for a bookaholic episode of “Intervention”).
I attribute this affection for the printed page to my family. There was never a shortage of good books for young readers in my home, a fact for which I am inexpressibly grateful.
Among the titles I latched onto in my formative years was the well-known Crockett Johnson classic, “Harold and the Purple Crayon.” This tiny tale stands out as not only a childhood favorite, but also a very important piece of literature for me so many years later.
In the story, Harold, the young protagonist, sets out on a moonlit walk with only his purple crayon in hand. As he walks, he fashions (by drawing) the world through which he walks, employing the purple crayon to create a path to navigate, characters with whom to interact, and much more.
The entire story is cute and entertaining, but what is most important to me in the book comes after Harold has journeyed for a while.
Eventually, Harold finds that his moonlit walk (I say moonlit because the moon is the only thing other than Harold which appears in every frame of the story), has led him so far that he can no longer find the way back to the point from which his journey began, home. His world has changed, changed, and changed throughout the journey, and now he finds himself looking for something constant, a “North Star” by which he can reference his newfound position and thereby rediscover his home.
And I can identify with Harold at this point in my life. Life, especially in the last year, seems to have taken me to places I never would have anticipated; some have been beautiful, precious surprises, but I’d be lying if I said that the last year of my journey hasn’t taken me down paths I would never have willingly chosen. While it has been filled with some unparalleled highs, as I reflect on the last year of my life, here are some realities: I’ve never had a season of life where I’ve said more abrupt goodbyes to dear friends. I’ve never had a season of life where I’ve spent more time weeping after finding (often through second or third-hand sources) that some with whom I thought I shared a common vision have moved on. I’ve never had a season of life where I’ve been asked to give more of myself to a cause. I’ve never had a season of life where I’ve felt so inadequate for what is asked of me. I’ve never had a season of life where I’ve sat with more people looking for a brother willing to shoulder their burdens. I’ve never had a season of life where I’ve more frequently BEEN the person looking for a brother to shoulder burdens. I’ve never had a season of life where I’ve had to tell myself so often, “This isn’t about you.” I’ve never had a season of life where my best efforts have often seemed so ineffectual. I’ve never had a season of life where so many prayers have been, “Maranatha; come quickly, Lord Jesus!”
And this has left me, at many junctures along the road, in Harold’s position, realizing my own confusion and befuddlement as to where I am and how I might regain a sense of “home.”
The good news for Harold, in the midst of being so lost, comes in these words: “Then, suddenly, Harold remembered.”
What does Harold remember? Harold remembers that the moon, which has followed and lit his journey all along is a mark of constancy which can help him find his way back. Harold remembers that at home, when the moon is out, it is always visibly framed by his bedroom window. Taking up the purple crayon again, Harold begins, using the moon as his reference point in the center, to draw his window…then his bed…then his covers. At last, Harold finds home.
In the confusion and chaos of life, both at its highs and lows over the last year, I’ve had many a chance to forget (and have too often forgotten) my own reference point, the author and perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ…not merely a “moon,” but rather the “Light of the World.” In this forgetting, it is inevitable that life becomes a more scary, lonely, and daunting proposition than it already is.
And the greatest comfort I can find in these times comes when I enter into Harold’s story and the words “Then, suddenly, Andy remembered” become true. It is only when I remember the ever-fixed mark of Jesus’ constancy and devotion that I can be constant and devoted. It is only when I remember Jesus’ proclamation in both word and deed that he came to serve (not to be served), that I can serve others. It is only when I consider his relentless tenderness that I can be tender. It is only when I focus on his scandalously free and full forgiveness that I can freely and fully forgive. It is only when I remember how he emboldened and equipped a ragtag, motley assemblage of disciples to change the course of history that I believe I he can embolden and equip me for the days ahead. It is only when I remember his words, “Peace I leave with you,” that I can find rest in a tumultuous world.
And I can’t say that remembering this makes my journey (or anyone else’s) suddenly devoid of scary, frustrating, demoralizing, intimidating, draining, and/or mournful moments. To my experience, the path of Christ leads not around these moments, but more often leads directly through them. Still, it is by remembering my point of reference, Christ, as Harold remembers his moon, that in the throes of desperation, the general absence of certitude, or the depths of sadness, I can always remember where “home” is.