Relda

Ah, Relda.  I still have Relda somewhere.  In my hope chest I think.

Relda began as a sock on my foot.  The sock got a hole in it, became stranded, and utterly disregarded in my sock basket.  The sock always stayed on top of the basket, it seemed, but never with any purpose.

That is, until I got a call from a friends’ mom that, on my visit, me and her girls would make sock puppets.

I picked the purple sock on the top of the basket with a hole for my thumb.

It was an old sock.  It wasn’t a particularly attractive sock.  But it became my favorite sock of all.

My friends’ mom had a puppet-making table set up for us.  She didn’t have a lot of stuff, but she had good stuff.  Clever stuff.  I chose two googly eyes from a package, a blue cloth button nose, and a red Twizzler-shaped tongue made out of fabric cord.

We hot glued the features on our sock with a low-temperature (but still very hot) glue gun.

Mine was simple.  No embellishments.  Eyes, nose, and long tongue.  You know, I never thought about it until just now, that Relda looked rather a lot like a snake.  That’s creepy.  I don’t like snakes much.  That’s kinda upsetting, actually.  Of course, all sock puppets are going to look some like snakes, especially if they’re worn by someone whose arm looks like a stick.  So I guess Relda was very snake-like.

Relda had more problems than that, though.  I wanted Relda to be a boy, but I wanted to pick the name Relda because I liked it.  So Relda was a boy named Relda, although I never made a country song about him.

I was in a tough time in my life, going from kid to preteen, and Relda became a very good friend.  I would, very contentedly, talk to Relda–quite at length, as a matter of fact.  Relda did most of the talking, though.  He is kinda an attention hog.  He interrupts even more than I do.

Relda talked and talked and talked and talked.  Relda always liked being my friend, even though he could be pretty sarcastic sometimes.  And then, of course, came the age that I’m sure every parent hopes will happen before college enrollment, when I put the sock puppet away.

I didn’t talk to Relda for a long time.

One time, as a teenager, I remember unpacking my hope chest on a night I was really depressed.  I opened the chest, and there was Relda.

I stared sadly down at him.  He was, of course, lifeless.

I put him on my hand and said, “Hi.”

Relda said, “Hi” back.

We were both sad.

I put Relda back in the chest.  I was too old to carry the magic, but too lonely to want to pass up a friend who always talked to me.  Relda became lifeless again.  I put the lid back down on my hope chest.

I think everyone in the whole world has a longing for a Relda in their lives.  A friend they can talk to, always available, always at their side.

The sad thing is, most people do no better in their search than I did with my purple sock.

The craving we have inside us for communion isn’t the sort that can be filled with the voices of friends, family, TV sitcoms, or, yes, even sock puppets.  We can’t self-talk our way to the communion, and we can’t find anyone else in our network to get us there, either.  I think most of us have a sense that what we are really longing for is something otherworldly, but instead of being less personal than us, like some weird green alien out of the 90’s, we’re looking for a communion far more personal than any we have ever experienced.

How incredible, then, that God gives us this communion through His Word.

His Word formed the world around us, and everyone in it.  God spoke and in this is everything we know and can imagine, everything except for God Himself . . . and God gives us this communion through His Son, revealed as the Word.  He is God’s communication to us.

What we partake in as Christians is more than a friendship with God, more than a job, more than the role of a servant to a master or a subject to a king, more than the way we understand the relationship between an earthly father and his child . . . it is a communion that Christ pictures for us as a man giving his body as food to save a starving man from death.

There is something very gruesome, very startling, very intense in this communion.  Something that brings a person instantly to reviling offense or broken humility.  The transparency of the sacrifice, the genuineness of the love . . will either overwhelms to spiteful wrath that anyone would even offer such a gift as his own flesh and blood to drink . . . or overwhelms with breathtaking sorrow that such a gift was necessary and unending joy that such a gift was given.

We settle so easily for nearly empty words like Relda’s–words we want to hear, but don’t do us any good–when we could be listening instead to the Word, Jesus Christ.

On the other hand, I think one of the reasons the Reldas in our lives are allowed to exist is they give us an inkling of what the slightest, faintest thread in the tapestry of God’s love must look like.

No matter how much Relda talked during the day, when the day was over, it was time to put Relda away.  And Relda always lay limp, requiring my attention to be anything more than lifeless.  In order for Relda to work, I had to spend my life trying to give life to something that could never have it.

Humanity has a gaping need for communion.  We naturally want to fill our need with relationships, but all relationships with people and things from this world ultimately lead to death.  No one has ever found immortal life through a new facebook friend, or a boyfriend or girlfriend, or a flat screen TV.  Only God’s Word brings life–the very life our souls hunger and thirst to live.

It’s the communion of a soul nursed to life by the flesh and blood of God Everlasting.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (Jesus, John 10:10, NIV)

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