The sun had just dipped below the tree line. The thick, humid summer air was turning to a pleasant, slight coolness that takes the edge off the day’s hottest heat. Cousins were bouncing and running through the trees and scattered lawn chairs in my uncle’s yard. Chatter and laughter flitted through the air much like butterflies do with more than a few exaggerated fish stories and exchanges about mischief among the kids. And the food. Oh the food! The charred, smokey burgers and sweet, savory baked beans piled high on everyone’s plates. Juicy watermelon finished off the meal time with that just-right mix of watery sweetness. More than one seed spitting contest followed. Everyone did their own thing until my PaPaw took his seat with sweet tea in hand in that old, woven lawn chair. Even now, nearly thirty years later, I can still see his broad smile and glinting eyes that smirked more than his curving lips. I can still hear his soft chuckle. I wasn’t the only one.
You see, when my PaPaw sat down, stories were sure to follow. And every one of us knew it. Just about every family member, even the littlins’, gathered in close to hear him retell scaring the daylights out of his kids decades earlier, beating his boys in golf just the day before, or catching a cooler full of fish on the last family beach trip. He just had a way. However he said it, he just said it better. Sons listened. Daughters and daughters’-in-laws cooed. Grandkids giggled. All of us found ourselves mesmerized. We were home. Home right at his feet. Listening.
I’ll never forget some of those stories. I can still hear him tell us about sneaking quietly around the back of the house, switching off the power, and slowly slipping into the living room where his wife and kids had gathered to figure out what happened to the power. At the point in his account where he screamed and everyone else scattered, I laughed and laughed and laughed. I could listen to him tell that story over and over.
My PaPaw was a Christian. I’m so grateful for that. To me, that means in part one day I’ll get to hear him rattle off stories again. It also reminds me, one day, I’ll get to sit and listen at Another’s feet. Just like Mary did.
38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.
Luke 10:38-39 (ESV)
That’s part of what makes our memories, relationships, and joys so powerful. They are echos of the real thing. They allude to the greater story. They hint at a greater reunion. One day, for believers in Jesus, every good gift we’ve been given here will be perfected there. And the even greater hope for others among us—those who may not have as many fond memories, relationships, or joys—is that they can anticipate the stories of the Savior sitting at his feet with an unmatched eagerness.
Summer’s just around the corner. Sweet tea and a warm grill too. Laughter. Fish stories. I’m looking forward to it. I’ll remember my PaPaw. Again. And when I do, I’ll also look ahead to that other reunion.
Now, would you please pass the sweet tea?