“I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” — Psalm 84:10
There’s something about autumn that makes me nostalgic. My thoughts turn back the pages of the years and I think of the happier times before I made unwise choices. I remember the faces and places, and I get a little sentimental yearning.
One of the faces that always pops into my mind is Miriam’s. When I first met her, I was a freshman, and a maladjusted one at that. Miriam was always bright and shiny; her eyes crinkled and twinkled, and her silver hair pleasantly glistened under the harsh cafeteria lighting. She was petite (translate my awkward, gangly body towered over hers); she was so grandmotherly you wanted to hug the stuffing out of her every time you saw her.
Two meals out of three on her work days, she sat at the door and scanned our students IDs so we could get our meals. Even on the busiest days, she was never really cross or harsh. When she wasn’t at the door, she was usually on clean up, gathering trash and wiping down tables, injecting a bit of warmth wherever she met someone. On slower days, different students would plop down on a chair beside her and start to talk, and it wasn’t small talk. The kids always shared their troubles, issues, and joys. When Miriam didn’t have an answer, she offered a prayer for wisdom.
She was different. She did what the other cafeteria ladies either didn’t do or didn’t do as well–she saw us as people and tried to build relationships. This difference arose from a vibrant, living faith that showed her into the unseen realms to see Jesus walking with us students and to see Jesus walking and talking with her. Admittedly, her devotion to Jesus put off many of the more liberal or well-off or rebellious kids. But for those of us wandering and to those whose devotion to Jesus mirrored hers, she was a welcome fixture for so many years.
I wish I would have kept in touch with her. I never quite mastered the whole art of relationship; even in my forties, I still struggle. I suspect she’s home with Jesus, as the lady was quite a relic. In another way, I’m glad I didn’t. My poor choices would have been disappointing to her, almost to the level of wounding her.
Instead of wallowing in the past that was and wasn’t, I’m going to choose to mirror her as she mirrored Jesus. She was content with any job in that cafeteria, from the cleanest to the dirtiest. She always tried to be kind and patient with every one of us, even when some of us were haughty and hurried. She shared her faith, but it was never with a thwap of the Bible over the head; it was always in a related situation that was similar to ours that Jesus got her through.
Miriam lived Psalm 84:10 with all her might. Maybe, if we all learn to live that verse, the world will be just a tad better for our passing through.