I was told once by a bunch of Calvinists that all things were predestined before the foundations of the earth. Death. Salvation. Destruction. The weather on May 21, 1996. The toast I ate for breakfast this morning, a touch burned. All of these things were chiseled in a stoney timeline even before God thundered "Let there be light!" over the void. All things planned. All means spinning toward the ultimate ends of God. These are the things once said by that Calvinist bunch. Perhaps its an oversimplification of some grander theological truth. I'm not sure. I'm a lawyer by trade, and I have no letters behind my name vouching for my theological prowess. I'm a simple layman, one who uses spiritual intuition and a sometimes confounding set of scriptures to understand the workings of the cosmos. But as untrue as this sort of hyperactive, robotic predestination construct feels most days, there are other days when I wonder whether we're not all just running down the record groves.
This isn't so much about building a case for pet theologies, so don't curse the screen just yet. It's an exercise in recognizing a thing. The thing is a pulling or maybe a pushing. It's about things ordained.
On a September Saturday in 1998, I sat in a stiff plastic chair in the Marie Hammon Student Center of Harding University. Marie Hammon was some long lost relative of mine--a great aunt, or fourth cousin, or some such. She was a wealthy Floridian spinster who'd made her fortune by virtue of marriage to a fortunate man. As the story goes, she was brutally murdered by her gardener on account of dispute over money or cocaine--depending on your perspective on the matter--and she'd left a sizable sum to the school on the stipulation that my sister and I attended for free. I never met Maria Hammon. She didn't much care for children, I was told.
I sat with Christy, a senior who had a thing for my best friend's brother. She was a short shot, full of fire, vivacious. She could have been a thing, I've always thought, but she was off limits according to the Bro-Code, which is a lamentable but very real thing. Christy and I were were making small talk, wasting a cool weekend morning when Amber walked in the Student Center, loose tee sweats and a tee shirt.
I looked at my short shot, said, "I think I like that girl. Met her last week here and I'm thinking about asking her out." Christy smiled, tousled my hair like I was a little brother and said, "what are you waiting for, Sport?" She nudged me from my chair. The rest is history. (See how the pushing works?)
It could have been like any other of my first dates--a concert, a movie, some little triviality that drove me so crazy that I bolted. It wasn't. We were in sync from the beginning, found our rhythm from the minute she stepped down into my tiny black Mitsubishi Eclipse. In that silly little car--almost sporty--Amber told me she was a poet with supreme confidence. She wasn't going to be or hoping she'd grow up into like so many of the other girls on campus. She was, she said. A present, active, confident verb. She would write books, she said, or maybe lyrics. Who knew.
Tides to the moon, we were pulled, and pulled, and pulled. It was the first date in a continuum of togetherness. Engagement on a snowy day in December. Marriage in an orange Indian Summer in Alabama. A bad stint in ministry. Graduate school programs--a Master's of Fine Arts for her; law school for me. A trip, maybe a fall. Maybe one for each of us. Whatever. A child, then another, then another, then another. Dark seasons. Seasons of light. Dream seasons; seasons of dreams. Through it all, Amber was a poet. A present action verb living and collecting experience. All of it was writing fodder, pen fuel.
Today is the culmination of all the pushing and pulling. Over the last two years, Amber has worked on what would become her first book--Wild in the Hollow. It's a memoir about smallness, weakness, and finding the broken way home. It tells her story and a sizable chunk of our story. It's true, at times heavy, but never heavy handed. There's a poet's touch to the pages.
We're still looking for the way home, Amber and I. Or perhaps the way home is looking for us. Who knows. I suppose it depends on how much Calvinism one can stomach without tossing one's theological cookies. Either way, today marks a step in Amber's journey into her fit; dare I say her calling? Who knows. I suppose time will tell. But today, we're celebrating the official release of Wild in the Hollow. Will you celebrate with us?
You can send Amber congratulations on Facebook, or Twitter. And if you haven't picked up your copy of Wild in the Hollow yet, visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Givington's, or other fine book sellers. Join me in making this a special day for Amber.
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