It was while we were living in France. It was a cold, Wednesday evening, our weekly Bible study evening. Sue and I were ready to leave for Nicole’s house where it would take place. We were taking a couple with us this particular Wednesday, so after waiting for them, we got off to a bit of a late start. About ten minutes after leaving, Matthieu, our friend, announced in an agonized voice: “Oh No! I’ve forgotten my Bible!” We were already cutting the time short, so I assured him, surely Nicole would have an extra one for him to use. His despair was mounting: “But, no! I really need to have my Bible this evening. I have notes. It’s really, really important!” Now my blood pressure was rising in sync with his despair. I tried to tell him it would be OK, but he was having none of it. I thought he was going to start crying. And having a 50-year-old man crying in my backseat on this dark wintry night was an unbearable thought. So, being the kind and compassionate and loving pastor dude that I am, I finally relented (confession – I was so frustrated with this maniac behind me, I was tempted to open the car door and make him walk back). This was before cell phones, so letting Nicole know we would be at least 30 minutes late was impossible. I turned around (I was incredulous that I was really doing this – I mean, Bibles are important and everything, but holding up the meeting I was supposed to be leading?). We made it back and Matthieu promised to be right back out.  Several minutes later, his wife decided to go find him. (I’m now in a surreal bubble – Can this truly be happening?) At this point I forget the exact sequence, but I think Sue suggested we both go in and find out what had become of Matthieu (my former friend). We went thru the front door of the castle where we were living (the one our school purchased which also was where our apartment was). Right in front of us was the grand staircase, and at the top of the stairs there were people shouting and clapping, and yes, including Matthieu and his wife – and Nicole! The Bible fiasco was just a ruse to get me back because the entire school staff and folks from the church were throwing me a surprise birthday party. I was totally in the dark! Happy 40th to me!

Sometimes darkness can simply mean not knowing. As disciples of Jesus, we have ‘knowing’ given to us by the Word, by the Holy Spirit, by the counsel of trusted fellow journeyers. Jesus brought truth to en’light’en us and grace to enable us to receive it. While I’m pretty sure Jesus would be the first one to get in on preparing surprise birthday parties, he does want his friends (even Matthieu) to walk in the light of his truth, his hope, and, above all, his love.  PD

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