Looking at the Back of the Lord

Then the Lord said [to Moses], “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”

(Genesis 33:21-23)


Moses and the Burning Bush (Credit: Eugene Plushart. Source: Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve spent my adult life trying to be at peace with this arrangement: Sacred Glory may pass by, but, like Moses, I’m permitted only a glimpse of it. Were I to take in the face of Eternal Love, I would probably die from beauty—or to borrow from the poet James Wright, “My bones [would] turn to dark emeralds.”

Acceptance is coming slowly. I can spend my days frustrated and anxious about the earthly deal—I don’t get answers until I’m dead, and maybe not even then—or I can keep watch for the back of Yahweh. I’m going with the latter. Standing in the cleft of the rock, I want to let this world be this world and receive whatever it offers. Lately, my trifocal eyes are catching sacred glimpses that bring my fragile soul to tears, and I’m grateful. God’s glory passes by as if on a loop. My calling is to breathe, keep vigil, and give thanks.

Julie was frustrated because her six-year-old daughter Cora was doodling during a baptism, but because her hands were full with little peanut Lena, she let it go. On the way out of church, Cora crumpled up the doodle and tossed it in the trash. Julie fished it out and stuffed it in her purse. The next day she smoothed out the little ball of paper and read this:


Author of the baptismal account below (left) comforting Great-Grandma with the help of her little sister.

A little kid and a toddler got baptized. The little kid was four I think and the baby is two maybe. The kid weared a tie and the tie was tucked in his shirt. His pants had red scribbles and the rest was black. The little toddler dipped his hand in the little bowl full of water after he got baptized. Everyone laughed hysterically. Then it was time for them to sit back and while they were getting baptized we had to say a prayer.

“Do you sing in honor and caring to your family and pray?” Asked Pastor John.

“I do” answered the boy.

“Are you care and love about your friendships love?”

“I do”

“Do you love have sins of you?”

“I do” the prayer was.

“I thought that the boy was proud of himself and happy and free. Now what could be happier than love?”

Julie ended: “I have so much to learn from her.” I say: Cora’s words doodled here and there, but she understood the moment. A boy proud of himself, happy and free. What could be happier than love? And would that we all sing in honor and caring to our family.

Glory: a sweet, sensitive girl and a scrap of paper.


Cora’s doodle

Next-door neighbor Patrick abides in a relentless now. The twelve-year-old sage of Shenley Drive, he happens to have Down’s syndrome. No kidding, the boy is my teacher. I watch him navigate the world and learn to get outside my own squirrelly head and—for the love of God—live! When Patrick is playing, he’s playing. When he’s eating, he’s eating. And, as was the case last week, when he’s sad, he’s sad. He’ll go to a new school next year, and when it came time to say goodbye to the teachers and friends he loves, he did so with all of himself.

Glory: a boy cries holy tears.


Time for Patrick to say goodbye. Not all glory is glad.

A few days ago I received a text message from son Micah. “Can u email mom for me?

“Sure,” I said. “Message?”

“Ask if she wud help me make another sock puppet tnight?”

This hardly seems like a glimpse of Yahweh, unless you know that Micah, who’s twenty-two, has quite a history: heroin addiction, felony conviction, teenage years filled with rage. But he’s been clean for almost two years and gainfully employed for about one. And he loves being Uncle Micah to six-month-old Cole. This is where the sock puppet comes in. One day he got the idea of making one for his nephew. When he showed me what he came up with, I saw it from the cleft of Moses’ rock.

Glory: when goodness crawls out from a rancid cave and “stand[s] upright in the wind,” the universe blinks back tears.


Micah’s sock puppet. I suggested the name “Mr. Miggles.” Notice the necktie.

Last week I drove south on I-79 in Pennsylvania, windows down and the Beatles up loud. A couple lines into “I Want to Hold Your Hand” the road got blurry. I thought of wife Kathy, of course, and how as years pass, nonsense and clutter wear away to reveal the deep emerald green of joy—in this case, the simple joy of holding Kathy’s hand. When we both land at home in the early evening, we walk gimpy dog Watson and hold hands off and on. Driving wherever, I take her hand and kiss it.

Glory: there’s room for two in the cleft of Moses’ rock, especially when they stand close together and watch for the back of God . . .

which sometimes looks like a girl’s crumpled up doodle, a boy’s goodbye tears, a healing uncle’s puppet, and a middle-aged woman and man who still hold hands.


Kathy with Watson. I still want to hold her hand.

12 thoughts on “Looking at the Back of the Lord

  1. You bring that glimpse of the Eternal One’s backside quite well down to my space. Thanks for helping this too busy one find the cleft rock for some meditating on the important.

    • Thanks, Brother Ray! One day it’s disgusting pet situations, next thing you know, God is floating by. I may need therapy!

  2. Post full of sweetness. Maybe it’s me but I was moved to tears by how much love is in your life. Your family is blessed to have you, as you are to have them.

  3. A week with you at the Ark…and I left so blessed by my time with you, John. Your gentle good humor and grace are always life-giving for me. I have a story to share with you…but it will be private.

    • Thanks, brother. You’re right, it was life-giving to hang out together for a week. Wonderful–except for the salt! Peace, John

  4. Pingback: Very Inspiring Blog Award | Winding Road

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