Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Wheel Inside a Wheel

Katy and I wore matching terrycloth cover-ups––two-toned pink sculpted bath towels sewn together with an opening for our heads, and two more for our arms. We pushed her mother’s upright Hoover into the middle of the beige shag carpeted living room, not to vacuum, but give her mom a concert. The vacuum handle was the perfect height for me, a nine year old, and Katy, a year older and wiser.

We sang a song, our current favorite that Katy learned at catechism. The lyrics allowed us to perfect our hand motions, furthering our dreams of becoming backup singers for Diana Ross, or even Glenn Campbell, if he had that sort of thing.

So we stood in Katy’s living room, our skinny calves sticking out from the slits in our pink terry sacks, blocking Katy’s mom’s view of the TV from where she sat on the pea green couch, her feet in white Keds kicked up on the coffee table, smoking Virginia Slims.

We rolled our arms barrel style in front of us, then at our sides as we leaned into the Hoover mike and sang––

Ezekiel saw two wheels a rollin, way in the middle of the air.

Never mind that I had no clue who Ezekiel was, here came the part where our hand motions grew even more elaborate.

A wheel inside a wheel a rollin, way in the middle of the air.

I couldn’t help but picture my pet rats’ exercise wheel spinning inside an even larger one, suspended six feet in the air.

The big wheel ran by faith. The little wheel ran by the grace of God.

We swiveled our hips a bit at that part. During rehearsal, before Katy’s mom got home from work, we’d tried singing our song while hula hooping, but with the arm motions and our need for the microphone, it just didn’t work.

As I swung my hips and churned my arms, I simply couldn’t picture faith or grace or God or how those things could possibly make wheels spin in mid-air. But then, I wasn’t Catholic, and I wasn’t in catechism, like Katy, who went to Saint Anne’s on Wednesday’s after school to learn about God.

We performed our one song concert on a Friday night, and when we were through, Katy’s mom turned her attention to the six o’clock news. We traipsed into the kitchen, opened the freezer, pulled out a package of fish sticks and another of tater tots, lined them in neat rows on a baking sheet and slid them into the oven. Any other night of the week, Katy’s family would eat Hamburger Helper or Sloppy Joes, but not on Fridays. Fridays had to be fish.

Katy said it had something to do with Jesus, who was as impossible for me to imagine as a wheel inside a wheel a rollin way in the middle of the air.

Almost 38 years later, Ezekiel is still a mystery to me. An Old Testament prophet, his visions of wheels full of eyes and his eating scrolls before he went to Israel on God’s behalf with words of gloom and doom, make him a difficult figure for me understand.

But, I still remember the song, both melody and words. It comforts me to know that whether or not I understand the ancient prophets, God is there in our lives, in all our attempts to keep our wheels spinning, juggling our lives and our responsibilities. By God’s grace, and by our faith they don’t all come crashing down at once. Even when it seems they have, there is a perspective larger than our own. If we can see beyond the living room and our own little concerts, we can see that we’re offered abundant opportunities to sing, to learn new songs, to stretch our understandings of our own lives, to embrace the unknown, to believe in the impossible.

And in doing so, we open the doors for God, just a crack. While we’re busy rolling our arms, swinging our hips and saying we don’t have all the answers, Jesus just might enter in and offer some answers of his own.

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