When words aren’t necessary

Let me tell you about one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.

His name was Lerric Odd.  Really.

He was an aide who I believe God brought into my life early in my career as a teacher.  He is brilliant at what he does.  An artist, almost.

He is the sort of figure who belongs in film, or in a book, more than he belongs in real life.   Lerric is a tall black man with features that appear chiseled out of stone.  He’s got this love of gaudy silk shirts.  And he’s got this way about him.  A strength and confidence and a deep knowing of who he is.  A humility, and this great sense of humor.

I learned more from Lerric than I learned in all the education classes I ever took, added with all the things I was supposed to learn in all the inservice trainings I’ve ever been in, combined with all the teaching advice I’ve ever heard.

Lerric was shrouded in mystery.  He’d worked for the residential facility I taught at sense it had opened.  He had just gotten out of prison.  He walked into the place.  It wasn’t opened yet.  He told the man in charge that he didn’t have many skills.  He said he’d learn fast and work hard.  And he stayed at the place for years.

Day 260: Don't Censor Me

At some point he lost his wife and child to a car accident.  He was diagnosed with a brain tumor and did not know how long he would live.

I was terrible when I started teaching and I learned so much from Lerric.  I learned a little something of the camaraderie experienced by soldiers in that job.  We had so little in common, Lerric and I, but this bond!  It was this deep thing.  I could read him at a glance and he could read me.

Especially when the chips were down.  When a student was violent, or aggressive, or self injurous.  It got to the point with Lerric that we didn’t have to talk when we put our hands on the kids.  We just flowed.

On a wider level, when I contemplate the relationships I’ve been engaged in, the thing I realize is that in my very closest relationships, words are optional.  They are not the only way that we communicate.  Things go unspoken, and somehow just known.  There is something deeper than speaking.

That’s the point I’m contemplating right now: words are for people who are not very close together.  There are types of closeness that run deeper than the need for words.

And yet, when we think of prayer, most of the time, we think about something that could so easily be translated to spoken or written words.  At it’s worst (and much to often) this would read like a Christmas wish list: all the things we want Santa-God to bring us.

Such a prayer suggests a person who is not very close to the diety he is praying to.  Such a prayer does not at all sound like the sort-of thing done by a person who is near to his God, who is in him and has God in him.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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