October 9, 2012

These Boots

Some boots are bugging my husband.

His dad wore work boots, which he remembers watching Larry lace all the way up before heading out to work as a power lineman. He was fond of those boots and they commanded respect. Bryon looked up to those boots.

And now my very important husband has his own work boots, which he laces up every morning before heading out to work as the manager of three departments at our plant and kneel on the floor to assist his techs. I am fond of those boots. Despite how they pull and hang on his tired legs, all heavy and steel-toed, those boots keep him safe and walking. They lay at the bottom of our steps and threaten to trip me to death every single morning, but I’d never move them. They are my husband, worn strong, safe, and protecting.

There is a song by Eric Church called ‘These Boots.’ That song got Bryon’s attention in a way that made him start thinking, just so that the next song could usher in and set up camp in his soul, ‘Sinners Like Me.’

You see, my husband is a strong but complicated man. He has a past and experiences of his childhood that are sitting him, stirring up a pot of mess just now. Part of the grief process, I think. It’s only been a few years that Larry’s been in Heaven.   

From time to time Bryon will pull something out and stop for a breath, having seen the ghost of his father in a picture, or heard his voice in a song. [This is something I know well; my own father has been gone almost 16 years.] Over this past weekend, Larry happened to be in a box that was sitting on a shelf in our garage. It was the box of hunting supplies, packed up years ago by who-knows-who, and full of shells and bullets and gently-worn orange vests. It needed to come down to be audited before the season begins later this month.

Bryon brought the box inside and sat it on the kitchen island. It was dusty and smelled magnificent. Inside of that box was a scope that his father used when hunting deer, metal clasps for hanging pheasant, and an orange hunting hat. Possibly the ugliest hat that either of us had ever seen, my husband reached that sucker out of the box, pulled the ear flaps down, and put it on his head. And then he gave me the look that says he needs a moment for the ghost to pass. His eyes welled up and I turned my attention to a map of the Black Hills National Forest, circa 1980. This was definitely Larry’s hunting box. Having never met my father-in-law, I truly appreciate these small glimpses of his past, of the things that made my husband the man I love.

He picked up the coil of brown leather belt that was nestled beside those bullet boxes and raised it to his face, just to see if any smell of his father remained. The belt was curved and worn, just like Bryon's.

After he removed the orange hat and replaced the coiled belt, he moved a half dozen boxes of shells from the left side of the cardboard box to the right and smirked. He reached down and unearthed a history then: a black hardcover Bible. Turns out Larry and Jesus were in that box. The Bible was a gift from Bryon’s Lutheran confirmation in 1981 and he swears he hasn’t seen it in more than 30 years. He has no idea how it came to be tucked away in the hunting box or who put it there. We thumbed through the pages and that delicious ‘old book smell’ connected me to my husband in a way I hadn’t been before; I could see him as a child, reading scriptures.

Bryon’s been in and out of that hunting box every season for who-knows-how-many years and never noticed the Bible before. More than that, he’s unpacked and repacked it in its entirety while looking for a certain something and never touched that Bible. There is no justifiable explanation other than God Himself wanted Bryon to find it there, just… patiently waiting for him.

I smiled.

I love me some Jesus. I love how, despite the crazy business of life, despite the drama or the heartache or the uncertainty that belongs to every human, JESUS CHRIST IS ALWAYS THERE. He was there, in that box, just waiting for my husband to be ready to see Him in a new way. Could have just as easily been you or me, all caught up in our own selfish worries and needs, digging around somewhere where we think Christ can’t see us and then BOOM. He appears to remind us that He died for us, forgives every little stupid thing we’ve done, and releases us from the burdens done to us by others. Christ never leaves. He never leaves!

Bryon smiled at me as it all washed over him.

And so now the Bible is nibbling on him. The memory, the wonderment of its existence, how it came to be in a place it never was before. For days now, that black hardcover Bible has spent its nights under my husband’s pillow, as if some osmosis will bring the memories back faster. I think that's precious and strong at the same time. Wow.

Just like Grandma’s statue of Jesus and her note to her grandson years before he’d need it, I strongly believe that this Bible was left as a message for my husband from his Heavenly Father:

Don’t ever give up hope or happiness. Believe in yourself and your worth to God. Keep your focus on HIM and He will help lead you to lead others. Have hope and everything will fall into place.

And Dear B: Thanks for making me part of your testimony!

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