Sometimes God’s signs take a while to discern. As I had come to Manna House this morning I saw to the south a diffuse rainbow; the colors smeared across the sky instead of with clearly defined lines.
One of the early arriving guests waiting for me to open the gate said, “It isn’t much of a rainbow, is it? But today isn’t much of a day.”
Another was more hopeful, “This is the day the Lord has made” he said.
Could both be true? No doubt, the rainbow was not as clear as the sign given to Noah. There the rainbow clearly meant the flood was over, not just then but for all time. “The waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh” (Genesis 9:15). Yet this morning there was a diffuse rainbow. And how could I forget Louisiana, among other catastrophic floods? Not all flesh but pretty bad nonetheless. Did this morning’s rainbow, though diffuse, have enough color and clarity to remind me that God is hanging around?
Toward the end of the morning a volunteer came to me, “A guest wants to see you. His Momma died. He wants you to pray with him.”
I went to the backyard. A man sat at one of the picnic tables. He head was down and his shoulders heaved as he wept. I recognized him from Monday’s showers. He had on the shoes we had given him. In the last year or so he has become a regular guest, living on the streets. Another volunteer was already with him, hand on his shoulder. Still another came and she put her hand on his other shoulder. I approached him and did the same and we prayed.
“God in grief you seem so absent. May our friend here feel your loving embrace. You are our Mother, ever mindful of us, ever gentle, ever loving, come and give comfort. Stand with him in his sorrow. Welcome his Momma into your presence.”
After a while we talked. The funeral will be in St. Paul, Minnesota. He has no family left now that his Momma is gone. He only has the isolation of the streets. He has no money. If he could get to Minnesota he could stay with a friend of his Momma’s; the one who called him and told him the news. Not being able to go to the funeral only compounded his grief.
“Manna House will get you there” I said, “We can get you a bus ticket.” Just that morning a regular donor had come and had been even more generous than usual.
“Come back Monday when you know the arrangements and we will work it out to get you a bus ticket.”
Another guest came over to offer condolences. He talked about losing his mother. More, he offered this guest bent over in sorrow a place to stay until he would go to the funeral. “Come with me. I got a place now and you can live there for a while. I don’t want you to be alone with this.” They left together. It was time for Manna House to close. The skies had grown dark again and a light rain began to fall.
Grief in losing one’s Momma and being poor and homeless and thousands of miles away from her in her illness and now her death, and the graciousness of prayer, of another guest’s offer for a place to stay, a diffuse rainbow.