Friday, September 19, 2008

Crisis on Infinite Earts, Pt. 2 (or Aunt May vs. the Man of Steel)

I bet you have your own tragedy, your own loss that is just too big to put into words. That's really what writers get paid for - to put into words how we feel but cannot express. To say what we cannot say or tell us what we know, yet don't want to hear, in a way that we can accept and listen. God uses people and comics to speak to me.

Aunt May vs. Man of Steel, 1986
The next summer, in 1986, the new Superman, by John Byrne came out - Man of Steel. It added some good things to the mythos, knocked other things out and it brought Ma and Pa Kent back to life.

I tried to stay at my childhood home, but my brother said there was no room for me. He had enough responsibilities.

Thus, it was Mildred "Millie" Ferguson, my mother's best friend and next door neighbor who let me stay in her home for the summer at $25/week. We had a grand old time, listening to Abba and eating Brie cheese (just because it was mentioned in Man of Steel). Mrs. Ferguson was in her 60s but she had spunk. She drove her car like a teenage boy with a new drivers license: "Uhhhh -Mrs. Ferguson?" "Yes?" "You came up into the parking lot pretty quick, there..." "Oh, I'm sorry! Jimmy [her 30-something son] told me I drove like a little old lady -and I've refused to do so ever since!"

I also, for a Christian, made some unusual friends that Summer - an atheist and an agnostic - and ended up defending God on my mother's death! I couldn't be angry at Him for that - I knew what she'd been through and knew as Christian woman, she was in heaven.

Mark me: this was just casual apologetics. I did not love God as I should. I just knew what the Bible said and heaven was better than here. I said as much. I quoted C. S. Lewis. Since the atheist's mother had died, like Lewis's, when he was 12, I suggested he read Mere Christianity.

He didn't care for it. Oh, well. I still listened to him read his novel and made friends with some very kind lapsed Catholics.

I tell you, 1985 was hard, but 1986 was the testing ground of WHAT I believed. It would still be years before I knew God experientially, but that summer, living with a Lutheran lady of kindness and mercy, God armored me and my heart from a complete rejection of all I believed.

When my family failed, God provided a home for me. A friend. And even others who had been wounded, so I could talk to them, even argue with them, but only to share what I believed. Atheists were banging on the door of my heart, but God had already had made the bed, put chocolate on the pillow and gave me a Christian woman to help me.

Mrs. Ferguson's children did not follow Jesus, but she did. Her husband had died decades earlier and that widow helped this 20 year old orphan not become abandoned to the Lost and Blind.

God blessed her household, it seemed to her. Millie - I guess I can call her that now that I'm 43 - said when I mowed her lawn, it was greener and thicker than it had ever been. I commented on my technique of mulching and spreading the grass clippings, but she didn't buy into it. She saw that I was blessed -even in my trials.

Especially in my trials.

Don't get me wrong - she was a very pragmatic woman, highly interested in social justice, helping the poor, etc. Not really much of a mystic. But I think her faith needed help too. It was hard for her to live all alone, year after year, crisis after crisis.

When I left her home in the Summer of '86, I transferred to the University of Southern Mississippi and met oodles of good guys (who are doing comics these days for Christ). It was one of the most wonderful years of my life.

On the way out to drive to Hattiesburg, Millie pressed some money into my hand. It was my rent to her the previous week.

"You need to have this.." she said.
"No, Mrs. Ferguson, I can't..."
"Yes, you can!"

So I did. I weep as I write this. No adult had forced me to keep money before. In fact, they had tried to take it away from me.

"'Behold, I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord of Hosts. 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you all the days of your life.'"

He surely did.

Thanks, Aunt Millie. A lot.

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