Summer’s leaves rustled under silent stars as we stepped into the balmy August air. Bonnie and I were laughing. I can’t remember why, but I know my heart was light with that contagious buoyancy of spirit I so often felt in her presence. It was an ordinary Thursday night after Joy Group (a women’s discipleship group we’d been in together for several months) and we chatted for a few minutes under the glare of porch lights before driving home to our separate worlds (her: a professor of English at Patrick Henry College, me: a mother still adjusting to life with two in diapers).
We talked wistfully, wishing we could spend more time together. Bonnie shared with me how much she had enjoyed an accountability group that she’d been a part of in North Carolina and how she’d love to do something like that with me. And of another desire she had to study through a book on systematic theology—“would you want to teach something like that?” she asked. My esteem for my doctorate-bearing friend made the request feel intimidating. I said perhaps we could learn together and I shared another honest desire of my own. I told her how much I’d love to hear her story and get to know her better (after all, we shared a love of so many things: the love of the apt phrase, the lure of the hidden call behind true beauty, and a desire to know more deeply the Author of all that is good and true and beautiful). We didn’t make a plan that night, and how I wished we had. How was I to know that before the last of summer’s leaves had fallen, my sweet friend Bonnie, just forty-four years young, would have drawn her last breath, slipping peacefully home to her Savior in the stillness of a November night?
At her memorial service, ache knotted itself tightly in my throat as one of her former students read from one of Bonnie’s favorite books, C.S. Lewis’ Til We Have Faces:
“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.”
I rejoiced that Bonnie had gone “home” to be with Jesus, home to the source of the beauty that had captivated her throughout her life on earth. But I couldn’t help feeling sorry that I’d missed out on going deeper with her and growing deeper together with Jesus.
Before my first son was born, Bonnie brought him a gift. On the outside, in lieu of a bow, she’d attached a sweet little rattle, a frog with a smile so wide it made his lips curl to his eyeballs in a generous half-moon. Rather than the normal shaker, this rattle sounds like the tinkling of distant bells. Lately, my youngest son has grown attached to that rattle. I’ll be washing dishes or folding some laundry and hear those faint bells. Or I’ll be stepping over toys only to find that frog’s silly smiling face underfoot, and somehow I can’t help smiling too. And I find myself thinking about Bonnie and about so many of the interesting people I’ve had the privilege of knowing but not knowing well enough. People like a college professor of mine who rubbed shoulders with some of the most dazzling minds of the Harlem Renaissance and whose own creative genius was readily apparent, or some of the survivors of the Rwandan genocide who shared their stories of unthinkable heroism and mercy with me, or my own dear friend Chuck Colson, who seemed to have some interesting insight on just about any subject. How I would have loved for just a few more hours of conversation with any one of them. (And perhaps that incessant longing for more time is just one more indication that we are made for something beyond time; that we were made for eternity.)
And yet, though I’ve had the privilege of knowing a great many dazzling minds, quite a few hearts that bled with compassion and courage, yet they all pale in comparison to the ONE who beckons me to come and know Him deeper.
There is a mind, so deep, so beautiful, and so full of wisdom that none can fathom it. There is a heart, so pure, so full of goodness and light and mercy, that none could behold it. All the men and women whom I’ve admired in my lifetime for their depth and spiritual beauty, for their compassion, creativity, and courage, they are all mere glimmers of this God, the source of all knowledge and goodness. And this One, this God of the Universe, author of all that can be known, He invites me to know Him better. He whispers to me an invitation to join Him, to look for Him and find Him when I search with all my heart (Jer. 29:13).
I know I will have all eternity to get to know Him (and my dear Bonnie) better, but I don’t want to miss out here. I want to go deeper with Christ. I want to know Him more. I don’t want to put it off until a more convenient time. I’m letting the tinkling of bells be my domestic call to worship, my invitation to say those simple words I said to Bonnie, but this time to my Savior, “I want to know more of your story; I want to get to know you better.” It makes me smile to think that on the other side of the veil, Bonnie is doing the same. She’s wading into beauty, drinking her fill of the depth and wisdom and love of Christ.
P.S. Do you want to dig deeper into the riches of the depth of God’s mind and the beauty of His heart? Here is just a little of what the Scriptures say:
No one could be more fascinating or captivating. Wouldn’t you like to get to know someone like this more deeply? Have you lost the wonder? What’s holding you back from getting to know Him more?