A MIDSUMMER KNIGHT
It makes perfect sense for those who’ve been given a wondrous gift to be grateful for it and, all things being equal, for them to think highly of the one who gave it to them. It’s no surprise that they will praise the generosity of the giver and the costliness of the gift. But it would distasteful if the giver went on and on and on about how much it cost him and how good it was of him to make the gesture.
Can you imagine being invited to a sumptuous meal of the tastiest and most nutritious things in the nicest of company and having to listen to the host explain it minute detail—not once but over and over again—how much trouble and how much expense she had to go to to produce the grand spread? (Could you enjoy a meal, however fine it is, under such circumstances?) Everyone knows that such matters should be left to the guests to winkle out of the reluctant host who is all the while saying things like, “Really, it was nothing!” “Honestly, it was no trouble.” Such a host isn’t lying; she’s simply expressing her pleasure at having the opportunity to go out of her way to please and it is precisely because she will not make a big thing of it that the guests think so much of her and her efforts.
There is something Christ-like in that spirit. We have no record of Jesus setting his disciples down and telling them how good it is of him to do for them and others what he is doing and going to do. “If only you could know how much this is all costing me, but, alas, no one can appreciate the depths to which I have descended. If I could only make you understand…” None of that. That others do some of that is no surprise, but even they are sparing in how they deal with that aspect of the Lord’s sacrifice and we aren’t left to feel so overwhelmed by his trouble that we can’t enjoy the gift of life he gives us to enjoy and express. Now that we’ve come to know him it’s the kind of thing we expect from him.
O’Henry tells of Gaines, “the man who said he thought New York was the finest summer resort in the country.” While others moaned and melted in the heat, dived for the shade or an electric fan, and wished for the mountains, he mocked the notion of going to the woods to eat canned goods from the city, being wakened in the morning by a million flies, getting soaked to the skin catching the tiniest fish and struggling up perpendicular cliffs. No sir, he preferred to stay at home. If he wanted fish, he’d go to a cool restaurant—home comforts, that’s what he chose, while the fools spent half their summer driving to and from their spartan locations with all the modern inconveniences.
A friend urged him to come with him for two weeks to Beaverkill, where the fish were jumping at anything that even looked like a fly. He said a mutual friend, Harding, had caught a three-pound brown trout—but Gaines was having none of it. “Nonsense!” he’d snort and then off to his office to plunge himself into a mountain of work until late in the afternoon when, with feet up on his desk, he mused to himself: “I wonder what kind of bait Harding used.”
The man who said he thought that New York was the finest summer resort in the country dozed off in the stifling heat, was wakened by his mail-bringing clerk, and decided to take a quick look before he left for the day. A few lines of one of them said:
My Dear Dear Husband:
Just received your letter ordering us to stay another month...Rita’s cough is almost gone...Johnny has gone wild like a little Indian...it will be the making of both children...work so hard, and I know that your business can hardly afford to keep us here so long...best man that ever...you always pretend that you like the city in summer...trout fishing that you used to be so fond of...and all to keep us well and happy...come to you if it were not doing the babies so much good...I stood last evening on Chimney Rock in exactly the same spot...when you put the wreath of roses on my head...said you would be my true knight...have always been that to me...ever and ever.
The man who said he thought New York was the finest summer resort in the country, on his way home in the sweltering summer heat, dropped into a cafe and had a glass of warm beer under an electric fan. “Wonder what kind of a fly old Harding used,” he murmured to himself.
I love it when those in love sometimes “tell lies” gallantly. They say things no one believes—least of all themselves. They’re forever making sacrifices—some large, some little—to make life easier, finer, lovelier, for those they love. They’re in love and they do what lovers have done in every age down the centuries—they give themselves in whatever ways their love and situation calls for. And they do it without trumpets blowing or affected sweetness and they don’t wear pained expressions. They’d almost convince you that they really did believe that New York City was the finest summer resort in America.
[Quoted from my little book called Let Me Count The Ways with permission from Howard Publishing Company, West Monroe, Louisiana, 2001]
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, theabidingword.com.