I Knew Its Name

people, man, kid

Is there a Daniel in your life?

There is, was, in mine. I have long lost contact with Daniel. Life, geography, time, and ambition distanced me from him. His life, personality, friendship, his impact remains in my memory and my person. Though separated now, an eternal bond links us.

Daniel was my friend. I knew he loved me and cared for me. I did not understand in those days the implication of his friendship. His presence in my life defined society’s enduring cleft. Daniel was black, poor, uneducated but wise, and I, though middle class, was by comparison educated and unchained by circumstance. The divide between us was as black and white as our color. His ineffable friendship inheres my perspective today.

In my formative years, I had heroes, mentors, teachers, parents and coaches who played a pivotal role in my character development. In my idol worship years, I looked to these people to guide me through my confusion. Then, there was Daniel, silent as a shadow, present, reaching, assuring as shade, nudging me toward light though I did not know it then.

Imagination dreams a life.  My ends sought means. Daniel awakened me to thoughts and realities unrealized in books or aspirations or heroes.   Having  Daniel in my life did not provide the obvious but grounded me, lived within me, under-girded each step, and reminded me what is right and true.

Daniel’s impact on me makes me hesitate, taps me on the shoulder and reminds me of a person’s value, if not to society, to God. For all Daniel suffered, his shadow, tall, remained in my mind and heart. He was as much a compass in my life as Dad or coach. If my mentors were there to say, “do this” or “be this,” Daniel stood silently to say, “never be this, never do this.” I listened, eventually.

When I read the Bible, I hear the same message. “Do this, be this, but never be this,” Jesus says. God’s word, a dividing line, taps me on the shoulder the same way Daniel’s long-ago friendship did and does. I don’t always listen and sometimes forget, but Daniel’s gravity in my life is truth reaching toward light.

An anonymous work, “The Cloud of Unknowing” says, “As God, he is creator and dispenser of time; as man, he consciously mastered time; as God and man, he is the rightful judge of you and your use of time. Bind yourself to Jesus, therefore, in faith and love, so that belonging to him you may share all he has and enter the fellowship of those who love him.”  

Grace found me, bound me to Jesus by his love. But first, there was Daniel whose friendship reminded me grace comes without boundaries and judgments and preconceptions.

And when grace came, I knew its name.

“Those who have ears to hear, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15).

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