George, Heather, and Bill (and a vintage edition of Phantastes)

All of us live lives made up of significant moments, little snippets in time, that change who we are in infinitesimal ways.  And over time, as these moments add up, each one builds on the last until we become so new as to be unrecognizable to those who “knew us then.”

 Those moments exist in everyday conversations, in classroom revelations, in spellbinding novels, and late-nights with old friends. They exist in the birth of child, the death of a parent, meeting the brother you never knew, or the sister who doesn’t know you.  And they also exist in the unlikeliest of places. Places like the face of a stranger, the eyes of the aged, and the person at the grocery-store register.

 But sometimes!  Those significant moments begin the moment a special person walks into your life and promises never to leave you, no matter what. Sometimes, a person comes along so full of God that they leak love and joy and goodness everywhere they go. They leak love the way the brokenhearted leak sadness.  The stuff they are made of is so solid yet so soft that you can’t help but heal in their presence.  And as much as you want to drive them away, they won’t go. They can’t go. They can only wait patiently for you to come to your senses long enough to let them love you. Let them change you.  Let them help you become unrecognizable to those who knew you then. Unrecognizable to them.

 I know one of those love-leakers.  He is my step-father.  He doesn’t know it yet, but I call him dad. I just haven’t collected my courage enough to tell him so.  Not that he would mind, but that we would both cry and it would be unbearably awkward (for me).  So, instead, I’ve decided to learn the things that make his heart happy and to surround him with those things.  Because now, because of his influence, I leak love instead of sadness. 

 The latest gift was a vintage copy of Phantastes. A rare, most-favored book for a rare, most-favored human.

I wrapped it in plain brown paper and wrote him a simple note: “To Bill:  Because I love you, and you’re worth it.” I didn’t want the wrapping to give away the treasure that was inside.  When he opened it, he said, “Wow. I will treasure this for the rest of my life.”

 You see, for my dad, Phantastes is a collection of significant moments.  And holding it in his hands triggered something in him. All those moments came flooding back and flowing out.  Every moment in the story that fed his heart and changed him ever so slightly came flowing out in a deep river of emotion.  Every line that ever painted a picture in his mind came to the surface, ready for him to share.  He shared his love for the way George Macdonald wrote. His style. His language. His heart.  He shared, paused to fight the tears, and shared some more.  He shared his love for Phantastes, and for Lilith. Lilith will be my next love-leak.

 Then, he took me to his collection and showed me all the wonderful treasures he carefully stored on his shelves. MacDonald and others.  The old ones. The new ones. The ones I’ll never see anywhere else. We combed through the fabulous illustrations and I awed over them all. And he said, “One day, they will all be yours.” Which is his way of giving me his heart.

 During decades of rebellion against God and against him, my dad patiently led me to Jesus and joyfully introduced me to George MacDonald.  We found common ground and healing in both places.  Reshaped by our Bibles and by MacDonald’s works, transformed by Love, by the grace of God which the Scotsman wrote of so movingly, we see each other anew.