The oldest Bible I own was a gift from my grandfather, a King James. I signed my own name on the title page at the age of five, and you know that’s true as soon as you look at it. Ugly. Penmanship would come with much practice during the next few years. Sunday School and Summer Vacation Bible School were a prerequisite in our family, and no arguments accepted. So I learned that epistles were not wives of apostles, and the relevance of the prophets and the law to the three Synoptic Gospels and how they contrast to the beauty of the book of John.
Reading was a gift from God, I have no memory of learning to read. I have memories of sitting in K and First listening to classmates sounding out the words p-h-o-n-e-t-i-c-a-l-l-y; Dick, Jane, Spot, that funny word that starts with ‘j’ is jump, and how many times can I tap my foot before the bell rings? Libraries became buffet tables filled with feasts that I devoured. Yes, I have read Pride and Prejudice.
A Sunday night service at the age of eight lit my heart on fire for salvation. I would like to say that all was perfect from that night forward. Not so much.
The point is, I started along the path of life with every advantage and still tripped and fell. Humans do that.
The long story:
The years passed, college, a career in advertising/marketing was begun and thrived, and two children were born. Little by little that Sunday night service was forgotten and I became the fool. But God – odd phrase that – had other plans. There is a scripture that says, “A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the fool’s back.” God does not beat the fool. But the fool will beat himself with the stuff that happens.
After the dust settled and the bodies were buried (I will never attend another funeral), my wife was lost to cancer, a career was lost to eager young mouse-jockeys willing to stab in the back, the kids were gone and so-o busy, and I was alone. But I knew that feeling, alone, had lived with it for most of my life. But God. Turned on the tv one night and ran head-on into a quirky little program called Signed, Sealed, Delivered on the Hallmark Channel. It was the Pilot and I loved it.
Thing is, I could see at once that Oliver O’Toole, Shane McInerney, Norman Dorman and Rita Haywith (loving nod to Della Reese) were not simply characters. I never missed an episode and the more I watched, the more the characters written on some screenwriter’s page became more human, and in the process, taught me a great deal.
Rita Haywith is the innocent, a lovable, unsquashable free spirit, and never a victim. Norman Dorman is the peculiar hero who thinks and lives outside the box and enjoys being there where the air is uncluttered. Shane is a strong woman who isn’t afraid to challenge God – but is willing to listen when He answers, and humble herself in a forest to seek Him--“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.” Shane is Oliver’s Proverbs 31 wife, the Godly woman who will not abandon, betray, or forget. Oh, how I long for that. Oliver O’Toole is a simple man of faith who was willing to suffer rather than betray the vows he spoke before God. The blessing of double restoration will be his.
Truth be told, faith does not exist in and of itself. Hebrews 11:1 says that faith “is the substance of things hope for”. Funny word “hope”. Hope is so powerful that for Oliver, all it took to renew his faith was the sight of Shane’s coat on that rack and her smile when that chair turned. Then her steadfast defiance (loved that) in the face of his distressed reticence. (Oliver-Speak) That is why I love the characters and the stories of Signed, Sealed, Delivered. Hint to Bill Abbott and Michelle Vicary: That is why WE all need the characters and stories. (And if the writers run out of mysteries, ask the fans – they have thousands of them to offer.)
When Vera was told that she had only weeks to live, my wife and I brought her to live with us so that we could make her comfortable. A friend would come over once a week for Bible study and on one of those nights Vera said the sinner’s prayer to accept Christ as Savior. Some people have a Damascus Road experience and some don’t. Vera didn’t. I could read the doubt in her face every day, she had only spoken words that meant nothing and had nothing to look forward to. But God. My wife and I were sitting beside her when she slipped from this world into the next. The air around her hospital bed was suddenly filled with something like mist but dry and brightly colored with sparkles. Waving a hand in that mist caused it to swirl, the colors mixed and flowed like a happy brook. That’s when the joy started, and I don’t mean, “Oh I’m so happy” kind of joy. I mean the joy that puts you on your knees and makes you say “thank you”. You see, Vera’s doubt had been answered and Jesus came to welcome her in person and what we were feeling was her joy in His presence. That mist was the rainbow that circles His throne and follows the Son of God, and for a few seconds it was real, tangible, and wonderful. He waits to welcome us all, even old fools. It’s all about the hope. The ultimate hope we all wait for, long for, hold so tightly to.
So I watch Signed, Sealed, Delivered to charge up the hope battery. But it’s not just my hope. Because SSD is not just a program on Hallmark, it is a community, a family. They are all humans, weak, strong, frail, vibrant, brilliant, loveable humans.
The Dark of Night. I have seen the worst that life can deliver, and the best. I have seen miracles, watched as God changed the weather first one way then back in a single day because a beloved child needed His help; watched the Angel of Death doing what he does and like John Dye (Touched By An Angel) he was compassionate and not malicious; I have heard God speak, not through a cat, through a little boy, twice; there are wonders to see and marvel if we take the time to look. God really does collect all your tears and save them in a bottle, Psalm 56:8; He really does feel all your pain and understand your doubt, Isaiah 63:9.
My name is not Mister, nor is it Mitty. My name is Don.
The Living Letters series will continue as long as there are stories to share. If you would like to contribute something about how Signed, Sealed, Delivered has impacted your life that you'd be willing to share here on A&D, feel free to email me.