Angling for a different space

Published 9:03 pm Tuesday, August 13, 2013

By Ruffin Alphin

The wind was only blowing a little, but enough to push back against the pressured spray and into my morning face. Not what I wanted, but necessary to get the job done all around.

If you stand in only one place, you cover the leaves just partially, and the remedy is handicapped. Leaf hoppers, beetles, spider mites and caterpillars might still thrive. It’s critical to get the whole leaf drenched, but to do that requires taking up positions all around the fruit tree, like sentinels around a guarded city. One angle is not enough.


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For me, that morning, it meant standing in some less-than-desirable places: against the wind, in tall sodden grass, too close to barbed raspberry bushes, in an unyielding spot next to the tall boarded fence.

But when I was done, I felt the job was happily completed . . .

I wanted to actually see what was making all the racket. The hot weather multiplies their choruses, but that day I wasn’t content with just the audio version, so I slowly followed the raucous vibration as I walked under the ash tree, looking intently.

With as much ear-eye coordination as I could muster, I scanned the expected spot. Failure only made me hunt again in the limbs and leaves, but without success. Then I moved just a few feet to my right, and there it was in all its glory: a cicada.

My audience offered no deterrence as it began another round of pulsating, thunderous clatter. How does such a bantam bug make so much commotion?

But I would not have seen this curious creature unless I had looked from a different angle . . .

When we met at the restaurant, I was a bit nervous. Our conversation — better, our confrontation — just a few days prior had not gone well. It had spawned passion but eclipsed understanding, and we parted company uneasy with each other, as if we were irritated spouses hoping for a better tomorrow.

I wasn’t sure this meeting would be much different. But then something quite disarming happened. My friend began to explain to me his challenging childhood; things that put a different slant on his point of view.

As the conversation evolved so did our understanding of one another, and all because we both stood at different places that offered different angles. Not that we really changed our points of view, but we held them with a new posture, a posture that saw what it didn’t see before . . .

I’m so glad this world has space in it.

Rex Alphin is taking the month of August off. His brother, Ruffin, the senior pastor at Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church, will be writing in his place. Email Ruffin Alphin at