Mark Pickup

November 25, 2013

Throughout the years, numerous people tried to lure me down east from Western Canada. It stroked my inflated ego and flattered my false sense of self-importance. Perhaps the most tempting I remember was being offered a job to host a national TV series the CBC was planning in 1990 about issues surrounding disabilities that showcased the lives of Canadians with physical and mental challenges.

The CBC flew me to Ottawa from my little home on the Prairies to meet with a senior corporate official at an elegant restaurant who presented me with the idea. There was only one catch: I would have to uproot my family and move to Toronto or Ottawa (I can't remember which) and leave our village life.

It was an extraordinary opportunity – one of the best I ever received in my short career – and I must admit that I was tempted.

But the timing was wrong: My children were in their teens and settled. To uproot them would have been too disruptive. We also had extended family near who needed us. I looked out the restaurant window at the Ottawa River and that still small voice inside me said, "Let it pass" – and so I turned down the opportunity.

Dreams of grandeur becoming reality were not mine to have. God planned something else for me: The quiet contemplation of life rather than the grandeur of dreams coming true.

To the world, God's plan might have seemed like small potatoes compared to the lights and glamour of television. Looking back now, as an old man, I see that God wanted to teach me something that can only be learned in the quiet of life: The art of true love (both human and divine). God wanted me to stay put and wait on him.

Just over a year later, my disability forced me to retire and live on a modest disability pension. My disease kept ravaging my body and forcing my type A personality into stillness and eventually contemplation. Days, months and years were spent convalescing while looking out the kitchen window.


Seasons passed and successive generations of blue jays flew to the maple trees in my backyard. My hair turned white. Grandchildren were born, and still that small voice whispered, "Be open to love, for in love you will find God." To my surprise and delight, I discovered it was true.

The psalmist wrote: "The heavens are telling the glory of God; they are a marvellous display of his craftsmanship. Day and night they keep telling about God. Without a sound or word, silent in the skies, the message reaches all the world."

All of nature declares the order, glory and wonder of God. His sovereignty and love can be found in the majesty of heavens and the modesty of the smallest flower. We must be silent to hear them call to us.

The meaning of my life did not come in a thunder-clap of glory, but rather in a gentle breeze of ordinary rhythms of living. The purpose of my life is here with those I love with the greater and perfect love of Christ.

I am reminded of a conversation in the 1985 television production Anne of Green Gables where Anne says to her future husband, Gilbert Blythe: "I went looking for my ideals outside myself and discovered it's not what the world holds for you, it's what you bring to it.


"The dreams that are dearest to my heart are right here. I don't want sun bursts and marble halls. I just want you."

Marble hallways of great universities were for my father and grandfather. Sunbursts of artistic glory are for my children and grandchildren. My place is here with my beloved wife of 40 years, and to quietly wait on the Lord.

My quaint little village is no longer a quaint village. The hustle and bustle of city life swirls just beyond my little house and yard with the maple trees. But adult children and grandchildren and blue jays still come to visit me.


God speaks to me in the breeze that rustles the trees' leaves and the church bell that rings each day at the top of the hill reminding me that I am loved by the Creator of love and life.

About matters of divine love, I have been such a slow learner. But finally I can say to God, "I don't want sunbursts or marble halls. I want you." God has made himself known to me in the ordinary rhythms of life.