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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Nicolae: An Allegory

This weekend, we are looking at Colossians 2:6-15. It’s a rich passage full of vivid imagery. We will unpack it on Sunday but I wrote an allegory to process what I was reflecting on in the passage during my study. This is not typology or exact metaphor. Allegories leave room for artistic license so don’t read too much into the narrative (for this same reason, know that you won’t get all your L O S T questions answered but you’ve had fun taking apart the episodes piece by piece—it makes you think). On the other hand, play around with the story. Ask what kinds of parallels you see between this allegory/parable and the biblical narrative.


Nicolae was raised parentless. His mom was young and frightened, naïve and fragile the night she dropped him off on the steps of the church. He was found, hungry, cold, emaciated, weak, and barely moving let alone crying when the priest hurried him to the hospital.

The hospital then became the orphanage; the orphanage brought him abusive parents. He was taken from their home for his protection and began rotating through a series of Foster homes. Nicolae wasn’t particularly “unlovable.” Quite the contrary.

However, as he grew in years it became more apparent there were implications and consequences of his abuse and neglect. There were challenges attaching to any caregiver of any kind.

Nicolae had come out of a horrific situation in Romania where the government, in this case the communist rule of Ceausescu, had ignored the orphanages for over a decade and even had the audacity to tell the people orphanages didn’t exist. It was one of the many lies they told to paint a picture that things were far better than they actually were.

In later years, Nicolae would curse his namesake and say it was a cruel joke he was named after a man who eventually met his end on a Christmas morning when he was ousted by a kangaroo court. Nicolae Ceausescu, along with his wife, was shot in the stomach for the crimes of genocide and amassing illegal wealth beyond measure. “He had death coming, I live with his curse” Nicolae would sometimes say.

Through a series of convoluted events no one can quite remember all the details to, Nicolae’s life had a turnaround that is the stuff of fairy tales. While reading a history novel alone one winter’s night, there was a knock on the door of Nicolae’s one bedroom apartment. At the door stood a man with a telegram.

“Telegrams are so out of fashion,” he thought (it was the early 1990’s and he had no idea how “out of fashion” they would soon be). “There must be a mistake,” he thought as he read the words, “Nicolae, I am your father.” The rest of the words didn’t matter. This claim that a man named Salvatore was somehow the man that brought him into the world made Nicolae confused, hopeful, angry, expectant, and sad all at once.

Nicolae sent a return telegram for the sake of expediency (and because he somehow thought it might be his “father’s” preferred method of communication). He was willing to meet. No matter how ridiculous the claim. After all, this man did seek him out and he seemed to know how to find him.

He had his eyes. His bold chin. And, though he wasn’t accustomed to taking close notice of people’s facial expressions, he believed Salvatore smiled in the same way as he. Their conversation went on for hours though it seemed like they had just pulled up a chair at the bar only moments before. “This man is my father. There is no doubt.”

Salvatore carefully explained the details of his relationship with Nicolae’s mother, their secret wedding, and his stand against the injustices of the government that earned him a reputation as an enemy of Romania, and the distinction of having a price on his head. He told him of his grandparents (his Romanian grandmother and Italian grandfather who had been a rebel in his own right).

Wanted, dead or alive when he was only 20, Salvatore fled Romania with the help of a couple of Roman Orthodox doctors who eventually started a seminary after the fall of communism in 1989. Salvatore stayed in various places over the 19 years of Nicolae’s life and the 3 months before he was born. He fled the year Ceausescu took office—it was 1974. It wasn’t abandonment; he fled in hope of being gone shortly and providing safe haven. It was then that Nicolae also learned of his mother’s kidney failure and premature death. She was sick when she dropped him off at the church that night. She died shortly thereafter. Nicolae became a statistic.

Nicolae was overwhelmed. He now had a story. A story much more intentional, meaningful, lovely story than he could have ever imagined. And, he had a name. An identity.

Two years passed. It wasn’t until shortly after Nicolae’s 21st birthday that he learned he had the same disease that claimed his mother’s life. His rare kidney disease was congenital and hereditary. The search for a donor did not last long. There was a perfect match.

Salvatore, Nicolae’s father was more than happy to give his kidney. What father wouldn’t give his life for his son if given the opportunity?

The surgery was a success.

For Nicolae.

Sadly, the transplant was successful, but Salvatore died of abdominal bleeding about 11 hours after his surgery. The man Nicolae barely knew had introduced him to a world he never knew and gave him life anew.

Nicolae was saddened and devastated. Yet, he would describe it in later years as poetic and even . . . prophetic. This was his lineage. Rebels. Fighters. And sacrificial love. This was now his mantle.

Nicolae was married in the spring of 1999. 1 year later, almost to the day, he held his new baby girl in his arms.

As he gazed into her eyes for the first time, he thought of Salvatore. He whispered to his baby girl and told her the things he wanted for her. Happiness? Sure, but happiness was fleeting and unreliable. Make good choices? Of course.

But, more than anything, he wanted her to know why she was here. Why she was made. Who made her life possible. It wasn’t just Nicolae who gave her life—there was a much bigger story to tell. She had a history. A lineage. A grand narrative. No one could take that away from her. Nicolae would make sure of it. Death gave way to life. She would need to know the story.

And he reached down and touched his scar.

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