Thursday, September 22, 2011

Only the Smudgeness of It

 Many years ago, I had a worry, a burden of the future. 

Though I have not always been prudent to follow such paths (for myriad reasons), throughout my life's journey it has come to my mind that I am something of a writer. In college, in one of those self-help spiritual formation type classes, I was asked to chronologue my dream-life ten years into the future. I quite struggled to come up with something tangible to put on paper. I knew I wanted my life to be immersed incessantly with a concrete sense of grappling story, but that could take thousands of forms. I didn't know if I was to live the story, write the story, or will the story into being like quiltwork. All I knew was that a life without intense emotional story arcs seemed lame. And lameness is most assuredly a thing to be avoided.

Like I said, I had a worry, a burden of the future. 

I had to turn in the paper for class; I had to come up with something. So I put pen to paper. I made decisions. I sealed a hypothetical fate. The process was eye-opening, in that I wasn't really even that comfortable with the image I created... if God came to me like He did Solomon, telling me that I could have the desire of my heart, that I could own my most precious life, would I be content with receiving the apple of my eye?

The paper ended up as such: it's a Monday morning. I sit on the porch, looking out at the mountain tops before me. I sip my coffee with ease, having no sense or worry of the hour. There's a wife. She's with me. We sit awhile. Then she departs -- off to some job, off to share herself with the world. I stay behind, finishing up my time with the morning newspaper. There's a dog that faithfully follows me throughout the house, hoping beyond hope that this is the blessed moment in which I'll explore the vast outdoor world with her. Today, however, she yearns in vain. I lock myself in a little room and manifest some immense screenplay of merit. There I dwell, there I live, there I am maintained. That was it. That was all I came up with.

But you see, I had a worry, a burden of the future... 
perhaps a burden that I am just now realizing I can put aside. 

I worried about this idea of contentment. I worried that it would function as some sort of natural Provac; a lifelong sedative. I worried it would dilute the passion of my soul. I worried my inner being would be silenced by its casual fulfillment. I worried that I would be sacrificing the highest peaks by filling in the deepest troughs. I worried my ability to empathize immensely with the characters of my life and intellect would run dry. I worried for the loss of my intensity for the sake of peacefulness. I worried for the dulling of my earth. I worried.

One cannot simply brush aside this worry. After all, John himself told us through inspired Scripture that, perfect love casts out all fear 1 John 4:18. What fun is life without shots of fearful adrenaline?

And now dear class, cheesy life lesson time:

As I grow closer to God, closer to the One who cared to frame my soul, as well as closer to His creation, I get an ever evolving and maturing grasp of what this perfect love does. Sure, it casts out fear... but it also raises the stakes.

Christianity, or rather more explicitly, the Christian story, is one of great price. Whether or not you can bring yourself to worship the man who is God, think about its most fundamental idea. It boils down to this:

-I was lost, doomed to despair.
-Someone loved me... and not just anyone, but the King of the land. 
-So He experienced pain, excruciating punishment, so as to erase my record. 
-And now, what have I to look forward to? --- Forever. Forever with the one I love, the One who first loved me. 

It is an epic story that cannot be rivaled.

I am in love with the story, as I am with the One who formed it. And because I am in love with it so, the stakes are high. Even if I am able to cast aside all doubt (which, being prone to the ways I am proned to, have certainly not yet been able to do), there is still imagination's game of 'what if'. What if it weren't true? What if God didn't love me?

The Bible uses much romantic language to speak of God's relationship with man, and so I will follow. What if your lover wasn't true? What if it was a house of lies? The more in love you are, the greater the fall, the greater the betrayal. If Romeo didn't love Juliet, they would have both lived full lives, no? The cost of their love was the sharpness of their fall. Believing in the life they could have together meant that the vision of life apart became a horror beyond endurance. So it must be for the lover of God.

And so I may, in full assurance, put aside my worry. 
It is not love that casts out my ability to be a storyteller, 
to be the tortured artist; by no means! 
The truth is quite the opposite... 

another anecdotal story...

This week I talked with a gentleman who has had a history of drugs (and surely gobs of life story I will never know). He spoke freely that he did not believe in any concept of love; not of family, not of friends, and certainly not of lovers.

The longer one dwells entirely in the shadows, the longer one aspires to live up to the 'tortured artist' pedestal, the smaller one's world becomes. I may, in my embrace of God and the notion of love, experience great sadness and mourning for my comrade which is far too jaded to know such majesty. My joy does not hinder me from such emotional peaks and valleys.


Being in the emotional state I find myself in on these fine days, I am brought to wonder about the other end of the spectrum.

Elijah Price: Your bones don't break, mine do. That's clear. Your cells react to bacteria and viruses differently than mine. You don't get sick, I do. That's also clear. But for some reason, you and I react the exact same way to water. We swallow it too fast, we choke. We get some in our lungs, we drown. However unreal it may seem, we are connected, you and I. We're on the same curve, just on opposite ends.

If I feel so full -- what of the one who is just as empty as I am continually nourished?

Take a man. In ruins.
He was kept away from happiness. Perhaps physically beaten; torn to shreds.
Now he comes into the normal world. How can he function? How can he perceive this normalcy?
And then that which is beyond normalcy, could he ever accept it? What would break a lifetime of hardened torment? Can love be fathomed by the hated?

Charles Williams recounts the soul of a man who knew not any love in his fleshly life. The man, expunged of his own humanity by the shrewd depravity of this brown earth, kills himself. For Williams, however, this suicide does not entail the 'unforgivable sin' as Catholics would see fit. No. In the imaginational clefts of William's fictitious analogy, this unnamed vagabond is shown a great mercy. He is shown the chance of a real love. He, now being rid of his body which was trained to know only the constant torment of hateful derision, is free to chose of his own accord. It is a pleasant thought...

But of the poor sap who only knows pain in this life, who can not honestly admit to knowing of any mere earthly love, by what means can he be made innocent again?

Of course he can. God can (and does) redeem the most broken of souls among us. This is grace manifested. But...

But until that day, until grace is made fresh in the weary heart, 
until that precious moment; 
there is no story. 
And there is no storyteller there. 
There's nothing.

Do you yet understand? Do you yet see? 

Shall I show you?


  1. mmmm.... Good thoughts.
    Heavy is the cost.

    Even -or especially?- of love.

  2. At the end of the day, that's just about the only thing that has any cost at all. Or any lasting reward.