Tag Archiv: salvation

Love and the abyss

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We are broken, all of us. If we do not weep this night, we have wept another night. Some tears we taste. Others carve unseen a myriad of hidden rivers, our insides quietly rearranged without our having any choice about the holes, their shape, their size.

This is what makes us so nervous about loving each other. We’re not that put together ourselves. Touching broken people reminds us about the rivers.

On the good days, we’re Swiss cheese in clothes talking cheddar. Other days (against our wishes) we go topless covered only by post it notes with arrows pointing to the holes. In a world of hurting people, our own holes ache to be filled but the when and how are confusing.

Suffering come with complicated formulas. It’s okay to  be suffering only if the diameter of my pain exceeds my neighbor’s. Measurements in my favor spell relief. But carrying rulers to relegate sorrows hurts everybody.

When my neighbor’s pain exceeds my own, it stops me short. What do I even have to offer them?

How do I love into the abyss?

My neighbor’s apartment is on fire. (This is a metaphor.) I am afraid to look at the flames. They bother me. Keep me up at night. I don’t need reminding. My eyes still burn from the smoke of my own recent fire. The power is out. There is one glass of water half full on my counter. The fire department is not here. They are supposed to be here. No one knows if they’re coming. Maybe my neighbor told them not to. What if she wants her place to burn?

Share your water, love whispers.

That much water cannot stop a fire. It’s not enough even to quench her thirst, I say.

Love waits for me to see.

It isn’t about rescue. We aren’t saviours. And yet by simple things have each of us saved. The 1/4 cups of water, half the kingdoms of our fellow pilgrims offered freely where they could not possibly make the difference between life and death. And yet they have.

When all is dark, it is in the arms of these moments that we are held. There is no promise for tomorrow to grab hold of (except by wings of faith notoriously difficult to strap on properly enough to stay in place). But there are moments of brokenness into which we can declare each other beloved.

The woman who washed God’s feet with her tears and dried them with her hair didn’t fix anything. The feet were going to be dirty and smelly the next day. She washed them anyway.Tomorrow’s addictions and confusions will haunt unheeding of our sacrifice. But we offer the treasure of our love and into the ground a stake is struck.

I believe, we say to each other, you will be well. Whether or not I live to see your wellness, my love is not wasted on you. I see here, now, the promise of your wholeness.

We are ill suited to save each other but to love like this, into the abyss of dusty roads and canyons, perhaps this is what we were made to do.

 

Me and you

Girl two in her favourite towel.

Girl two in her favourite towel.

One bee hive is doing beautifully, the other is a concern. Some of the apple trees look good. On other trees, the buds have shrivelled tiny, never turning into apples. Our sick lamb did not get better. For five days, she got worse. Friday I called the animal health lab and booked a post mortem. Except she wasn’t dead yet. I walked out to the barn thinking things would be clear. Instead, she literally talked her way out of the post mortem. The whole way to the car the lamb had her head up talking. Forget this, I said. I put her in the shade on the front lawn, got some water, and told the lab I wasn’t coming.

All day she seemed alert. Not walking, but head up, nibbling grass, happy for drinks of water. I spent too much time pouring over websites, reviewing symptoms to see what we were missing. We had already treated for two things that were not the issue. I found a third possibility. I researched a fourth to rule it out. (The solution for the third would aggravate the fourth.) I was becoming attached to our friendly talking lawn ornament.

We treated for the third possibility. Our sick girl took her next water with her head sideways on the ground. The treatment was not a good idea. Sick lambs are gentle, helpless and sad to watch. Trying so hard to help and then making it worse is a very powerless feeling.

Summer is not going as planned. My little charts about how things would work lasted less time than it took to write them. Meanwhile, in and out of background and foreground, the kids disemboweled a few stuffed animals and morphed some barbies into a new kind of creature. The chatter of their play keeps me going. Champions of the imaginary, they ground me in everything that is real.

On a long day, but their voices bounce through the window and the teetering world gingerly begins to right again. I know it’s July, but I wonder what it might mean that God came as a baby. From the perspective I usually consider, God takes the humble form of a baby we can welcome without fear.

But there’s another side. If God came as a baby, then every baby becomes a symbol of salvation. Raised up to her natural dignity, a child dances weightless through the fields of wonder, an intended promise of our own possibilities. If we reach to touch the hem of these small ones, we know with certainty; Christ still walks among us.

We who once were children might dare observing them, to see in ourselves the child. Sacred. Delightful. Chosen. Blessed. Rather like the proverbial writing on the wall, children cross our paths on good days and bad singing . . . me and you, and all of us. Beloved.

Miracle workers

file0001704853842Out there somewhere is a man who was once a boy. A particular boy who helped to save me.

But what did I do? he might ask?

Nothing. You were you.

I couldn’t have been more than 21 when I first met Josh. He was a baby: settled, happy, content, and unconcerned about anything beyond the present moment. Josh was easy to please. When he wasn’t pulling himself up to stand on top of his cousin’s head, we got on very well.

If I had to pick a word to describe myself then, I would go with tormented. By day I put one foot in front of the other as best I could. I washed lettuce in large sinks for hundreds of people. Delivery from this life by car accident seemed unlikely (as I rarely had reason to go near a road) but it didn’t stop me from wishing. Sleep was nightmares and more nightmares or the agony of days that would not end, and tears that would not come. Along the way, I was asked to work in childcare. I shared responsibility for six children during the morning (four three year olds and two babies). In the afternoon, I took three boys for naptime routines and quieter playing. One of these was Josh.

While I sagged in my insides feeling hopeless, my outsides condemned my failure to sleep, elude nightmares, and feel joy as proof of my basic worthlessness as a human being. Self hatred was justified more every day that I failed to be happy. I tried, but I failed to feel much beyond numb.

The exception was when I was with the children. My dysfunction had to be set aside if it was circle time. There were stories to be told and songs to be sung. We sang, The Itsy Bitsy Spider as dainty as you please, then we picked up pot lids, smashed them for all we were worth and sang verse two, “The Big Fat Spider.” (An excellent and quickly beloved variation.)

My three year olds tucked in, I would carry Josh to the rocking chair every afternoon. I advised the state of my soul to wait until the middle of the night to haunt me, Josh had a back to be patted just now. Every day I rocked him to sleep and stayed a little longer than I needed to, singing softly and gently holding something good.

Salvation rarely comes quickly in these places. But it comes.

What would you do, I wondered one night, if someone were to come in and try to hurt Josh?

I would die for him, said my thoughts. As soon as I said it, I knew that it was true.

A little light broke through. If I would die for a baby that wasn’t even mine, then there was something good in me. If there was something good in me, then there was hope.

Little windows to all that is meant to be. Oh the children that lead us.

Salvation

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In my early twenties I was desperate to save myself, find true love, and do something that really mattered.  As you can imagine, I was not always completely coherent. Making so many life or death decisions and finding the world so black and white rendered me a little unsteady on my feet.

At 25, I married my husband. In my mind, we had entered into an arrangement whereby we had agreed to fight the bad guys together and if one of us fell, the other would stand and cover until we were both on our feet again. We loved each other in a great big exciting adventure kind of way. I thought perhaps we could save ourselves by saving others.

I awoke to discover that among other things, my husband was a thrasher. It takes him ten or so minutes each night to get mostly comfortable. Then he falls asleep and spends the rest of the night changing positions and yanking on the blankets. After a month of marriage I was beside myself. I cried exhausted hopeless tears that hardly fell because even if they formed a river and took out a wall, the crucible would hold.

Something happens in these places that I cannot explain. One day you are dying. (Even worse, you are saving no one.) You try to maintain whatever meager excuses for good manners you can muster in the midst of perishing by the pernicious hand of the trivial. Perishing is hard work, so a lot of the time you can’t even muster. The best you can do is to stand there with bad manners. A thousand of these go by. You wake up and somewhere in the trying, the stuff of you has shifted. In the nine square inches you have left to dance, it doesn’t seem that hard to keep your balance. Things are growing in the soil too tender yet to name. You wonder if it needs more water, more sunshine, but for the most part you leave it be. You’re not sure if meddling with miracles is a good idea. Perhaps best to just say thank you.