By the time he finished his task his arms and wings were ruined red. He had heard the blood of the martyrs is the seeds of the church. How anemic. He believed the blood of those sons further filled the cup of foaming wine, fueling the fury.
we possessed its spirit for about this time every year we’d begin to stay late after mid-week prayer meeting to rehearse spring’s special – the Easter cantata. That was our giving up, our fasting from time spent on whatever it was we usually did on Wednesday nights after church. As Baptists we believed revelation comes hard so we memorized songs and narration as penance to tell our town of the wonder
working power in the blood of the lamb. Finally our practice would be made almost perfect as Easter broke and our robed voices would bloom with the poetry of good news. But truly, such joy came only after the ashes.
Two questions for you –
1. What, if anything, keeps you awake at night? and 2. Do you ever wonder if you got the whole God thing wrong?
Here’s a little elaboration on question 2. I’ve loved Jesus since I was a girl. Took it to heart in my teens. Studied apologetics in my 20s, engaged the critics. I’ve had many (not myriad) encounters with God that were miraculous to me at the time, some of which are remarkable to me still. Got married, got happy, got babies, got busy, got tired, lost some brain cells, had my share of heartache/pain. Moved lots in between.
Now I’m older, wiser, know my way around depression, fear, despair. Watching the news, reading the internet, it would appear that faith is an antiquated thing. Science and faith are at odds and smart people don’t believe in God. I’ve got lots of happy in my life. But where faith is concerned, I no longer have the wits or energy to go toe-to-toe with the critics. They’re loud and often convincing. Some days I wonder if they’re right. I pray they’re not.
I miss the days when my love for Jesus could be a quiet, mostly private affair.
Missing the Days
Dear Missing the Days,
Thanks for writing. Your note has a brisk pace to it, I’ll try and respond in kind. I bet you’ve seen the film Saving Private Ryan. Near the film’s end, the aged Ryan asks his wife “Am I a good man?” That’s the question that keeps me awake some nights, that and its other facets – Am I a good husband/son/father/friend?
As to your second question, sure, sometimes I do. But I don’t know that I wonder if I got it all wrong as much as I miss what once was. I wrote this snippet back in October, posted it to FB and Twitter –Some days I reach for the faith of my childhood and its not there. Like a ghost limb, the pain hurts.
That’s sorta what you’re getting at, right? It would amaze you how many people I had write/comment/message me to say yes! or exactly! or bingo! after I posted that. Those comments didn’t make me feel better necessarily, but they did remind me I’m not alone. I share that with you to remind you of the same truth – you are not alone in your exhausted longing.
As best I can tell, you and I and all those people who said bingo! to that snippet, we’ve all got that younger flannel-graphed version of faith in one hand, and an older, more experienced version in the other and the two just don’t match up. But what if its not two hands, but rather one? What if those are not two opposing faiths, but simply the place where faith began and the direction it inevitably, if it is truly faith at all, travels?
If I were exiled to an island somewhere and told I could only take two theological books with me, I’d take The Bible and The Velveteen Rabbit. Now hopefully I could take a few other kinds of books (a Harrison novel, some Glück poetry, anything by Barry Lopez), but as for the theological ones, those are my two choices. Why? Because I believe The Bible is a story about becoming REAL, and so is The Velveteen Rabbit. You may know this quote, but I’ll remind you anyway –
“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
I miss the early days too, I really do. But I also believe/have faith I’m becoming more real, as are you. It often hurts, and I don’t know any other way around it. Heartache and pain – that’s just the deal. But hopefully as we’re getting a little older, and a little wiser, and a little shabbier, and even a little foolishier, we don’t care as much about the news and the internet and the critics and the loud, smart people. In the stick-to-your-boots-like-mud words of Tom McGuane, our “give-a-shit is broke.” Now that phrase is not found in The Bible or The Velveteen Rabbit, but I believe its there, lingering in the margins, because bit by bit you get to that point, or at least you get closer. Its not that you and I don’t care, its that we’ve learned what’s worth caring about, what’s worth selling everything you’ve got or sweeping the house for. Its that something we took to heart so many years ago that then took root and is growing into something quite beautiful. The folks who can’t see the beautiful? Well, they just don’t understand.
I realize that may not make you feel any better. But I do hope it makes you feel not so alone. And some days maybe that’s better than better. I want to have faith that it is.
listed under the heading: Mystery. Because we’re one we share everything, maybe not completely but in part. Like if you’re happy, I am sort of too. And when I’m angry, so are you, if only just a bit. This doesn’t mean we’ve lost our individual selves but rather found one plus one can equal one. So if you get cancer one of these days rest assured I’ll have traces of cancer too. Medical tests won’t reveal this because such things are not designed to show the soul. And if I should slip into dementia then since we’re one I just bet you’ll misplace a few thoughts here and there as well. I apologize in advance if that last example should befall us. If so, please tell me the stories about the two of us because they could remind me who I really am.