Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Orphaned Heart

The little red-head from Prince Edward Island haunts the Canadian memory with pleasant echoes. The adorable Shirley Temple played the waiting child in nearly all her movies. The Fievel’s and Cinderella’s, Oliver Twist’s and Life of Pi’s—these characters beckon us into their story. Somehow, separated by generations, culture, and the fact that we are real, we identify with them. We find them kindred souls; and their moments of virtuosity resonate in our hearts.

Why? Why should we find ourselves in their stories? What is it that makes us kin to a fake, or far-removed character?

They are all orphans, abandoned or cast off, hidden from sight. They come as whimpers in the night, disturbing our sleep. They come as dark whispers in the sunshine, a shadow on our perfect day. They come as echoes:  a sad, soft reality waiting to be discovered, longing to be known and resolved.

Their stories come tragic, dramatic, warming our hearts and melting us with joy in their conclusion. But why? Why should we care?

We care because we are orphans. Whether abandoned, disappointed, brushed aside, forgotten, ignored . . . somewhere, one day, our heart was orphaned. And now we have to live on our own wits. Somehow, we have to make it through. We have to take care of ourselves, because it’s not likely someone else will.

And yet, we all want rescued. We dream secret of the Matthew Cuthberts and Prince Charmings and rich relatives who will find us and save us from our misery, from being utterly alone. Whether the horror was thrust upon us or we left of our own accord, something deep inside aches to be restored to the relationship we long for and have not tasted.

Our inconsolable secret, that odd inability to be truly happy when we should, to be deeply sad when we ought, the paradoxical dullness that always steals our joy. This is the orphan heart.

But what would happen if we really were rescued? What if Someone adopted us? What if we were given the home for our heart, the dream (if only even a taste) of goodness we desire? What if we could finally feel the pain of desire without despair, because we knew there was truly something good and worth the longing? What if we could detect the joy tremours, and find ourselves overwhelmed with happiness?

Would we accept it? Would we live like we are loved?

Well, it would mean giving up our orphan identity, wouldn’t it? We must become someone new, someone different, something we’ve never been before. And we don’t know how to play this role. We don’t know how to be loved and taken care of.  Imagining it hasn’t made us ready for reality.

But it is real. Someone has paid for our adoption, invited us into the holy love of God. For those who know this love, but struggle to live in its wonder, what can you do? And for those who have never tasted, what can you do?

It’s small, it’s humble. It’s not glamourous or heroic or stuff for movies. But it’s where we begin to live, and in living, we show what we believe. It starts, when we say Thank You to our Maker. It’s that simple. And that hard. 
Photos courtesy of google images

Thursday, September 13, 2012

On slow change

13 September 2012

Sometimes, it is good that things percolate and brew. There’s a flavor transition, a texture change, a metamorphosis—so that one scarcely recognizes the thing finished from the thing began.

And people morph in progress; if we are not changed by the journey, we are not likely moving, not living at all. People must change. It is the nature we were given. Even when change is imperceptible externally, or torrential internally, or catastrophic contextually; it simply is our state of being: becoming.

Childhood’s emblems pass thick and dense with threads of imagination, all the worlds created from thin air, the first whispers of wishes for life, a prelude to the symphony. Perhaps the first pinings of “artistic temperament”, or just the utterly basic nature of man: to long, to hunger, to ache with happy angst for our true destiny, our ultimate relationship.

But dreams disappoint, especially when the dreamer is ignorant and scared—pseudo-safety constructed from gossamer whims. These disintegrate, swept away in reality’s cold winds, sometimes to liberation, sometimes to despair. And love of dreams wanes as actual strength to forge in reality what the heart sees in clarity fails, because the heart is humiliatingly weak, and the soul crushingly frail.

And yet, in all the smashing and sifting and blowing away, an indomitable, severe and sweet mercy pervades, because, after all, we are created ones, and we have a Maker Who cares for our souls. And perhaps the winds blow to teach us that we are not our own, that we cannot possess control.

Maybe the frost is really our friend, warning us to seek the protection we need from the winter storm.

Could it be that the darkness and cloud come as kindreds, beckoning us into the light and warmth of our Maker’s embrace?

What would happen if we welcomed the winds instead of resisting them? If we listened to the whispers and shouts instead of covering our ears? If we accepted the season of confusion, darkness, and quiet? What might we learn of ourselves? What might we come to know of the One Who made us? And what might change in how we look at the pilgrims walking near us?

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.

All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations.

You have never talked to a mere mortal.

Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - These are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” C.S. Lewis

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Lessons from a mountain lake

6 September

I slip into the mountain lake: sandaled feet guard my soles from disheveling rocky bottom and unnerving greenish slime. Cold water transforms my smooth skin into plucked-chicken state, and I don’t wonder. The glacial snow tucked away in tidy shadow of the mountain stares down on us. No matter. We must live this adventure.

I tread out to my waist, then bend over and plunge forward, encasing limbs with living water, sending tremors through my being. The sun beats warm on my dry head, and I float noiselessly. My submerged limbs sway gentle and cautious beneath me, afraid to get too far away from my core, lest they traverse into severe cold.

I stay safe: able to touch, tiptoeing on the crust of dare, thrilling in the unrepressed delights of even a small adventure. Then, I feel it. A shaft of icy cold water brushing my hand, as though invisible fingers reached out their greeting hand, welcoming me to the water’s mystery.

Behind me, a caress of warmth, another spectral current rubbing my shoulders, telling me everything is good. The top eight inches feel so happy, warm and lively; and the progressive depths twist around me with fluctuating temperature, growing up my limbs like an invisibly dark branch.

I tread, and float, and feel. Sounds of boaters travel across the amplified surface. Friend’s voices pass easily in the quiet moment. We laugh, and talk, and slip into, out of, the varied pockets. Are they morphing rooms in a giant lake palace, housing fish or reed, carrying burning sun’s messages to other wings of the castle? Are they limbs of the lake itself, stretching and basking in the afternoon glory? Are they the echoes of dents, like a steel pan drum, resounding the multifaceted glory of the sun’s constant beating?

Transfixing wonder settles. I am not scared. I’m not cold, not really. I am awed, hushed by this beauty, this silence and smoothness that make everything clearer.

And in life’s lake, I float. I never wanted to tread water, never saw the point; and years passed in flurried activity for its false sense of purpose. Swimming back and forth across the lake . . . no reason, except that if I’m moving then I must be important. And now I float, and realize that treading water is not marking time, because all of a sudden, I can feel the currents around me.

Possibility to the right, potential to the left, opportunity dead ahead . . . and in it all, I can hear the pilgrim voices beside me. Hurried swimming had its point: I gained muscle mass.  But it is not my purpose. The time comes when we have to stop training and start our race, stop studying how and actually do.

This isn’t an epiphany; it’s a moment’s choice.  

It’s not glamorous or thrilling; it’s humiliating. 

But it’s where real life happens. 

Living the story fills in all the margins the books forget to tell you, all the things that happened between the key events, all the deleted chapters and boring fill-ins.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s in the cool and quiet waters that the seismic soul shifts occur.   

Photo courtesy of Google images
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