Let’s be totally honest: we all feel totally crappy sometimes. It just happens. Some mornings we wake up, look in the mirror, and just groan. Some days, we feel empty, lonely, or even worthless; the weight of the world and all your flaws just hangs over you. Some nights you just collapse into your bed and hope sleep comes quickly so that the day can be over already.
It is altogether too easy to look at ourselves and see only what we have done wrong, or all the wrong that has been done to us. We are bound up within our own flaws and failings, all our fears and hurts, all our crosses, all the past. Somehow, we feel as though we can’t look at reality except through the lens of everywhere we’ve been and all the ugly inside.
But there IS another perspective which we can, and indeed, we MUST take: an eternal one.
I mean this in two ways: we must be able both to look at the truth of our lives as God does, and also keep our eyes fixed on eternity at all times and in all things.
All to often, I fall into the lies whispered in my ears by my own frail ego, my past, and the evil one who wants nothing more than to keep me in darkness, away from the light of truth. It is difficult to look at myself without feeling a great deal of shame and disgust. In such times, I forget the deepest, most essential truths about me: God made me. He made me for a purpose. He has given me all I am and have. And He loves me.
Then come the struggles of everyday life. Some days are better than others, but each day carries its own particular struggles, and each day is another path along which I must pick up and carry my cross. Things happen to me that hurt me, that make me feel as though God isn’t watching, that He doesn’t care, and that no one else does either. And yet I’ve missed entirely the big picture. My thinking is bound by temporal and spacial limits. Things happen which at the time seem purposeless, painful, and horrible. And yet, the truth is that everything that happens happens for a reason, which we often cannot know, but which God has perfectly planned, He Who is outside of time and loves perfectly, in such a way that He cannot bear to leave us where we are, and allows us to break only that we may find our true, ultimate, and most perfect and beautiful and fulfilling happiness: HIM.
The two complement one another, and depend on understanding the truth of Scripture, God’s very words of challenging, faithful, constant, perfect love. And they ought to lead us to rejoice.
Hold the phone…rejoice? In suffering? Uh, yeah, sounds nice, but how the heck does that work?
Well, here’s the thing: no matter what the heck we feel or think we know, God’s love is completely constant. ISN’T THAT AWESOME?! God doesn’t EVER stop loving us, no matter what we feel! His love for us doesn’t depend on us, His greatness isn’t changed by anything we do, His mercy isn’t overcome by any sin we commit. In the words of a dear friend, “GOD IS SOOOO BIG!!!!!”
The music is God’s unfathomable love and mercy, the dance floor is this funny place called life, this wild and beautiful, rocky and treacherous road to Paradise. No matter how the wind buffets our bodies and souls, no matter how tired our legs get, there is ALWAYS reason to rejoice, for God’s love never stops pouring through creation and our very souls.
So excuse me, I’m going to get back to the dance, hands raised high, joy in my heart, and eyes fixed on Heaven.
“I shall bless the Lord at ALL times; his praise shall CONTINUALLY be in my mouth.”
Y’know those people who have existential crises?
Apparently I’m one of them. Or so it seems.
I’m typing this on the floor of my dorm room, and after a solid hour laying flat with music blasting in my earbuds, I’m finding some semblance of peace at last. Or the closest thing I’ve known to peace for a few years. It’s not so much that everything has gone away, because it definitely hasn’t. I’m still laying here, feeling small, looking at the enormity of my problems while simultaneously realizing how ridiculous some people would think I am.
But right now, I’m looking at it all without feeling like I’m drowning. I’ve got just enough strength to keep breathing for awhile, and just enough hope to turn the next dark corner.
And after all, what else can we ask for?
I shouldn’t be surprised, I guess, that God still cares for me. But everything I’ve ever known about life and love is that, in the end, everyone leaves you, and you’re left behind.
So it’s always a refreshing, beautiful thing when God’s constant love hits me like a brick wall all over again. Every moment that He reminds me is a treasure, completely new and completely breathtaking. And it always comes right when I most need it and least expect it.
I guess it’s almost a good thing that I haven’t been able to make friends until recently. If I didn’t believe God’s love was constant and faithful and intimate, how could I believe that human love could hold possibly hold anything good? Even friendship.
And suddenly I find myself learning both of them at the same time, without ever fully taking it in. Every time, just every time, I can’t help but feel like my heart is gonna break from the healing joy thrusting out the memories and lies. And I cry easily, so it’s been a lot of tissue boxes to go through.
There’s really nothing like it, having everything fall apart only to realize you were seeing it from the angle, and God’s got all the pieces of your heart held right where they need to be. I haven’t quite gotten there this time, but somehow, I don’t need to know.
So even though the leap is still terrifying, even though stepping out of my comfort zone has strained every nerve to the breaking point, even though I know there’s probably many more broken nights in the near future, I think I just might make it through. Just as long as I throw myself into the arms of the Lord.
When once the floodgates crack open, there are two options.
First, try to close the gates again, force the doors back together and put another lock on the gates to stop it from happening again. So you let out a little water, it can’t possibly be that bad. Even though it burns like acid on your raw hands and stops your heart cold with the shock, you can deal with it, you’ve dealt with it before. Just walk away from the gate and NEVER try to open it again.
But there is a second option: let it flow.
What does that even feel like? I’m only beginning to know…at first it was relieving to see the pent-up waters come splashing down, watch the swell explode as it came groaning and screeching out at last, as if gasping for the air so long denied it. But all those waters had to go somewhere…and they’re out for vengeance.
God, it burns so bad. And the shock, I can’t believe my heart is still beating. Barely.
Once you get what you thought were the big things off your chest, suddenly all the little things crop up and gain force in the light of new understanding.
How can I speak of these things, the secrets, the darkness I’ve held inside for so long, the darkness that colors my entire existence? I want to let it go, but that means I have to talk about it…I have to speak about the things I’m most ashamed of, the things I swore I would carry to my grave. How can I? I can’t. I surely can’t.
But I have to. I have to try, even though every time I’ve tried before has failed. I have to trust, even though my trust has been broken more times than I care to count. I have to try to empty my heart.
God, I’m trembling so much.
But I will speak. I’ve choked on my own story too long. I’ve got to force myself, even if it comes all comes spewing out uncontrollably, taking my lungs and my heart with it.
I need to be free, damn it. I can’t keep living like this.
So bring the burn. Bring the breakdown. Bring the whole damn package down on my head at once.
How do I even bring it up…there’s not even time to think about it. I won’t. But the time will come–it just has to–when I can say it. I have to.
What does it mean to be a man?
I can discard a bunch of answers right away: it doesn’t mean being physically strong or attractive, it doesn’t mean being obnoxiously loud, and it CERTAINLY doesn’t mean getting with the most women. Sorry, majority of society, but you don’t have a clue what manhood is.
Most prolific writers on what it means to truly be a man are men who came from this point of view to a deeper understanding of masculinity based in faith. They speak mainly to people who are either in this mindset or are attempting to move out of this mindset. Truly, a noble thing, since it speak to a great part of society, and is certainly very necessary in this day and age.
Yet it leaves a particular demographic unaccounted for: those young men who come from a more gentle point of view, those who would never consider being loud or obnoxious if they didn’t have to, those who befriend women rather than trying to get with them, and those who, in general, are just more sensitive. They’re the young men who have trouble listening to talks on manhood, because little of what is said is relatable, the young men who are truly striving to find their manhood but are put off by The Art of Manliness. They’re the young men who have so many questions about what manhood is, and can’t quite hear the answer over the disgruntling war-cries and frustrating half-crudity used to excite another audience.
Does this demographic even exist? Speaking from my own life and the lives of several of my friends, YES, YES IT DOES.
So why is so little being said to us? Because we are, unfortunately, either a minority or greatly overshadowed by our more “macho” counterpart. Plus, we’re the ones still doing a lot of questioning, so there’s not a lot of resources for answers out there.
And no, we can’t just adapt to the messages being yelled from the podiums of men’s conferences across the country. I’m sorry, but I can only take being told that my mind works like a waffle so many more times before I stand up and scream, “LIES. MINE WORKS LIKE SPAGHETTI. WHAT’S WRONG WITH THAT?” (If you don’t get the reference, look in any popular Catholic teens book that discusses the difference between men and women.) I can only take being shown clips of The Princess Bride so many more times before I raise my hand and ask, “Excuse me, Westley’s devotion and courage are great and all, but what about Fezzik’s gentleness and honor?” I’m all for trying to imitate the fatherly protection and fatherly love of Mufasa, but how about the wisdom and persistent devotion of Zazu?
Here’s the thing: not all of us are built to be strapping heroes. Some of us just can’t relate to that. I was asked in my senior year to help lead a short retreat for sophomores that focused on manhood with a focus on Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassatti. Most of my hipster Catholic friends just cheered. It might surprise them to know I almost backed out. I just couldn’t get excited about it. I wasn’t a huge fan of Frassatti–it was super cool that he gave to the poor so freely and prayed a ton, but his athleticism, his rascally nature, his love of smoking and mountain-climbing…none of that resonated with me. The other guys leading the retreat were super psyched, talking about how seeing his example and still being “a normal guy, a man’s man” was so cool. I just thought it was ridiculous. I’m not saying I don’t think he should be a blessed, he absolutely gave a Christ’like example in many ways. I just couldn’t relate to him. I couldn’t identify with him. Nothing that the other guys saw was intriguing to me, it was just off-putting.
But when I went to talk to the head of the team, he encouraged me to stay. He said he recognized this in me, and that there would probably be other guys on the retreat who would feel the same way, and I could be a help to them. Manhood didn’t just lie in that. So I stayed on. I didn’t enjoy the retreat much. At all. But there were some fellow young men I was able to be there for, so it was worth it.
I still didn’t have my answers though. So I want to start writing posts on this topic with the help of a couple friends, exploring from the other side what it means to be a man. This should be a wild ride.
All glory to God.
Still not sure if this is just me working myself out meta-cognitively, or if this actually works as a snippet of a story. So I’ll tag it as both and let you interpret it as you please.
“It’s really nice out.”
Well that was lame…c’mon, you can do better than that.
Greg kicked the nearest rock, then immediately regretted it. What if Lewis picked up on his frustration? Then questions, questions he wanted to answer but couldn’t.
He tried again. “The leaves changing and all, it’s really nice.”
That’s it? He’d wanted to say something about the way they seemed to glow on the branches, the way they fell with a kind of grace. He wanted to point out the way they spiraled upwards on the wind in little tornadoes, how they gleamed with the setting sun. He wanted to show him what he saw in the grass, the leaves, the very air that he breathed in to calm the machine gun going off in his chest.
And all he could manage was “It’s really nice”?
Lewis nodded. “Fall is my favorite season. It’s so beautiful.”
Damn…even that was better than what I said!
It was times like this Greg wished he could laugh it off like everyone else seemed to be able to do. Just laugh, and watch the frustration roll away on the shaking sound waves.
Lewis was rambling on, talking about his favorite memories of fall, what made them special–it was beautiful, the way he could let words flow out with such ease. Greg struggled to open the gates to his heart and catch as much of it as possible, let it rush in and sweep into the depths, where he could hold on to them and cherish them, let the memory float just the way he liked it–tingling, mildly intoxicating.
Then silence. Again.
Shoot. Now what?
Greg was about ready to kick himself. Well hey! It’s a hell of a lot better than I usually do! What more do you want!?
Gee, I dunno, maybe a little more CONVERSATION would be nice instead of being talked at!
Well maybe I COULD if you’d SHUT THE HELL UP!
Greg shook himself. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. Just not much to say.” Bullshit. He pulled his jacket a little closer and tightened the scarf around his neck. “We’re almost there, just a little bit farther.”
“Cool.” Lewis continued his way up the wooded hill, like he already knew where they were going.
Greg sighed quietly to himself, trying not to let his squirming stomach get to him. Was it always gonna be this difficult? No; he had to hold onto hope. There was ALWAYS hope. He knew that, even if he didn’t feel it.
So he listened to the crunching of the leaves until they came to the top of the hill, the view he’d insisted on showing Lewis. It was peaceful up here, and a nice almost-silence, looking down on a little creek with tree-speckled slopes climbing up both sides.
Please…try. Just try.
“Lewis?” He didn’t dare to turn to see if he looked. “I’m sorry I suck so much at conversation. I wish I could tell you everything I was thinking right now.”
Lewis’s voice was lower, more soothing. “It’s ok. I know you’re trying.”
Greg chuckled a little. “It’s so easy for you, your words are like that creek. They flow so nicely, so simply. Even if they’re not perfect, they’re there, and they flow in a peaceful rhythm. Mine-” He pulled his hand out of his pocket to swing it at the trees-”they’re like the leaves; they only fall some of the time, and they just keep blowing away from me.”
Lewis nodded. “I understand. But maybe that makes them more special when you catch them.” He shrugged. “I dunno, I like that you listen so well. When you do talk, it’s always in earnest, it means a lot.”
Greg smiled. “I guess the trick is learning to run a little faster. I could learn a thing or two from you.”
Lewis smiled too. “Only if you’ll teach me too.”
Greg laughed, imagining a little frustration roll away. “It’s a deal.”
Walking back down the hill, Greg couldn’t help shrugging. Well, it’s a start.
I’ll say. Panting here. Give me a second to catch up!
They walked away again in silence. A silence that was…ok.
It’s so incredibly dry here…so very dry…
I thirst, I thirst, I thirst so desperately.
And yet, and yet it should be quenched. Satisfied. Why isn’t it enough already? I just want to be filled.
Why can’t I be ok? Why is it never enough?
“I love being with you.” “You’re a great friend.” “No, you’re not a bother.” When will I actually believe this is true?
I guess I’ve just been trying too hard. All my life I’ve tried too hard. I’ve been searching for love from others and yet…even when I’ve received it…somehow it hasn’t been…
No, that’s not true. IT CAN’T BE TRUE. People have been kind to me many times. I have such good friends.
So why don’t I believe it?
There was a time “friendship” was a foreign term…I was utterly alone in the world…I told myself I didn’t mind the void, that I could get by just fine. But oh, how very wrong I was, how incredibly wrong. My soul has longed for friendship every moment since that awful day I shut myself off from humanity. I’ve come back out, and yet my heart won’t allow me to believe. It’s not so much that I won’t let love in; it’s just that…I guess I believe I’m not worthy of it, that I can’t possibly be loved.
Somehow, I guess it’s redirected me…to the incredible intimacy of the love of God…to the gentle arms of Mary carrying me in her mantle to the heart of Christ…
And now that I’ve begun to move closer to Him, it’s easier to see the way out of this desert.
There are lapses, though…times when I think that cool relief was just a mirage, and I’m stuck here, with my mind fooling me, until the oppressive heat smothers me or the poisonous sands bury me.
And yet…I think I see the way out. But oh, it will be long, it will be painful. I stand on a precipice, and the only hope is that when I jump, the wind will carry me to the other side. There’s no promise that I won’t fall awhile, no promise I won’t rise and fall again and again, no promise I won’t get tantalizingly close only to be thrown back awhile.
There is only one promise: HE WILL CATCH ME.
The time for “maybe” and “what if” is past.
It’s time to leap.
Y’know, some days, I just want to say “Screw it all.” All this pain, all this frustration. I just wanna cuss and swear until the sky falls on me or the earth just up and frickin’ swallows me.
There are days I just want to drown in the tears I cry. I want to leave my cross in the dirt next to me and just stay there, battered and exhausted, and just give up.
There are days when I find myself walking backwards, looking at everything that happened and nothing that’s coming. I want to stop looking and longing, but I can’t get my eyes to turn away for fear it’ll all disappear, and everything I’ve known will vanish.
There are days I feel absolutely nothing. And those days can be the worst of all.
And then there are all the days in-between, where I’m just not sure what I’m feeling, and for some reason, it doesn’t matter.
I don’t know much of anything. About me, about the world, about God. And more than anything else, I hate not knowing.
The thing is, I sit here at this laptop, spewing all this great-sounding stuff; I spout off advice and try to follow it myself, but then there come days when I don’t know that I believe any of it.
And yet there’s this little spark deep down that just refuses to be put out, no matter what the world throws at it, no matter what I throw at it myself. It’s always been there, and somehow it got me through my darkest moments. It’s this little thing called hope, this small but stubborn fire.
It helps me speak blessings instead of curses.
It helps me dry my eyes and shake off the dirt.
It helps me turn around and face reality.
It helps me be ok with feeling nothing.
It helps me be joyful in the days I don’t know what I’m feeling.
It helps me hold on to the crazy belief, the crucial hinge of my existence, that God knows my name, and speaks it with love.
Upon blue velvet yet I weave
a terminal brocade
of golden love and silver pain
with red impatience made,
a tapestry to life and death
in words so soon to fade.
Oh Mother, Queen, all clothed in blue
and bathed in endless light,
within whose womb the Savior slept
and found His true delight,
you weave your love in simple words
that put my speech to flight.
Let me in blue your Son pursue
through you, O Mother kind,
until the day I’m brought away
eternal life to find.
‘Til then, let me your servant be.
To you, my heart I bind.
As I the storms defy and madly leap
upon the screaming seas, upon thy face
what joy is writ! What roaring mountains steep
would I not dare to scale, harrowing race
would I not run for Love, wherein you find
your heart at rest, your strength, and mayhaps mine.
In Mary’s mantle safe, the waves yet grind
upon the spirit drunk on Love’s choice wine.
While yet we stand upon this tilting globe,
our hearts ablaze, our eyelids set to droop,
I choose my fears and follies to subdue.
Big brother, clinging e’er to Mama’s robe,
I swear this shall be true: that as you stoop
to carry me, I’ll rise to carry you.
I still remember saying goodbye to him.
We’d just finished our final math exam, my last exam of senior year. He said he wanted to talk to me after class, which was surprising, because as much as I admired him and wanted to be his friend, I assumed he didn’t think much of me. When we left class, he put his arm around my shoulder and walked with me down the hall, telling me how much I meant to him, how he was so glad he got to know me, how he was going to write a letter but that it was much better this way to see the look on my face and to get a hug at the end. I don’t remember how I responded, it was such a shock, but we hugged awhile, said goodbye and that we’d miss each other, and then went our separate ways, our gazes locked for a moment before we broke off.
It was a beautiful, melancholy, wonderful, sad moment. You know what I remember most? Not the words, though I still have a foggy memory of them. Not the emotion, because it’s not new to me. The thing that’s cemented into my memory is the feel of his arm around my shoulders, the hug afterwards, and the held gaze afterwards…
Most guys, it seems, are averse to physical contact like that. There are two main parties of thought against it that I’ve noticed among guys, the first being the obvious stereotypical one: “HUGGING IS FOR GIRLS. That’s DUMB. Let’s just go out and play FOOTBALL!”
First of all, stop shouting. Please. It doesn’t make your point any clearer or you any cooler.
And second–well, maybe I should stop and let the second party speak, they’re giving me some cold looks.
“Thank you. What I believe is that physical contact of a friendly nature is simply unnecessary in this day and age, particularly for those of a well-developed mind. Such contact was only necessary in a primal time; surely now the need for intimacy is met in the meeting of persons on an intellectual level.”
…well when you put it THAT way.
I think the second point I was going to make applies pretty well equally here: the recognition that humans are a body-soul composite and are built to relate as such. All you stereotypical jocks out there, think about what you do when you hang out with the guys. How often are you guys wrestling, pushing each other, doing that chest-bump thing that usually sends me into a wall? Sure it’s not hugging, but it’s PHYSICAL CONTACT. In case you didn’t notice, football is a CONTACT sport. Why do you think you guys bond so well as a team? As persons, we access each other as friends not only through communication but through contact. By hugging, more of the body is in contact with more of the other person’s body; it expresses a deeper union as persons than simply a handshake or a high-five. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s just a natural thing to do, it’s how we are built to encounter one another.
As to the second party, those working within a more intellectual frame (physically and mentally), I would ask you how genuine you think a relationship can be that does not involve at least a little physical contact, like a hug or something similar. If you have such a relationship, evaluate it. Are you really encountering the person as fully as you could? Or should? Without this element in a relationship, you begin to wonder whether the relationship is real or simply imagined by you, a chance acquaintanceship rather than a true friendship. After all, how much of the person do you really know if you don’t even have contact with what you CAN see?
I used to be of the second camp. Ask anyone who knew me before my late junior year. I was an intellectual recluse in every sense of the word. I believed friendship was unnecessary, that I could get by just fine without it. Talk when you need to, shut up when you don’t, go ahead and forge a relationship BUT NEVER GIVE MORE THAN NECESSARY, certainly nothing on a physical level. Not even a high-five or a handshake if you can help it.
Those walls were a long time in falling. Years, literally, they stood, though I came to see them as an inescapable trap rather than an impenetrable fortress, forgetting that it was I, myself, who first erected them.
And now, now that I see the truth, the truth of what a relationship can be, what goes into it and how it works–now that I know what it actually means to have a friend and to be one–I’m paying for the wasted years. It’s difficult, even now, to believe that anyone truly cares about me, that I can truly be loved by anyone, that any of my friendships exist. My entire body language is closed, though I’m struggling to pry it open inch by inch. There are days when, all by myself, I press myself against the walls and feel every cinder-block, just to remind myself that there’s still a physical world around me, because it’s been so long since I touched anything or anyone in it.
And the moments I remember most, even the moments I experience here and now, are the ones that involve contact. Because somehow I still struggle to believe.
So speaking as one for whom it may be too late, I implore you, don’t cast aside this basic, beautiful element in all of your relationships. Even God longs to embrace us in Heaven.
What kind of legacy am I leaving on these posts?
It would be so easy to start complaining right now; the later it gets, the more my mind zooms in on all that went wrong, all that I missed, all that I regret.
But instead, I think I’ll stop and remember what a good day it was.
I woke up this morning–I mean c’mon, there are a lot of people who don’t even have that blessing–on the campus of my super Catholic, super awesome, super friendly college, and started the day with music and musicals. I ate, drank, walked, lounged; I went to my first Lord’s Day as an intent to the household I have come to love, hung out with dear friends while I wrestled with Origen and sipped soda, then joined my household brothers again for a fantastic movie, walked (just walked, how fantastic, seriously!) with my big, and came home to chilling with other wonderful friends and praying together.
There were so many blessings today. Just stopping and thinking about them is a far better exercise than venting all my complaints; especially because, when stacked against the blessings God showered on me, all the pain, no matter how much it tears at my gut, seems…petty in comparison. Not that they’re not there, just that I don’t give them more attention than I need to. The spiral doesn’t have a chance to work, because it’s just a spinning top in my hand now, and not a swirling black hole. It still doesn’t sit right, but it doesn’t crush me. Humble gratitude makes things seem a little more manageable, sometimes a lot more manageable.
So thanks God for today, even though sometimes I screwed up royally and had things royally screwed up for me. Thanks for making me realize that when it comes to blessings versus complaints, they’re not really even on the same scale, and things are gonna be ok, even when I can’t see it like I do now.
Just thanks, God.
People have called me an ‘old soul’ pretty much all my life, it seems like. 19 years old, and people think of me as an old soul. Is it any wonder I over-think things?
Not that they’re wrong, I guess; it comes from knowing when to keep your mouth shut. Or just always keeping your mouth shut, I guess. People around me talk all the time, as if it just comes easy to them; I wonder if they know how wonderful that is, how much my soul quivers with joy when I say something and it doesn’t come out ridiculous.
But does that really make me any more mature? Or does it just make me scared?
Perhaps it’s maturity; I like to think of it like that, anyway. While the rest of the world goes on running at break-neck speed and screaming over the static of society, I sit in the corners yet untouched by the noise, still vibrating with echoes of the mystical quiet of Eden, and wait for the cool of the day when the Lord whispers into my soul. How I wish I could walk with Him like Adam and Eve in the garden.
I guess “listener” has always been built into my soul, partly genetics, partly experience, and partly something else I can’t quite put my finger on that now and again just quivers with happiness every time someone confides in me or simply speaks with me. Sometimes I wish I could be the one doing the talking, that I could take a little more central role, stand a moment in the sun and not always feel sidelined. And yet, as Agatha Christie says of Mr. Satterthwaite in Three Act Tragedy, “the role of onlooker suited him well”.
Really, what it all comes down to is opening the heart as well as the ears. A good listener needs not only to hear and remember well all that has been told them; anyone could do that. A true listener has to be able to do something a little more: take everything they hear into their own hearts. It takes a certain kind of sympathy, or perhaps a kind of empathy, or both, with a spectacular kind of solidarity which, together in some miracle of grace, allow you to enter into the life of the other. You must be able to exercise that beautiful gift called understanding at any moment, even if the voice you listen to grates on your ears or stabs at your heart. You must have an inner life that is rich with experience and incredibly fertile.
Perhaps the best listener I know is my new “big”. Only this morning, I became an intent to a household, sort of the Catholic version of a frat (minus the drinking, drugs, and other assorted stupidity). A “big” is someone in the household who is something of a mentor, like a big brother to you, walking with you through the process to become part of the household according to the covenant. Mine happens to be a dear friend (well not “happens to”, I got to choose; but hey, he could have said no). Though he comes off as very outgoing and talkative, he has an impeccable ability to silence himself, to to quiet his heart whenever I need to speak. His quiet, gentle nature doesn’t inhibit him from being a rambunctious, quirky guy; his loud, boisterous personality doesn’t block out his calm, understanding heart–so understanding that he is often able to articulate what I myself couldn’t quite pull from my own heart.
So maybe it’s high time I took up my role as listener properly–to let go of the fears (because I have plenty of them, trying to choke out the words I want to speak) and actually fall into silence less out of necessity and more out of understanding; to let go of the twisted idea that being quiet and being talkative are mutually exclusive.
It’s time to quiet my old soul, tell myself it’s ok to rest now; it’s ok to stop being afraid; it’s ok to stop throwing up walls that just keep collapsing anyway. It’s ok to just live, to just laugh, to just love.
Sunsets paint in citrus
hues the bellies of the clouds
coming home to sleep.
Rise, my prayer, above
the mere mumblings of my lips
and bow before God.
Slumber, petty fears,
and tumble down the chasms
you scaled to chain me.
Burn, bright fire of love.
Where else shall I find the light
to take me inward?
Come quickly, courage,
come quickly to the weary
laying in the trench.
It’s a startlingly beautiful thing, metamorphosis. Don’t you think?
Picture it: you were simple once, just meandering along, perfectly happy, soaking in life. Everything is beautiful, and you want to ingest as much of it as you possibly can. There’s a hunger that demands to be fed, and you continually drown yourself in that beauty that seems to be called for to fill it. You don’t know why the hunger’s there, you just know you have to fill it.
Then things start to change. You start to realize yourself more, look at yourself through changing eyes. Somehow you can’t stand it–you look small, ugly, twisted. Does the world see you that way? How could they see you any other way? Suddenly you want nothing more than to run and hide–you’ve never needed people before, now you don’t even want people; they’re just too threatening. If they could see you differently, maybe…but no, it’s not possible. Run. Hide. Escape them. Escape yourself.
So you build up walls. You close yourself snugly in, cut yourself off from the world and all the people in it. You can subsist on the beauty–you’ve stored up so much of it already.
And that works for awhile.
But not for long. Those walls you built? They’re half-transparent. You can sort of see the world outside, but it’s all distorted, frightening. And they’re still looking at you, except this time you know without a doubt: they’re not seeing you, they’re seeing your walls, and they’re not impressed. Just waiting for you to break out, insisting, begging. And that just makes it worse, because your strength is just about gone. All the beauty you stored up–it’s just not lasting. You’re hungering, but beauty alone won’t cut it; it’s all out there, beyond the walls. And escaping yourself? As if–you’re all alone in here with a dark, twisted view of reality; if you can’t look out, you have to look in, and you still can’t stand what you see there.
But you remember stories–stories of Someone Who was behind all that beauty, Who fed you…they say He can fill you now…that He loves you…
So you hold on. You hold on desperately to that tale you only half-believe. Oh you’re sure He’s capable of love–just not love for you. But you hold on to the words in your head, push through the doubts in your heart, and hope beyond hope that maybe He sees you, maybe He loves you, maybe He’ll get you through.
But your strength is fading fast…things are starting to go black…you’re hanging on to hope like a chrysalis to a leaf, dangling precariously. Soon your hold will break…
Then something changes. Something inside you that you can’t quite put your finger on. You have no idea how, or where, but something reached into you and started something, like a chain reaction that was just waiting for something to trigger it. The change is painful at times, soothing at others; you feel sustenance pouring out on your heart, but it’s having to break through the walls first; you start to see something else in people’s eyes, but the view is still blocked. You’re not hanging off the edge anymore, you’re hanging in the balance. It’s so odd, so indescribable, that you can’t decide if it’s good, even though it has to be better than where you were before.
Then you hear Him.
And He’s speaking love.
You can’t even get your head around it–it just doesn’t even fully register, but it blows you away, makes you cry in release until you’re utterly soaked, washing away all the tears and trash you’ve let pile up. The tears just keep coming as He keeps whispering love to you, filling up your heart. They fill up the sack until you’re nearly drowning, but still you can’t stop, because He’s still whispering, “I love you.”
The sac bursts, and suddenly you’re utterly exposed, and you feel ridiculously alive, ridiculously free. Tentatively, you look at yourself–holy crap, you’ve got WINGS!! And even though they’re still dripping with tears, they’re so gosh darn beautiful! Is this really you? Is this really what people have seen in you all along? Is this really what He sees? DANG, YOU’RE AWESOME! You jump up to fly–
and fall back to the leaf. Damn. Still need to figure out how to use those. What happened? I thought I was awesome.
Well,here’s the crazy thing, you are. You’re utterly awesome. But you’re still limited. We all are. Some of us are still caterpillars, some of us are still stuck in our chrysalises or trying to crawl back into them, some of us (me right now) are trying to learn how to use our wings, and some of us are flying but haven’t quite reached their destination yet. Regardless, we are all limited, BUT THAT DOESN’T CHANGE OUR BEAUTY. He made us, He made me, He made you AMAZING. He doesn’t make trash. Ever.
So wherever you are in the great metamorphosis of life, take courage and rejoice in the life you’ve been given, because you’re amazing, and you were born to fly home to God, who never gets tired of reminding you, “I love you.”