…I forgot how to write.
eagerly you came and stood on my music
cast hurried on the floor,
you crowded whispering against my arm
sawing awkwardly at the strings,
in my perplexed face you shoved a picture,
one you made for me,
stickers and scrawls.
i whispered quick for you to move
and when the muddled song was over
i smiled but forgot to thank you
for that love.
taped to my door now,
and i’ll tell you tomorrow.
oh, broaden my narrow world.
I am curled into a plush chair, wishing languidly that there was an outlet near enough to keep me from having to move to a less comfy location in a few minutes to keep my laptop from expiring – staring out into the melancholy drizzle – thinking happily, but very little.
Then someone at the counter behind me asks to have their bagel toasted, and the air is rich with cinnamon, raisin, crisping breadcrumbs – and my heart is transported. I am small again, and the rain is alive, a thick blanket of security to wrap me inside the lamplit glow of home. The dimly unfriendly afternoon must glower alone outside. It cannot reach me here, where I am dry and loved. Thick, spicy scents of supper, home cooked, hang heavy in the air – comfort and anticipation together.
All in a rush, I am reading my favorite books, wrapped in the warmest blankets, playing our worn-out piano, making up worlds with a brother and sister. We are young and small, and the planet we spin on is a marvel; and all we need, late in an October afternoon, is a misting chill to be held at bay, a gentle threat to make the glow of safety a song of love … echoing still, two decades and hundreds of miles later.
I begin to wish I’d had my own bagel toasted. I did, actually – but the girl behind the counter evidently heard my “yeah, that would be great” as “nah, skip it” when she asked, and I didn’t care enough to correct her.
Apathy, toast crumbs, cream cheese, rushing traffic annoyed by the wet, and I need to move before my laptop dies. Be glad today. You’re alive, the rain is outside, and you are loved.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
And find guarantee that they breathe no more.
Send these, the homeless, unwanted to me,
I lift my lamp beside the blood-stained door!”
Emma Lazarus basically wrote this poem in 1883.
(little bit sorry for the plagiarism, but not much)
Lord, grant me,
not petulantly to demand
but to glory, ecstatic,
in the deluge
under which already I stand.
I said to my heart,
a restless wanderer,
I said to my mind,
which talks too much,
I was reading Psalm 30 this morning, and a little word jumped out at me near the end – a word so small and purely functional – a word I’m afraid I would ordinarily have skimmed right over in favor of what seem like larger and lovelier ideas, expressed in phrases like “mourning into dancing” and “I will give thanks to you forever.”
The little word was “that.” And it’s on this same word, I think, that the whole purpose of the psalm’s conclusion turns.
Here’s the gospel: because of Jesus, my mourning has been turned into dancing. My sackcloth is gone, and I am clothed with gladness. Hallelujah!
But this can’t just be a static truth. Did God save me just to make me happy? What does He want from me now? Why am I still here?
This is why:
“…that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.”
Because of who He is – because of what He’s done for me – it’s the glory and praise of His holy name that consumes my heart and drives my life. In a dark, decaying world that still howls for my soul, this changes everything. Life is a battle, within and without, but it’s been won already. I will give thanks to Him forever. I cannot be lost, now I am found.
The Psalms are songs, right? Psalm 30 is a song to make me into a song – one of hope in the face of death, of truth in the midst of all these lies. But what kind of love is it if I hum my song of gratitude only softly to myself, for fear that others may discover that I serve the Lord of heaven and earth, and perhaps come to worship and adore Him themselves?
This is why you are alive, Christian. Do not be silent.
and so, poised on the edge of forever,
I will take this day.
the waiting is like breathing,
because nothing under this sun,
nothing touched by the rain,
none of it will last,
and home is still far ahead.
of course we wait.
take the desperation
from my dreaming
because I don’t have to do it all
before I die
now I have forever
I’ve been thinking about time today. The enormity of the subject rather baffles my little pea brain, and I’m really not sure if what I’m about to try to say will succeed in making any sense. I feel a bit like a gnat at a banquet, buzzing frenetically from one delectable, elaborate dish to the next, delighted out of my mind, but completely overwhelmed, utterly unable to take anything like All of It in, and far too dizzy to stand back and at least take a decent snapshot to share with my friends. Too dizzy, and also, a gnat is much too small to operate a camera.
While I washed the dinner dishes this afternoon, I stared vacantly out the window and poked around a fascinating trail of thought I’ve been down more than once before. It was this – that while God is clearly a God of order and not of chaos, you don’t have to look just incredibly hard at His creation before you realize that convenience and efficiency are not His top priorities.
For instance, starting absolutely from scratch as He did when He created everything out of nothing, why didn’t God make communication – the sharing of ideas – faster and easier than He did? Why must we invent words, thousands of them to capture (or at least approximate) the nuances of reality, and then string just the right ones together in just such an order, lest the person listening to or reading us misunderstand our meaning? Even when I have my sentences prepared just so, I must echo them into the air, and someone else has to listen – or I must scribble or type them out, and someone else who has learned to interpret the ink marks has to see them – before an image of the thought I first wished to convey can begin to be formed in the mind of another.
Why so complicated? Why so time consuming? You’ll be finished reading this in a few minutes, but I’m not even going to keep track of how long it takes me to write it, since I’m afraid it would be rather embarrassing. If you’ve ever written anything longer than a grocery list, though, you’ll probably understand. Writing takes time. Speaking (well) takes time, too. God could have done anything. Why didn’t He make it so we could just look into someone’s eyes and see what they want us to understand? Why can’t thoughts be transferred from one mind to another, like files on a flash drive, simply by touching foreheads or fingertips?
For that matter, why the need to share information in the first place? Why are newborn babies such tiny, helpless, nearly empty things, waiting to be grown and filled bit by bit during the course of their time alive on this planet? It takes months for a child to grow large and strong enough to even survive outside of another person’s body, and after that it will still be years before his own body has reached adulthood. The mind is even worse, and seems utterly incapable of being filled to capacity. There’s always more to take in. So what kept God from inventing a more efficient use of a lifetime – the swift (or even instantaneous) development of the full-fledged adult, emerging into the world ready for service and already possessing all the knowledge necessary to function as a model human being?
Or why birth at all? Why did God start the world out with only two people in it, and tell them to have babies and fill it up? That would take hundreds of years (or thousands, I don’t know)! If He wanted the world to be full, why didn’t He just make it that way in the first place?
It’s not like He couldn’t have, or that He didn’t think of it – like, if only Tierney had been there at the beginning to suggest all these crazy-awesome sci-fi ideas, the world would be operating at a significantly faster and better pace than it is now. Faster, yes – more efficient, maybe – but certainly not better.
And I think what it boils down to is this. God is God. He is absolutely good, all-knowing, and all-powerful – and because of this, for everything He does there is a reason – and that reason is perfect. We are His finite creations, and He made us unable to comprehend all of these reasons – for a reason. We may or may not discover an answer each time, but I think it’s extremely worthwhile, not to mention deeply reassuring, to contemplate the choices made by our limitless God. When He could have done absolutely anything, this is what He did.
What it tells me, in part, is that there’s something – or, more likely, many things – worth more than just the mechanically efficient use of time and resources. God made man a land-dwelling creature, and set him to rule a planet almost three-quarters covered in water, ninety-seven percent of which is full of salt and basically useless. I honestly don’t know what the purpose or significance is of this state of affairs – but the very fact that it makes no sense to me presses on my consciousness with the weight of my own finitude, and the majesty of the wisdom and power of my God. I wouldn’t have made the world this way, but He did. His thoughts are not my thoughts, but I trust His goodness more than the fog of my own understanding, and I praise Him for it. And so the salt in the ocean teaches my heart to fling itself, childlike, in faith on the love of a God I cannot understand.
If you’re still reading in hopes that I’ll come through at the end with an explanation of just what the reasons might be behind the tedium of a thousand year fill-the-earth plan, the difficulty of raising and teaching a flabby little toddler, or the delicacy and labor of effective communication … then I’m sorry. I really don’t have any idea – or at least, the shades of ideas that I do have are too slight to bear the weight of description. What stirred my soul this afternoon, what I wanted to point out to anyone with the patience to read this far, is the glory of divine purpose, however inscrutable to our little eyes, behind every detail we take so for granted in this, His marvelous world.
Well … there was an entirely separate train of thought I was originally going to try to tie in to this one, but as I’ve already pointed out, language is a tricky thing, and I wield it clumsily – so, all these words, and I’m only halfway through. The other thing will have to wait … and that’s OK. Time is precious, after all, but I serve and bear the image of a God who uses it, not less than efficiently, but more. So much more.