A letter to a friend, somewhat edited to remove various contextual details. It occurred to me as I re-read what I wrote that there could be something within edifying to others, for in most things the introspections are specific to me and not to us, per se. Soli Deo Gloria.
Pine Mountain storm looking over the Lockwood Valley from Pine Mountain Summit, 30 SEP 2010
My Dear Friend,
There is much to be said for a Sunday afternoon nap, but I woke up this afternoon absolutely beside myself in a puddle of tears that seemed to be the collective emotional response of many weeks or months of being far too brave about far too much while being entirely discouraged about everything else.
I come from very dark places, and there are dark days when those places I won’t let myself go do whisper to me from those dark corners of the world where God’s light is not easily found…I don’t REALLY think I belong in the light, do I? No, I’m not sure I’m any more comfortable in the light than the roaches that have completely taken over my life, but God says I belong in the light whether I think I do or not. That is my “Sunday School” answer, but there are six other hellishly in the week NOT Sunday.
I was going to say that some of what tempts me is a lot darker than envy, which is true, but then I was reminded that envy has it’s grip on me too…just in a completely different area, regarding something I’ve — essentially — been required to give up.
I don’t know if I will ever be trustworthy to be given it back, truly God only knows.
Because cars are easy — no one is going to question your sanity, your humanity, and your wholeness as a human being for lack of a [specific very fun sports car] (and if they do, question theirs). [Many in my world] are so materialistic I’ve been all but innoculated against greed for what their greed has cost me in my life. Truly, whatever it is in this world, whatever “thing” I have, if you can give me a compelling reason why you need it more than I do, it’s yours. Envy is, of course, in lock-step with setting up idols. Better your idols be things than relationships. Because a life lived in battle with God and self over relationships can look a very lot…like mine.
And there is nothing in this world that sounds sane about my extended 2011 conversation with God over why the answer to the long-time prayer for a conventional life was not necessarily “no” for always, but is clearly “no” for now. There is a lot “to” that conversation, and there were certainly conditions and terms on both sides (not an ultimatum per se, but more along the lines of an explanation for why things need to be the way they are as they are, instead of the way I would wish them). School, actually, is part of it…so there really was no possible sane emotional reaction to the idea that — after wrestling for a year to give up pursuit of the possibility of children of my own issue — any thought of any life BUT solitude was just automatically extended for no good reason by a block to getting to school. The dream, the plan, the vision was stair-steps. That’s not a dream deferred, that’s a door resolutely shut and locked.
And [yet I watch one friend] in a place so dark that she’s basically given up on her own life and family. The darkness of her mental illness and war with God rules (and attempts to destroy) the house and everyone in it. Watching what this is doing to [her family] is wearing me down. Only God can fix this.
Echo similar sentiments with what [another person I love dearly] has been given and blessed with…and watching everyone’s mental illness curse that as well.
In all cases prayer seems so inadequate.
I am firmly disquiet in the knowledge that those I love –some already gone…forever — are in separation from God… And you almost lost me this morning in the same moment you wavered a bit yourself on the question (well, not a question) of eternal condemnation (I notice these things, sorry, and I was among the closest in proximity). If the question is whether I love people as Christ loves them, yes. I’m not even sure where God keeps all my prayers and tears…some great otherworldly ocean perhaps.
The dark side comes that I truly love others FAR more than I love myself. I am quite certain I do not “deserve” or “merit” any of the grace or mercy that has been given to me. But I am the girl who jumps in-front of snakes and would happily give away anything to those who need it more.
Grace and mercy are non-transferable.
I have met so many darkly broken and shattered people in my life — many of whom touch my life daily — that maybe you can see how it would be that I would give up everything for the sake of not merely those I love who are close to me, but for the strangers I meet even briefly who so desperately need, want, long for and seek (in all the wrong places) the love and peace I have in Christ. The dark truth is that lack of peace for the love of these broken people erodes my own peace. By no means do I hold for a moment the idea of the intercession of the saints, but you better believe I recognize St. Monica as a kindred spirit in all this mess that is my life: to keep praying forever and NEVER give up on those you love.
I hope it goes without saying that part of my praying forever and NEVER giving up is praying for those you love too…because, I do.
And it was a hellish week that found me standing before God on Friday completely empty (my rather dark take on my dark week to be found here). I’m still pretty empty, most days I just feel so lost. Every day I feel very “done,” so completely drained as if I have nothing left to give, while at the same time so achingly desperate to serve God I’m all but inconsolable. I feel so…useless. I have so many gifts and so much to give I’ve been cut off from giving and using, it’s horrible. It’s like the opposite of apathy — please, God, use me…I don’t feel like a blessing to anybody. All I have right now are words, are my mere words enough? I won’t lie that I feel good to help people in the world, but I feel good to have been useful to God that he could somehow use me, not because I’m stuck on myself and get off on an ego trip over it.
I didn’t bless a single person on Friday.
Bless YOU my friend, and bless you for being my friend. I think maybe you “get” where I come from and how I see the world better than many, but I’ve known that well for the past year. I do cherish you my friend, know that…but also know that I am desperately ever-mindful to keep perspective to not…over…cherish you (and so many I love). Because the truth (perhaps unfortunate…perhaps a guised blessing) about loving all we love so dearly in this world, is there is not a single one of us — no matter how close or how intimate the connection, be it friend…relative…spouse…or even child — who truly “belongs” to another: we are only stewards, custodians, and beloved recipients of love for each other in a clouded reflection of Christ’s love for us. For the unfortunate element is the “not yours” element of it…which is arguably also the blessing in disguise, for “not yours” also absolves us of bearing the full weight of responsibility of and for those we love (though, as I’ve previously mentioned here, I’m crazy enough to think I’d want to sign on that line). And as for that, the truth is that most days heaven is more than I can handle because my focus isn’t so much on looking forward to promised glory as it is looking around at those I love so desperately without any such hope…to the point that there have been moments of doubt as to whether I can handle heaven at all for the sorrow of those I love so desperately who are “missing” from the roll call of the saints. If one were to go categorically with respect to mortal sins, I’m as absolutely and unquestionably ( and irredeemably) damned as any can be. Hence putting down ecumenical roots in Camp Calvin, well part of the reason anyway. I’ve argued through the argument of how God isn’t God and Christ isn’t Christ if one can fall out of salvation. But I have no delusions why I deserve grace or mercy any more — or less — than so many I love so dearly.
And it was good to see [your husband] this morning, though it did NOT seem the thing to say: “I don’t really KNOW you, but please know you’re always in my prayers” (it’s true though).
I miss you my friend as I treasure your company. We should do something sometime, don’t care what, my treat even. Your call, your terms. Let me know. I’m very free.
Blessings for your week my dear friend. Yes, valleys are hard, but at the very least know that the crazy and frantically-waving creature of questionable sanity with the Bohemian hair waving down from the far hillside of yours (when she gets a rare break from being in the dark pit of her own) is cheering you on with as much love as any human can give. Hugs to you sister, hang in there, and know that you’re loved and you’re in my prayers.
Much love in-Christ,
P.S. — Eleanor was a very special little pig, and Wentworth is her only child. He was always the most special little pig: I was there when he was born, I taught him and Eleanor how to nurse, and I have been almost his whole world since he was three weeks old (when he was separated from Eleanor without a friend or sibling in the world). Annie is a very special pig because her tiny baby self was trying to get out of the cage at the pet store to get to me when every other guinea pig and rabbit in the place was hiding. She is not like any other sow I’ve ever had because even though she is within days of having pups (I will be separating her from Wentworth tonight), she is still DESPERATE to be held and touched and cuddled. Annie has never been alone a day in her life, this may not go well. I may be quietly and desperately heartbroken on a dark level not easily understood by many for childless solitude (yet immersed in so many beloved children doubly labeled “NOT YOURS!!!”), but you better believe that there are many children in this world less loved and less blessed by the parents in their lives than these already-loved baby pigs already are by me. That’s a horrible thing to think and say, but my prayer for all children is that they never in their life for a moment doubt that they are loved. I have not been given children, but if even small guinea pigs are what has been trusted to my love and care, with everything I have to give, I will honor that until death do we part (and Eleanor had the most heartbreakingly beautiful death yet). And hey, you may or may not be super gifted at visiting folks, but that’s one of the things I love best (and miss terribly), and though it takes me to the razor’s edge of perceived sanity in the minds of many, I don’t draw a line between my commitment to the people and the creatures in my care. Tonight? Care is going to be noisy and traumatic.
Bless you my friend, in all things. I love you. — VKS