22 April 2007
The month my mother died, I read it through and understood it, and it comforted me.
When something like this happens, we ask, Why? And someone will say, "God knows," a sort of verbal shrug.
The Book of Job is the answer to "Why?" And the answer truly is, God knows.
God knows what the young man was thinking. God knows the crazed and twisted thoughts in his mind.
God knows the pain he inflicted. The terror.
God knows each sorrowing heart left in the wake of the tragedy ... those who are still in a daze of shock, barely able to comprehend that their child will not be with them, here on earth, any more.
Those who watch by hospital beds and feel tempted to guilt for their relief that their dear one is alive, though wounded - God knows all they feel.
God knows. There is nothing He cannot know about this horrible tragedy.
And, as I learned to do while my mother was dying, there is one way to deal with it: to sit before God, and tell Him how much it hurts, and why.
In speaking (crying, wailing) to Him about it, you will learn, and He will comfort you.
Because He knows.
He knows the name of the one you lost; He created that one out of His thought, planned for that one from time out of mind. He knows where that one is at this moment, and His love for that dear one you cry for has never ended, and never will - any more than yours has.
I do not believe God plans these horrors. I do trust Him to know about them... to know what I cannot know.
I trust Him to stand watch over those who mourn and grieve and worry because of what happened at Virginia Tech. I believe He waits to receive anyone who turns to Him in its wake, even if they only rail at Him for allowing such a senseless crime.
At least they are talking to Him.
Like any parent, He can stand it. Tell Him how you feel. He knows, of course, already; He knows you that well. But you must know the truth ... and the only way you will find out is to talk with Him, and tell Him where it hurts.
Let Him comfort you.
While it can never be His will to hurt the ones he loves - which is all of us - it is always His will to bind up our wounds, to listen to us tell Him over and over again how it was and how it is, and to hold us close while we cry.
My heart goes out to anyone who knows what the Book of Job is about. I am grateful to God that it is there. It comforted me and taught me to turn to God when I don't know why.
It was 7:51 a.m. on Friday, January 12, the middle of the morning rush hour, and a fiddler played before his open case. On that morning in January, life had no gilded, glinting frame; life was just happening, as it so often does, one part fading unnoticeably into the next. In the next 43 minutes, the violinist performed six classical pieces and 1,097 people passed by; who had time to stop and stare? Life was happening, full of care…and with no frame to punctuate the laudable moments.I highly recommend the Post article, which can be found here.
I had just finished reading it when the announcer at the classical music station I listen to began to speak of the same article. He interviewed the musician. As the musician spoke, I transcribed some of what he said:
"I knew that I would be ignored...it's tough to take... but it was fascinating. ... We forget that music is a participatory experience be more aware and be open to beauty... [as artists,] that's our job, in a way: remind us of the beauty around us... maybe we could be more aware of the beauty that's around us all the time."Now, it could be argued that it wouldn't matter WHAT was going on, one wouldn't expect busy New Yorkers to stop for anything on their way to work ... in that sense, it was a setup, and almost cruel ... suppose someone did want to listen, they really could not, without suffering consequences out of proportion to the gift of music at that time.
I don't think it's fair to imply that people don't respond to music in such a situation. It was too early, and the music was presented in a cacaphonic, hectic environment.
A couple of minutes into it, something revealing happens. A woman and her preschooler emerge from the escalator. The woman is walking briskly and, therefore, so is the child. She's got his hand.
"I had a time crunch," recalls Sheron Parker, an IT director for a federal agency. "I had an 8:30 training class, and first I had to rush Evvie off to his teacher, then rush back to work, then to the training facility in the basement."
Evvie is her son, Evan. Evan is 3.
You can see Evan clearly on the video. He's the cute black kid in the parka who keeps twisting around to look at [the violinist], as he is being propelled toward the door.
"There was a musician," Parker says, "and my son was intrigued. He wanted to pull over and listen, but I was rushed for time."So Parker does what she has to do. She deftly moves her body ... cutting off her son's line of sight. As they exit the arcade, Evan can still be seen craning to look.
The experiment does show something, however: it shows the importance of a frame for art. Yes, we should all be alert to beauty, but we're not always going to be. That's why we need cues to help us know when something is beautiful and worth our attention.
Musicians need to perform in areas conducive to thoughtful listening. Artists need to present their work in areas where it can be savoured. Writers need books - still the best way to read. And worshipers need places to think of the greatest Artist of all. Even the plainest church can, and should be, beautiful.
We cannot always wander around, rapt in the beauties of life all around us. "Life is real, life is earnest," my grandmother used to quote. I have come full circle from going through life without looking, to living in quiet appreciation of all I could absorb, to what I hope is a place of balance. I need to be open to the Beloved as He shows me His gifts to me, but also I need to concentrate on the task at hand, finding in its performance a beauty all its own.
07 April 2007
Some years My Utmost for His Highest's daily readings synch up beautifully with the liturgical calendar. This is one of those years.
The day after my mother died, I went through the motions of my day in a kind of aware numbness. I was aware of being in shock. The day I'd so often feared when younger had finally arrived, mercifully delayed by God until my sister and I were adults and out on our own. I felt exhausted. I was conscious of a profound sense of relief: I would never have to visit the hospital again and find her there, trying to keep going in spite of the mysterious illness which kept dragging her down and away from us.
Most of all, however, I just felt alone.
The soul who'd guided me and encouraged me... the one whose sense of humor was so keen and hilarious that it would never be equalled... the one who'd taken so much of my young years with her own mid-life miseries... she was gone, at last. Permanently, always, forever gone.
I felt abandoned. An orphan. I was thirty-five, but it didn't make any difference; I felt bereft. The sense of being alone was very keen, and very new.
On Holy Saturday, I can imagine that's how the apostles felt: shock, lostness, guilty relief that it was finally over. Most of all, though, they must have been so tempted to feel alone.
The temptation to doubt could never be any fiercer for anyone than it must have been for them. They'd trusted Him with everything - literally, their very souls. He had promised so much ... but He lay in the tomb, dead. Had they believed in just another one of those itinerant preachers that Gamaliel recounted, as told in Acts 5, who were slain and their followers scattered "and came to nothing"?
Holy Saturday, with the drama and agony of Friday past, and the hope of Easter ahead, is a day of profound interior quiet. Not rest; more like ... waiting. Bated breath. Listening, hoping...
After my mother died, I would sometimes have dreams about her. In my dreams, she was alive and well, usually with her beautiful tabac blonde hair hanging loose down her back, wearing a lovely white gown, her sea-green eyes bright, her manner peaceful and assured - none of the nervous tension and dithering that consumed her at times in her time on earth. In the dreams we talked, or did things together; inexplicable things, but all peaceful. I would wake refreshed, and feeling like I'd had a nice visit with her. Sometimes it would take me several moments to come fully awake and realize she was gone from my sight forever... the dreams were that real.
Did the apostles fear that they would only dream of Jesus returning? Did they look for Him in crowds?
When someone you love very much dies, you want to tell others about them. You want others to know how special they were, how much they meant ... but you know you cannot. They can understand only to the degree they, too, have lost someone so dearly loved... and some have not, and others don't want to even think about it. In sort of the same way, Jesus' little flock couldn't talk about Him to anyone outside "the family." They had to stay silent, waiting ... hoping ... listening. "He charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead." Mark ix. 9.
-- Oswald ChambersThere must be communion with His risen life ...
Say nothing until the Son of man is risen in you--until the life of the risen Christ so dominates you that you understand what the historic Christ taught. When you get to the right state on the inside, the word which Jesus has spoken is so plain that you are amazed you did not see it before. ...
Our Lord does not hide these things; they are unbearable until we get into a fit condition of spiritual life. "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." There must be communion with His risen life before a particular word can be borne by us.
May Jesus bless all those who go to communion tomorrow with His risen life - for real.
06 April 2007
"Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree." 1 Peter ii. 24.
Never tolerate the idea of martyrdom about the Cross of Jesus Christ.
The Cross did not happen to Jesus: He came on purpose for it... Beware of separating God manifest in the flesh from the Son becoming sin.
The Incarnation was for the purpose of Redemption. God became incarnate for the purpose of putting away sin; not for the purpose of Self-realization.
The centre of salvation is the Cross of Jesus, and the reason it is so easy to obtain salvation is because it cost God so much. The Cross if the point where God and sinful man merge with a crash and the way to life is opened--but the crash is on the heart of God.
Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest