Friday, December 23, 2016

Letters to Lucy, 2: Their struggle, our sacrament

Dear Lucy,

You must not waste your suffering. Ava Bright entered into hospice care today. And we must not squander her struggle, either. Those whose dying shows us how to live, whose fighting teaches us how to fight. If I could speak right now to Mama Shiou, Christine, Audrey, Ava Bright, each in their different stations so truly alive, I would say:

Your cancer was my cure.
Your near-death experience was my near-life experience.
You fought so bravely, to crawl back to the land of the living. 
Thank you. Thank you, so, much. 

Stay alive, Lu. When your muscle memory assaults you and makes you feel falsehoods, know that He speaks not only to our hearts and minds but also somatically, to our broken bodies. He donned one himself. You are feeling and flirting with the edges of terminal illness, yes. Yes, all you must do is heal.

We give cancer patients the space and time to attend to that intensive care, to wage their whole selves in warfare against death. We try to relieve them of their other tasks and concerns so that they can just go through the carnage of chemo and unafflicted by other concerns. They are "just" to heal, to try to live one more day. We provide their families with meals and childcare and carpools. They take indefinite medical leaves of absence.

her father carries her when she cannot take one step more.
Ava Bright

When people do not see our invisible terminal illnesses, they may not intuitively give the space and grace that they would give to one who is outwardly, visibly wasting away. We also struggle to give ourselves fully to both the healing and the incapacity. But God sees! Lucy, He sees the ravaging infection more than we even do. He knows how hurt and dying we are. He is carving out that space and time for us. He is our chemo ward(robe). He knew I was dead when I felt and looked rather alive and fine.

Do not fight to justify to yourself that you need space and time to heal. Ask the Spirit to convince your heart. Try not to exhaust your limited mental energy attempting to figure out and explain why you are so hurt and dead. Does any cancer patient know precisely how (or more ludicrously, why) they got cancer? Does it matter? How it imperceptibly snowballed into a deadly crisis. Maybe they were chain smokers who brought it upon themselves. Maybe they were born into toxic environments and nuclear dumps. Maybe they ate too many GMO foods. What matters? No matter what you chose before to bring you to now, cancer is so unambiguous in what you must choose next. Simply:

Are you ready to resign to death?
Or will you fight for more life?
Do you want to be healed?

I hate cancer. But for these friends' visible and invisible wars, I give thanks. I give thanks for their whole life-and-limb struggle, agony, to GET WELL, a sign for us. Life shone so brightly through their battered body walls. Remember their cancer. Remember them wasting away at 90, 80, 70lbs. Remember the childrens' resilience and bright hope in searing pain. Count their falling hairs, bottle their tears, remember their fatigue and weary regret in the fight for life. See how they made an offering of their pain, brought a sacrifice of praise.

And we are promised this: no matter how hard you fight, you may not, will not, become wholly whole, wholly holy until at last you pass through death's door? But is the fight worthy? Would you crawl bloody and naked and emaciated out of the abyss, through the wilderness, back to the land of the living?

And would you be consoled that these infinite distances, trespasses, took Emmanuel only three days? He is with you. You will never cover all that distance in all your life and all your losses and all your love. But He has already gone there and come back for you, and will again come back for you, again and again and again resurrect you, forever and ever and ever.

Keep going, dear love, and help me in this.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

on Speaking & Polo, Echo & Narcissus

Some possess the familiarity and commonality to speak into your life because for at least several miles, your meandering paths overlapped; maybe you set out from shared origins. Your sandals are interchangeably sized, your footbeds similarly molded.

But to a rare faraway few you grant the privilege to speak to you from across the universe. You throw yourself in the way of their words, you sit down by evening light to read their letters from another world, so far from your own that their reports seem fantastical and incomprehensible. You ask questions, you try to understand. Though you differ in disposition, in composition you are alike––stardust earthenware. And then you look beyond the impossibilities, the separation, the gulf. You decide, wherever He's going, is where I want to be. You don't know who's farther along toward a common destination, but you have this assurance that regardless of when and how arrival should occur, whether your journeys will in the while intertwine, you will see each other at home. You will wait at the table for the missing ones, and tomorrow, you will dine together.

Your paths might be lost to and apart from each other. But they converge at the last––and along the way, in brief instants of contact, a momentary glimpse of the Real, an echo of Home. For so long you've traveled alone that speech has come to silence. But you need that polar pull, that nostalgia that is not backward or forward in time, but is every word forever.

Reorientation. You summon your voice, and call into the canyon.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Letters to Lucy, 1: The dissonance

My dearest Lucy,

I call you "Lucy," because you see Aslan––and, more significantly, because He sees you.  Even now, in your "long defeat" of maladjustment back from Narnia, He sees you.

Your weary word of how dim this world, this time order, has grown to you reached me. And, my dear, I am alarmed. I wish to be by you, that in our togetherness we can stop time for a moment and bring that land back here –– in our with-ness, we re-member, reenact, recreate. We were supposed to be royal emissaries from that world, queens. Lucy and Esther.

You speak of allowing your dimming heart be snuffed out altogether, resolving the tension by giving in to the unbearably lonely darkness. You feel that the only other alternative is to let this world be bright to you and consider the white light one the dream, the fiction, just to stay awake this deathly hour. Yes, Lucy I am alarmed. You are at a threshold. You are in the valley of the shadow of death. The only way out, is I Am the Way. It is: I am the Resurrection and Life.

You do not know whether you will make it out. But, if you do, you will know with all certainty that He has done it. That Love is stronger than death. It is unassailable, it cannot be severed, you can never be separated. Yes, you are on the brink of Life. Dear love, what a terrific place to be!

I remind you that the Lord placed His mission on your heart. Do not be surprised or troubled if he puts you through boot camp, and makes you utterly invincible. I put all my chips on you coming through on that other side with your faith intact and joy multiplied.

I love you,


Sunday, December 4, 2016

it's still winter in Narnia

but we are pressing North.

we are not alone, though we are lonely. we are exposed, wet, we crave warmth. we leave room at the table for the most crowded empty chair, upholstered with a whole entire pillar. of cloud. of witnesses. behind and before. we are afflicted and perplexed and struck down. we are assembling and retaining only the most irrational team of baffling idiots, unafraid of nothingness. meek, oh my, weak, oh why. a band of fools, an orphan train. a shanty town on the move with love to gain and nothing to prove.

we work with blunt tools in fallow fields, we spill our blood and sow our tears, and all the while, joy rises and rises. these heavy crosses would crush us, but an alien lightness keeps invading, and lifting us up and up and up.

It is cold. the night is long. I had good shoes but walked a long way now all seven of my toes are frostbitten. I need rest. will I wake if I fall asleep in the snow? It would be a gentle way to go. I have kept my eyes open in an unseeing world so long, my eyelids fall.

and I am too small to know and too tired to ask for what I want, the helps and comforts for which I wish. but for what I need, I simply say, Lord have mercy and it all rains down to wash away my delusions of Lack.

winter isn't over. but neither is Advent. take me to a window, help me see. o Lord who changes not, abide with me.

the constellations bring tiny consolations at the end of a long day of longing, to the messenger in Sandburg's poem. the poet so ruined and pregnant with visions that he is moved to speak truth to power. to those privileged enough to be blind and deaf, unless they choose divine condescension. unless they stand in cramped footbeds and lie in mangers.

Give me hunger,
 O you gods that sit and give
 The world its orders.
 Give me hunger, pain and want,
 Shut me out with shame and failure
 From your doors of gold and fame,
 Give me your shabbiest, weariest hunger! 
But leave me a little love,
 A voice to speak to me in the day end,
 A hand to touch me in the dark room
 Breaking the long loneliness.
 In the dusk of day-shapes
 Blurring the sunset,
 One little wandering, western star
 Thrust out from the changing shores of shadow.
 Let me go to the window,
 Watch there the day-shapes of dusk
 And wait and know the coming
 Of a little love.

// Carl Sandburg, "At a Window"