Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Birthday Gift for Me

I got a little birthday gift yesterday. My friend Shana called to say that she and Tyler are engaged. I love Shana. She is a treasured friend – I love her enthusiasm, and her ideas, and her clarity of thought. It pleases me more than I can say to think of Tyler seeing her and loving her.

The call came at a particularly despairing moment. I was realizing how thin my devotion to Jesus really is. At this point, I can’t honestly say I want transformation, or glory, or the kingdom. I just want this present circumstance to be over. That is all I want right now. Relief.

But with Shana’s call, I was reminded that she loves me for myself, as I do her . She is in my heart, as I am in hers. Her happiness is mine. And I was reminded of this quote by Bernard of Clairveaux ( a great lover of God): “Brethren, let us take heart again! Even if we are nothing in our own hearts, perchance something of us is hidden in the heart of God.”

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Deep Heavenly Gold ... continued

Anticipating that some might quarrel with the use of the word friendship in the last post ... let me elaborate.

When Laurie was in the process of leaving this life, friends were gathered around her bed for days (and nights.) She could no longer speak or move, and she didn’t look too good. But each time one of us came into or left the room, we went to her and kissed her, patted her hand, rubbed her feet, spoke to her. We remembered her, saw her, recognized her – not for anything external – but for who she is as a person. We treasured her, in our minds and conversation. We looked at Laurie, and we saw her.

None of us thought she was somehow perfect. But she was herself, unique. And we each had a unique relationship with her. There were many others who knew her, and some who were much closer to her (pause, as I refrain from saying uncharitable things ...) who never really saw her.

What was so evident in that hospital room was love/friendship. To be known in this way, I think was Laurie’s deepest desire. That was how she saw people. The reason her little gifts and jokes were so treasured is that they were so individualized – so personal – coming out of her knowledge of us. (When she gave me a t-shirt that said “Not My Problem”, she knew exactly why I needed that t-shirt!!)

That is what God is after too. He is a person (not The Force!) and his intention is for friendship – with us, and for us with one another. Mutual recognition ... enjoyment ... treasuring ... and maybe even private jokes and secret gifts. Yes .... I am sure of it.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Deep Heavenly Gold

I am contemplating the death of my friend.

Contemplation is not just thinking. It comes from the Latin root con (with) and temple (a place set apart for observation). It is to consider, observe, ponder.

I find that our normal mode is to envision or anticipate what we think ought to be. We have in our minds a narrative of what would be good, or right, or happy. I had a narrative about Laurie – what I wanted to happen. That’s not what happened. Instead, I am seeing a different narrative unfold.

God never – yes, I think that is not too strong to say – never operates on the basis of the narrative we have constructed. Instead He acts – and our part is to consider, to contemplate – those actions. He is not an idol, fashioned by us to do what we want. (see Isaiah 40)

One reason for that, I suspect is that we are after different things. We want to “fix” people. God, on the other hand is after love, or since that is an overused word – friendship.

Sometimes we try and force the facts to fit our narrative. But, as Laurie said, “Beauty lies in the true story.” I want to contemplate the true story. As I do, I am seeing something richer, deeper, more profound than the story I had in mind.

"Christian contemplation only starts when the deep heavenly gold begins to glint through the turbulent surface of earthly affairs."

Hans Urs von Balthasar

To be continued ...