Thursday, 10 June 2010

tea for one.


I was taking a nap in the conservatory this afternoon in the sun and all the sudden a monsoon was let loose. I figured there was no better time for a cup of tea than that. And of course, it must be done properly. Michelle, you would be proud. :)

I like being alone. If this past year has taught me nothing else, it's that. I was always that loner child who went away upstairs to finish her book (or finish that story she was making up with her dolls....if I'm honest). I do enjoy disappearing into a story by myself. I love shopping by myself, poking about in old bookstores and 'nesting' shops (you know what I mean....). And nothing is quite as delicious as walking by myself, meandering through the streets and hazy corners of the lovely city I am so privileged to live in just now.

But I do come to the point where I tire of myself. I find that my own company can get both tedious and, if it wills, can take a dangerous turn. As much as I love to contemplate, analyse, theorise, and ponder....I find that my mind can so very easily fall into 'the depths of despair' (as Anne Shirley would so dramatically phrase it). I look into myself, I look about me,....and ultimately, as nice and glorious as walks, books, and beautiful things are....there's something that remains unfulfilled in me. A longing that burns, insatiable within me. I speak of the longing of intimacy, the longing to be known and to know. Have you ever felt this well up in your soul? The longing to freely, and without fear, be wholly vulnerable before someone. 

Do you ever get despairing when you look about you? When you see all the pain and hurt? I guess living in a city throws it in my face on a daily basis. But to be honest, just living in a family does that too. Disfunction, hurt, and selfishness plays out on the small stage as well as the universal one. 

It is almost worse, though, when you look to yourself for comfort (for those little things in life that bring you joy and consolation) and you can no longer find it. Beauty and joy in the enjoyment of life - the long walks, the good food, the cup of coffee, the well written book - are wonderful, don't get me wrong....but they can never fully console my heart when it feels alone. When the loneliness creeps up on my almost unawares and a shadow descends. Or when the despair at my own twisted and tangled mess of a heart slowly drains the hope I have for the future, the joy at any prospect or any bend in the road, out of me. 

What do I do then? To where, to whom, do I turn? 

And I think here lies the choice in paths. There are three places that I can look to. I, myself, can attempt to patch up, to infuse with life through the various ways that usually ignite my soul. If that fails, I can look to the gloriously beautiful saints that surround me. Deep friendship rarely disappoints and can fulfill the longing in ways that being alone can't (they fulfill different aspects of the longing, I think)....But my fears are too big; my insecurities loom too large for any one person (myself or other) to quell. The condemnation my own heart breathes upon me is too great, the burden of pain is too heavy. 

Why do I find that life can so easily be sucked out of me? The wind can so quickly die away. Why is that? 

And so I turn. Before me lies the last path. And yes, it is the road less traveled by. I think I am beginning to understand why. It is a road that calls for a balance between loneliness and parasitical dependence, between self-sufficiency and self-indulgence, between drawing away into a fortress and letting all the walls crumble down. The hardest part about this road? It calls for an open and vulnerable heart, yet a recognition that to live in that way is beyond your own means. Along this way, I am required to live in such a way that I am free from my own binding self-enamorment, yet recognising that I am completely dependent upon Someone else to supply the ability to repair and restore the brokenness that will be encountered from leading a life that cares not if it is called to give up all. 

How is this done? 

I come back to the longing. The longing to be known and to know. The only place that I find the freedom and ability to live along that path, is when I surrender all. When I surrender my self-consciousness, my self-loathing, my self-obsessions, at the feet of the One who has been faithful to me my whole life. Jesus. This Man. This God. It is at His feet alone that I find freedom from myself, for it is at His feet alone that I am KNOWN. I can set my heart at rest in His presence because He is greater than my heart and He knows everything (1 John). And when He looks at my heart, He does not condemn it. 'Thou art not more holy, though thou be praised; nor the more worthless, though thou be dispraised. What thou art, that thou art; neither canst thou be said to be greater than what thou art in the sight of God. If thou considers what thou art within thee, thou wilt not care what man say of thee' (Thomas a Kempis, 'The Imitation of Christ'). It is when Jesus speaks to me of my value in His eyes, when I look up into His face and know that I am known....That is when I find I have the strength to stand up, a wee bit unsteadily, but standing up nonetheless.

Now, the other half of that know? Well....the most incredible thing is that this God-Man promises to us that we can KNOW Him. And that knowledge of Him IS ETERNAL LIFE. 'Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent' (John 17). 

 And that....that right there, enables me to not just stand there gazing into His face, the glory of which will never grow dim.....No....not only that, but I find strength that is not my own begin to course through my veins; and a smile finds itself upon my face that is reflective of the smile I find on His. It is in the freedom of the knowledge that all my strength and all my joy and all my purpose comes from Him alone. Our Lord and Saviour is glorious, is He not? And when He is present, all fears are loved away. For He Himself is our Perfect Love. 'When Jesus is present, all is well, and nothing seems difficult; but when Jesus is absent, everything is hard. When Jesus speaks not inwardly to us, all other comfort is without value; but if Jesus speaks but one word, we feel great consolation...He that findeth Jesus findeth a good treasure, yea, a Good above all good...thou oughtest to be naked and open before God, ever carrying thy pure heart toward Him, if thou wouldest be free to consider and see how sweet the Lord is' (Thomas a Kempis, 'The Imitation of Christ'). For the 'pure in heart shall see God' (Matthew)....and that purity comes from covenant that Jesus bound Himself to with us when He rose again. 

And that....that path....I choose Him. It's an hourly thing, I find....but even in the darkness or uncertainty, the shifting fog or dull complacency,....I choose Him. 

'And truly, unless thou be prevented and drawn by His grace, thou shalt never attain to that happiness to forsake and cast off all, that thou alone mayest be united to Him alone. For when the grace of God cometh unto a woman, then she is made able to do all this case, thou oughtest not to be dejected, not to despair; but in God's will to resist steadily, and whatever comes upon thee, to endure it for the glory of Jesus Christ; for after winter followeth summer, after night the day returneth, and after a tempest, a great calm' (Thomas a Kempis, 'The Imitation of Christ'). 

Wow....apologies for the length. I should update more frequently so it isn't such a mega-splurge! :)