Friday, December 31, 2010

Long Loved Love

Our son and his wife left a "Happy Anniversary voice message the other day when they couldn't reach me in person.  I laughed when I heard the smile in his voice and a laugh from his wife at his side: "We're glad you're still married."

So am I.

During the first decade or two of our marriage when many thunderstorms of conflict seared our souls with pain, David and I frequently reminded ourselves that we had meant our vows of lifetime commitment to each other, and we would not consider divorce as a viable option of "solving" our problems.  At one point we even agreed not to wield it as a verbal weapon in our fights - just as we promised not to storm off angry or hurt in a motorized vehicle, setting ourselves up for vehicular manslaughter or suicide.  

There were a few occasions when each thought the other so disgusted or disappointed on multiple relationship fronts that we wondered aloud if our partner desired divorce ; but always, upon further reflection, the answer was "no - divorce would make more problems than it would solve."

We have been married long enough now for each to have gone through some pretty devastating dashing of hopes, desires and expectations in our relationship.  We have each had, at different times, to very deliberately choose to find ways to live with, love, respect and support each other in the face of (still!) unyielding differences of  values, motivations, and goals.  

When I look back now, I see the first twenty years of our union as necessary training to strengthen our "humilty muscles" to prepare us for complete exposure within the transparency of our relationship.  We needed the humility practice to be willing to allow the skin of self-protective reasoning to be pulled back, to see the tentacles of SELF beneath so many actions and motives we had previously labelled pure. 

It has been our attempts these past 15 years or so to know, communicate and reconcile the deep, unyielding differences between us that have really stripped the scales from our eyes to see our "SELF" motivations and agendas, to empathetically feel, not simply know, just how much we have unintentionally wounded the other - simply by being ourselves, by pursuing our goals, powered by our differing pasts, values, sin patterns, and ego drives.

This truth-telling and stripping, painful as it has been, is one of the treasures to me of our long-term relationship.  Like Eustace's experience in C.S. Lewis' The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, it has taken Another, with better eyesight, sharper claws, and a willingness to tear deep to the diseased underlayers, to uncover and strip us of our deepest layers of SELF.  

I'm not saying that the process is done.  Only that the divine claws within the paws of our mate have done what we, by ourself, cannot do, even with the best intentions and disciplines.  

Monday, December 27, 2010

Working Man

holy experience

On this Multitude Monday I give thanks for David, my husband of 35 years, as provider.  

Thank you, David, for working so diligently to provide so well for me, our children, and our grandchildren over all our years together.  I am grateful that you are a man who sees the opportunity to work hard to provide for your family as a blessing and that you simply love to work.

Thank you for being willing to leave the house in the dark of morning all these years of our marriage, to work long days, and then come home to love and play with your family.

I'm grateful that you've been willing to dream, push forward and take calculated risks that have enabled our business to grow and provide for many.

I'm also very grateful for your integrity.  I've seen you tell the truth and do what was right, even when it was costly, time and time again.  

I thank God for the care and compassion you have for the employees (and their families!) who have worked alongside us in the business.

I greatly appreciate your humility in apologizing to me, you sons, and your employees when you have realized your  "bad behavior" toward of us.  So many people refuse to humble themselves publicly when they have been wrong - what a gift to have a strong husband who nevertheless humbles himself before a child, a wife, an employee, a contractor.  Thank you.

Thank you for trusting God to provide work and payment and wisdom during some very challenging seasons of our company.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Advent Wait

One of the first ASL (American Sign Language) signs I learned after Michelle and Kyle brought Prema from Kolkata, India into their home was "wait" - both hands extended, palm up, with all the fingers waving, like an upside down movement on a computer or piano keyboard.  Prema had NO symbolic language and I had very few ASL signs at my command, so I used it a lot in all my interactions with her those first few months.

Venir:  to come.  Advent: 1. an arrival; a start or commencement 2.a. (usu cap), the coming of Christ into the world  2.b. (cap) the penitential season beginning four Sundays before Christmas

It's a season of waiting, looking forward to a Coming.  We celebrate the waiting with candles and colors, with words and song, with groaning hearts that strain to see.

Last Sunday evening, I sat with Eli on my lap and Prema at my side at FBCIR's Christmas program, listening to Grandpa David play his trombone with the orchestra and enjoying all the choral groups and ensembles.  We try to take advantage of local programs that have a chance of communicating Biblical stories visually in the forms of nativity tableaus and re-enactments as well as great music, because Prema's world, even at Christmas time, with all its boisterous activity and noise, is silent.

We sit up front, directly in front of the interpreters for the deaf, close to the manger and hay, three year old Eli looking and listening intently to everything, eleven year old Prema watching with wandering attention the interpreters, the changes in spotlights and choral ensembles.

I watch my grand-daughter move in and out of attentiveness, think about the scarcity of visual story for her in this sound-focused performance and wonder how she will ever understand God's story and offer of life and love for her:  How can she know the choice You give her to know you, God?  Her ability and motivation to take in and learn are so scant, her language so limited .... Kyle and Michelle have, with much purpose and pain, been living a daily definition of love for her this side of the veil....but having once been abandoned by love, can she know it now? Will she recognize it and draw near when she sees in it You?

"In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

The music is wonderful, the narrative thread simple and cohesive.  Delight sits on my left with Eli, while Sorrow, mourning Prema's loss and alone-ness, squeezes in on my right.

 Children skip down the long aisles waving circlets of streamers, banners of "light" call forth joy.... I love it......but I am waiting for the drummers.

David had informed me earlier that my favorite part of last year's program would be repeated:  a drum corps regiment, pulled from various local high schools marching bands, spread out in the aisles of the mega church sanctuary, each drummer standing erect in uniform with a spread of drums hanging from his shoulders, waiting for the "Drummer Boy" soloist to finish, awaiting the haunting choral descant, "I'll play for my drum for you".

The sound explodes in the air as sticks hit drum rims, skins and sides, clacking, pounding, reverberating, piercing the night.  We thousands of listeners almost collectively hold our breaths as we experience the cadence performed by the drummers around us, among us.  The sound fills our ears, our bodies, our souls.  I turn away from the drummer four feet to my left to look at Prema on my right to guage from her reactions if she can feel any vibration from the engulfing sound.  No.  She does not.

"In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him....Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God..."

You became man for me, but what will You do for her?  How can she receive You?  How can she understand and believe in Your name?  Will You take her in Your arms at her passing from earth, open her ears with the breath of Your whisper?  Put language and understanding into her being?  Will you beat a cadence that envelops, enchants, enflames HER with knowing?  Will You?  Will You?

The drumming continues, drummers' bodies erect, hands flashing, pounding rhythm.  My lap still holds and my arms still surround Eli, but my body is shaking with sobs that no one hears over the sound of the drums and tears are coursing down my face.   "I'll play for my drum for you..."

This is the joy, the purpose held out to us.... to play for You, to offer our best, to live Your love day after day, in desire and discipline, in dream and despair, in delight and drudgery...while we wait.  Wait for the day when eyes and ears will be opened.  Wait for the day when WORD will be known.  Wait.  With arms outstretched, palms turned up, fingers moving.  Wait.  While all creation groans.  

Wait and watch, 
groan and hope.  
for God to become baby, 
slaughtered Lamb, 
triumphant Lion.

I do not want the drumming to stop.  I want to bury my groaning and hope in the crack of the sticks, in the flash of the hands, hide in the beat, hide in the sound.

The drumming stops.  Silence reigns.  Then with collective breath we shout and cheer.

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." 

So we wait. 
We trudge with bags heavy 
with groaning and hope 
to the top of the hill 
in the dark of night 
for a glimpse of a star, 
a stable, a babe,
to remind us LOVE hears, 
LOVE knows, 
and LOVE, also, 

Emmanuel.  God with us.