Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Sorrow: a phenomenon

What is sorrow but a great need, a need for something imagined or true, accelerated to the point of absolute necessity (whether imagined or true)?

What is sorrow but a great hand squeezing otherwise ordinary people into small children who cower in alley corners, and behind office desks, and under warm quilts and in front of kitchen sinks--alone (or seemingly so). A large alone--conspicuous as an elephant in your lap. And although you may sit and wish the elephant away for long, lonely nights and days, you would answer a cold, flat no if anyone offered to take it away. You would rather sit, smothered, and just wish.

But how can the elephant be led away? Gently and with the sly, coaxings of a respectable zoo-keeper? No amount of zoo-keepers or coaxing can draw out the elephants in our hearts. What is a human soul, but solitary? The ultimate aloneness comes from within, as layers and layers of strong stone walls refuse to fall away and not even Joshua's trumpets can tumble the horrible isolation of each of us. We talk, but even what we call communication cannot possibly facilitate communion between souls. There will always be a language barrier and we will encode and decode every word as they come and go as if across live wires. What can we say of ourselves that anyone else would understand? And who would want to understand anyone else but themselves? We are so alone. We are so pitiful. So we will clutch our elephants tightly to ourselves and scribble soul-baring notes in our journals, trying desperately to trust in the worth and the romance of a voice never heard, of words never spoken, or if spoken never truly understood. We sit in dusty, drafty corners or on the deep leather of chic coffee-house armchairs and imagine the glory of posthumous fame. But this is no consolation, no amount of Greek tragedy and grand speeches can salve the ache of anonymity. No amount of prayer and sacrifice to Greek deities will console an unopened, unbroken heart.

But it was not always thus. Something has gone badly wrong with the human soul since the beginning. We were created to be together, to talk with God in the cool of the day, to know and be known. If this were not so, we would not now feel the sorrow of disconnect. It is an unnatural phenomenon, like physical pain. This sorrow, I would be bold and recognize as the quintessential sorrow of the world, its plague as it were, to be separated from God, has a cure.

"Was there any sorrow like unto His sorrow?"

There is no need for me to continue clutching my particular Dumbo on my long-laden lap. The great ringmaster has led it away, and it shall never come wandering back. I don't have to get sick on ice cream sodas is some obscure drugstore waiting to be discovered, because from everlasting to everlasting He is God and He has known my innermost being from the beginning. Christ has been separated from the Father in my place and has suffered the quintessential sorrow more profoundly than any human ever has in order that we may know and be known.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

To dance in the wilderness

The whirring of ceiling fans hums above the stirring of a large audience. Singers in black to my right and left, behind and before. The organ in the corner groans a beginning through great pipes at my back and then, suddenly a breeze blows through this church and I am whisked away on its wings to a place of sand and wind and sagebrush. Strangely the organ music continues its strains of eloquence. My feet are light and delight fills my stomach with joy. I dance, sand spraying reluctantly as I whirl, twirling in time with the wind and my own heart beat. Perhaps I dance alone, perhaps I have a partner. Perhaps two. Perhaps my beloved and His Father both dance with me. Perhaps all of heaven dances with me, shouting with each sweep of my feet: "Glory!" One thing I know: I could not have danced in the wilderness if blood had not been shed, if tears had not dropped like rain on the desert ground. I could not have danced, so carefree, like a child on the beach if I had not once sat, cold, seemingly alone in the dark of a wilderness night. I could not have danced in this wilderness if I had not been led here in the first place. To dance in the wilderness is a thing seldom done. To dance in the wilderness is a thing saints do. To dance in the wilderness is to trust the Master.