“Do you go to the movies alone a lot?”
That’s the question she asked me as we both headed towards our cars. It was one of those nights where I’d awoken in the late afternoon. Remarkably, I’d managed to have two bad nights at work and decided I needed escape, even if alone. And alone it was. The movie wasn’t worth much, and halfway down the theater, a silhouette indicated someone else was also staying for the credits. As she rose to leave, she picked up her small daughter, and we both headed the same direction.
“Tonight I do,” I replied, figuring that would suffice for the present. My whole week hasn’t been great, and she didn’t need to know the full extent. We made some brief exchange of small talk about the movie, and, satisfied that she was capable of juggling her drowsy daughter and her keys, I bade her good night and walked on to the car. It occurred to me that perhaps I’d prejudged her. Nowadays, single moms are most often the result of living apart from God’s will, whether through casual sexual encounters or flippant attitudes towards marriage. But husbands die or sin so greatly that the marriage must be dissolved. There are Biblical reasons for it that are no fault of the woman. So I stood by my car and breathed in the luxury of silence which had often eluded me during the week. She drove back by, and rolled down the window. We talked for about 20 minutes.
I suppose I just want you to know, I gave her a chance. She is not a believer, a single mom and a waitress. I’m afraid that’s just too many strikes for me. I do think, if you’re a single mom who has had the misfortune of living out a Biblical divorce, you should probably identify those reasons as soon as possible, especially if you seek a Christian man who might naturally be wary of a single parent.
She was a nice lady, and she seemed to be a good mom. (Aside from letting her daughter see a frightening PG-13 movie, but she seemed to be questioning her own choice on that) And as we made conversation, it occurred to me: Is this is how the world does it? To consider the thought of being touched and loved on and rank it above all else that reason and wisdom could argue? Easily could I have invited myself to follow her home and talked more. That option was clearly on the table. And who knows what could have followed. I wasn’t tempted; I was observing a potential “one-night stand” specimen under a microscope.
And how does a Christian immediately indicate disinterest to avoid leading someone on — without being rude? How do you maintain proper friendship, civility, kindness, without signaling romantic interest? Christ never had to be anything less than kind because He didn’t want to send the wrong signals.
Anyway, with an exception or two, she was the first soul to speak kindly to me in a few days, and it wasn’t unwelcome. But if it was a test, I believe I passed. It’s possible I should reevaluate the wisdom of going out alone, given that last time I encountered that wild child girl who was so pretty on the outside and so uncouth inside. Visiting with family was an option, except that I was worn to barest patience, and one does not visit the family these days without a moderate reservoir of patience.
Yes, I’m afraid it was another long week at work. I was unfamiliar with my colleagues and prefer to remain so. I took a particularly unpopular stand for an issue, and found myself sharply criticized not just by friends, but by the very friends to whom I’d endeavored to reach out in one form or another. It’s a given that I try to be there when people are hurting or needy. After all, these days it’s not good form to break down and simply ask for help, especially if you’re a man. You set your jaw, you man up, you get over it and you move on with life. Some people don’t have any other option. So I include them in movie invites, ask how they’re doing, listen, encourage, pray and help practically whenever I can if need arises. To have them quickly leap to the worst conclusions and sharp rebukes ranked among the unkindest cuts of all.
Still further, many of them seem to wonder (or ask) what my problem is, relating to the topic discussed, which was whether or not a woman should be allowed to dress down or show skin. I’ve explained to some of them that being a man with honorable intentions is a daily battle. Among the voices inside each man’s head, the drumbeat of sex is ever-present. Books, magazines, advertisements, movies, TV shows and music all beat that drum until it is nearly inescapable. Sexuality pervades my culture; it is inescapable. I strive to master these thoughts, to take them captive, to discipline them and to continue looking at women as human beings, not objects. It’s hard when even women objectify women. For a woman to step out in varying states of dress (and summertime is notorious for such displays) only cranks up the volume and feeds the very desires we’re striving to master. For Christian women to assert their right to wear whatever they want, that it’s the man’s job to discipline himself, is the height of insensitivity and offense…to say nothing of naivete when it comes to taking precautions against the wiles of a predator.
So they ask me what my problem is. And because I’ve been a compassionate listener in the past, I know each of their stories. I know that each of them has either quietly given up their attempt to remain pure, or has quite flagrantly cohabitated with their boyfriend or girlfriend. They have cheated their way out of the frustration latent to doing things God’s way. And then, the gall to suggest the problem is mine?
“One day you’ll find her and none of this will matter,” sighed a good friend I later spoke with on the matter.
I don’t know that I have a hopeful plea to encourage you with in closing, my dear. What more can I say? Only that with each passing day, I strive to become a better person, and I look for you, and pray for you. And that I hope you’re doing the same…that you can be a quiet voice of reason and strength and compassion when the world turns against me. I know such expectations voiced aren’t nearly so entertaining to read. When you’re looking through a glass darkly, not all of the promises and hopes read as they ought.
Every fibre of my being awaits your unveiling. I hope you’re holding out for me, my dear. Always, always wait for me. Once I know where you are, I’ll always come for you.
Be Not Weary
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Sometimes, when I am toil-worn and aweary,
All tired out, with working long, and well,
And earth is dark, and skies above are dreary,
And heart and soul are all too sick to tell,
These words have come to me, like angel fingers,
Pressing the spirit eyelids down in sleep.
“Oh let us not be weary in well doing,
For in due season we shall surely reap.”
Oh blessed promise! when I seem to hear it,
Whispered by angel voices on the air,
It breathes new life, and courage to my spirit,
And gives me strength to suffer and forbear.
And I can wait most patiently for harvest,
And cast my seeds, nor ever faint, nor weep,
If I know surely, that my work availeth,
And in God’s season, I at last shall reap.
When mind and body were borne down completely
And I have thought my efforts were all vain,
These words have come to me, so softly, sweetly,
And whispered hope, and urged me on again.
And though my labor seems all unavailing,
And all my strivings fruitless, yet the Lord
Doth treasure up each little seed I scatter,
And sometime, sometime, I shall reap reward.
The days and feelings all jumble together.
Two nights ago, there was a great storm. Alegfast is away and I’ve the house to myself, and my heart smiled to hear rain on the roof. The clock struck midnight, and the lightning flashed on the horizon. I chanced to venture outside before a particularly close bolt strongly recommended the indoors as a safer alternative.
What phenomenal creatures, lightning! Transient suns in forests of rain, huntless game both proud and wild. They contain more power than we could hope to harvest, and yet are casually wasted in errant displays of might, flashing as if only for their own sport. They outpaces the blink of an eye, creatures “which doth cease to be, ere one can say it lightens” leaving its footprint on the ear only in the wake of departure. Yet they are idle enough to meander in their path. Fearsome to hunt indeed, would be the lightning.
The following day is mild and beautiful; it wants something done with it. It wants wordless enjoyment and appreciation, it beckons to be celebrated and reveled in. Yet, here I am torn, for words are all I can avail myself of which affords any sort of connection with you!
Changing winds always stoke up the restlessness, and this preview of autumn is no different. It wants for impatient chasing through pastures and by creeks, it wants for hiking and biking, snuggling and conversing. It challenges us to chase starlight and hail the smiling moon. There is nothing I can contrive to satisfy what this day wants of me. It wants us. Fleeting winds brush the skin only remind me they can’t be caressed in return, nor do they care. They only whisper “She’s not here. She’s not here. She’s not here.”
Uncertain of how to answer these challenges, I load up my bike and drive to the southern trail. The rain-washed sky against the vibrant green fields makes the perfect backdrop, and I listen to sermons as I ride.
Telling myself I can still go to work later in the evening, I open the windows, wash and lay down to rest. Hours later, I awaken halfway through the night, well-rested and faced with a neighborhood submerged in silence. Circadian rhythms are overrated once you break out of them. Now, with nothing better to do, I dress and go for a walk. It’s a morning crisp and chill, promising another mild and inviting day. Prayer and memory mingle with aromas and essences, some of them unexplainable. Why do I smell the old motorhome that my grandparents once brought to my childhood home? Or why the disinfectant which recalls a class three summers ago? How inextricable are the aromas from their memories.
Wherever you are, I imagine you are somewhere adrift on the high seas of your dreams. Your chest is rising and falling amid slumbering sighs, missing me during your days too if I’m not mistaken; you’ve no idea that you’re being prayed so intently while you sleep.
I’ve examined this paradox before, but I remove it from its box to ponder yet again. Contained within this life of mine are all the ingredients that should make a body happy. (And indeed, coming off one of my longest stretches yet, logging nearly a hundred hours at work, there is a sort of blissful content to be had, the kind only wrought by cessation of an unpleasant task, or a pleasant one maintained too long.) My work has purpose and meaning. I seem to find favor with my colleagues and clients alike. The path none too distant can only improve. During intervals in which I don’t work, I collect whomever will follow and find some dinner or a movie or both. I owe no financial attachment to anyone, and the Lord is attending all my needs. My prayers ought to consist only of thanks and gratitude. Indeed, for the present, there should be no petitions to present, no pleas to proffer. The Lord knew them before they were spoken the first time, and they’ve been spoken often enough since.
And yet. And yet, when I’m out here, I am aware that in a way, life hasn’t truly even begun yet. That’s a harrowing thought, considering the ages and afflictions of some of my patients aren’t so much greater than mine. This life misses the care and companionship of someone sensible, gentle and devoted, someone made kind from seeing enough pain and loneliness. The kind of person who wins me over with the little things.And you know, it will really be the little things. It’s always the little things that catch my eye, that give grounds for a second look. Someone using a minced oath rather than a true one. Someone who ignores or walks away from the obvious vulgarity. Something as simple as handing someone else a piece of cake before taking yours. The way you interact with children. There was a girl with whom I worked some days back. A patient, half out of her head, expressed fear. We attended her physical fears as much as we could, and as I left the room, I heard her gently ask if she was a woman of faith. Halfway out the door, I was awestruck as I listened to her unfold a prayer before the throne that would make any minister’s congregation proud. Oh, she’s taken, never fear. But it’s little things like that which grab and hold my attention. It’s the behavior of an outlier, and seldom have I seen such deeds as make me give glory to God.
She later confided troubles she faced between her family and her current suitor, troubles which I could tell she would not tell just anyone. (I’m always so infernally safe for people to confide in.)
And look at all my friendships. Most of them seem to be ministries of a sort. I wasn’t the sort of kid when younger whom others came up to and invited me along. I learned how to grow up on my own two feet. I can’t immediately think of someone who isn’t family that I’m not on guard against in some small way. Some nights, I conclude I need to leave people to spin on their own wheels for a while and attend my own needs. But only for a night. A full night’s sleep later, I’m fresh enough to start the circuit of checking in on people again, because I know they need someone to check in on them. I can’t really think of anyone who’s doing the same for me.
You know, I was listening to a radio program on my way home from biking, one of those programs that troubleshoots and advises couples on love and marriage. The wife interviewed spoke of mismatched blind spots she didn’t anticipate, like being a morning person versus a night owl, or serving someone who’s laid up sick. Surely these are the words spoken this side of ignorance, but the warnings mentioned did not even faze me. I’m both a morning and an evening person as need calls; and pull 24- and 36-hour shifts when need arises. I’m used to attending the needs of seven and twelve patients at a time, laid up sick and hurting and all having needs to be prioritized and met. Do you think one wife laid up will be a trial?
I am considered by many to be unwavering and unbending on many issues of import; but beneath that, beyond the standards laid down by God Himself, I believe most people who truly know me would say I am pleasant and easy-going. I don’t get hung up on the trappings and bickering of too many insignificant things like I’ve seen so many colleagues or friends do.
So when I make my vows to you, to serve and honor and cherish, it’s because I will mean it. When I discharge the duty laid upon me by the Lord Jesus through the Apostle Paul to love you as Christ loved His bride, it’s with the intent of loving you up to and including my own death. You will be my wife. You will be part of me. As woman was taken from man, so man takes woman back to himself; I will fold you into my own existence and protect you as my very own — bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. There will be times when reason rejects and inclination opposes; you won’t want to love me, nor I you, and for perfectly valid reasons that either of us is, in the moment, acting incredibly unlovable and stupid. There will be highs and lows of our voyage together. But when the storms come, at least you and I will have each other to stand beside at the helm.
Until then, my dear, I salute from afar the memories we have yet to make, and the appointments we have yet to keep. I’ll turn my attention back to the waves and sails, and navigate them as best I can until you come to claim your place at my side.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
My heart and soul are all to tired to tell;
So weary, Lord,
Of this long, ceaseless work of doing well,
Oh, I have been thy servant now for years,
Nor made complaint,
Though my life cup has been abrim with tears,
But now I faint.
And I have worked for thee, with all my strength,
In pain and woe.
My Master, canst thou chide me, if at length
I ask to go?
Oh, if the soul is purified by fire,
Then I am blest.
The laborer is worthy of his hire –
Lord, give me rest.
Rise and shine! This morning I’m drawing back the curtains and, if you were sharing my bed, kissing you awake. Have you ever been kissed awake? I expect you have. Well, we won’t dwell on it. It’s time to get up! I’ve already been awake, ran a 5K of my own devising, and have cooked up breakfast — yoghurt, oatmeal and hot eggs if you’ve stomach enough for them.
What then! Did you think your Beren was always beset by darkness? Nonsense. Darkness parts as surely as the sun rises. Night is no master over me, and dawn is ever the hope of men. And furthermore, I’d rather be empty from effort than empty from idleness. At least I know others have profited in the emptying. I daresay that one day you will be the heir to firstfruits of such labors, and then we’ll both have more to show for them than a mere paycheck.
I often know what I need, I just haven’t sense enough to follow through. My body wanted feeding and sleep, and I’ve given it that…a full shift’s worth, and well-earned if I may make such a pronouncement modestly.
Upon awakening, I breakfasted (at dinnertime) and then invited friends to join me for a movie, with dinner to follow. It’s worth noting as an aside that most of my friends of significance or depth are women. Perhaps it’s the necessary outcome of being a single man working and schooling in a predominantly female world. Or because the fairer sex still has the greater measure of consequence and depth. Regardless, if you notice this as a defining trait in my life once you enter it, please know that it isn’t something over which to become jealous. None of these women are pursuits or interests, but merely friends — friends for whom, I hope, I can set an example of what men ought to be. And anyway, in the case of last night, plenty of fellows were invited as well and declined.
When I returned home, I dispatched several of the menial household duties to which a bachelor is confined while profiting by another sermon before retiring to bed with a book. With the book I made progress; less so the bed. And so, I rose to run and eat and wake you to see if you wanted any. (Yes Darling, I’m afraid your future husband has just as much ebb and flow as any ocean, and his energy and vigor as unpredictable as the surge and swell of any tide. In short, no more or less human than any other.)
Smell, you say? Nonsense; simply the manly musk of an early morning jog! The sunshine is already spilling golden onto the cottages and byways of the kingdom; the sidewalks and lawns already teeming with squirrels and cardinals.
Now then, we’ve plenty of time before church to dine leisurely in the cool of the morning if you’ve a mind to awaken and join me on the patio. What’s that? Me come to bed? But it’s morning! What’s that?
Ohh. Yes ma’am.
Wait Without Hope
I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theatre,
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed
With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness,
And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama
And the bold imposing facade are all being rolled away-
Or as, when an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between stations
And the conversation rises and slowly fades into silence
And you see behind every face the mental emptiness deepen
Leaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about;
Or when, under ether, the mind is conscious but conscious of nothing-
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
It’s cooler than any July evening I can recall as I arrive home tonight. I’m just off another marathon week at work. I do it to myself; I always think I can make it, and always push myself to the breaking point. Then I look up, dripping sweat and expect someone to take pity on me for the exile I decreed. To sleep would be best, but this soul is far too swollen with thought to put to rest.
At least the furrows are back; the questions and cares from seventy-something hours’ labor heavily alight again, furrowing the forehead. As armor droops with fatigue, memory and languor pierce the chinks. Memory, of this time last year; languor, the conflicting desire to pursue my own happiness, knowing that for those trained to work emergencies, few things suitably get the blood racing any more.
The other night, a conversation turned to standards, and when the question was asked, what’s wrong with high standards, another responded “you’re disappointed more often.” I think perhaps that’s wiser than she intended. Once upon a time, a woman saw that as her primary obligation, just as I see tending your needs and providing for you and our family as mine. I know I have great expectations for you my dear. I want them to remain realistic. But recall, if you will, that in my world of sickness and healing, great measures of compassion are transacted daily. In short, it takes a great compassion indeed to impress a nurse. Yet as I’ve thought about it, for all the lonely women I see out there, and for the ones who took a shine to me, I can’t recall any of them showing me they were capable of taking care of me in the way a woman tends her man. I can’t recall her showing me how she could help someone be a better man, to see that his needs are met and that he’s looked-after. To reign him in when he gets out of hand trying to work. To make sure he’s not got off to work without his lunch, that he doesn’t need his aching feet massaged, that he doesn’t need a sympathetic kiss of understanding and gratitude.
Emma Darwin once wrote to her (in)famous husband Charles:
I cannot tell you the compassion I have felt for all your sufferings for these weeks past that you have had so many drawbacks. Nor the gratitude I have felt for the cheerful & affectionate looks you have given me when I know you have been miserably uncomfortable.
My heart has often been too full to speak or take any notice I am sure you know I love you well enough to believe that I mind your sufferings nearly as much as I should my own & I find the only relief to my own mind is to take it as from God’s hand, & to try to believe that all suffering & illness is meant to help us to exalt our minds & to look forward with hope to a future state. When I see your patience, deep compassion for others self command & above all gratitude for the smallest thing done to help you I cannot help longing that these precious feelings should be offered to Heaven for the sake of your daily happiness. But I find it difficult enough in my own case. I often think of the words “Thou shalt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.” It is feeling & not reasoning that drives one to prayer. I feel presumptuous in writing thus to you.
I feel in my inmost heart your admirable qualities & feelings & all I would hope is that you might direct them upwards, as well as to one who values them above every thing in the world. I shall keep this by me till I feel cheerful & comfortable again about you but it has passed through my mind often lately so I thought I would write it partly to relieve my own mind.
Could your words, like these, soothe and subdue the sorrow and wretchedness latent to the bands of mortality? Are you prepared, for the sake of your husband, to try?
I ran into an acquaintance last evening, quite by accident. Her countenance is fair, but her faith questionable and while she brims with energy, all too often it seems inappropriately and inordinately flirtatious. She is the kind that will show attention to anyone, and although any man likes a little attention shown, I sat with her and her cousin for the better part of an hour primarily out of courtesy. She regaled with stories of skinny-dipping and strip-poker, the bars she’s visited and her wild days of drinking, sex and partying. She wanted a picture with me, and sat far too close to get one. She exclaimed how she was looking for a nice guy, and only half-jokingly holding out for Tim Tebow. I asked if he wasn’t looking for the type of girl that’s been waiting for him, which clearly gave her pause. It’s perplexing that a woman should live her wild years and then entertain the hopes that the nice guys she’s sidelined for years in deference to her own pleasure will now be waiting for her.
I beg of her pardon, but for such women my inner voice is given to frequent retorts something along the lines of “get out of my sight.” I found her company vexing and wearying, simply because one hopes for fair soul to match fair face; to see boldness and find ambition to match.
Through it all, I long for the simple pleasure of your companionship. It isn’t as though your arrival fixes or guarantees anything. But your arrival is all I have left to ask of this world. The poets, lovers and romantics all speak of their continuing need and reliance upon their spouse, a love which, by merit of its very presence, bestows a healing touch on the troubles of man. The touch we each must live without.
Alegfast gone to the lake, and will be gone for an even longer span next week. The more I spend time with him and Gladbrui, the less sensible they seem, and as I’ve written previously, it’s hard to take seriously their complaints about a hard life. “There are few people whom I really love,” said Austen. “And still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.”
I don’t know what to do with myself in the light of such a society. I want to run. But I don’t want to run. I don’t want to go, but I don’t want to stay. I fit no molds. I don’t like thinking in a box. I seem to burn with an empathy to surpass that of a nurse, an initiative to catch the eye of a doctor and the skill to negotiate with a mad man. (We get them at work often enough.) I suppose I’ll always have a foot in different worlds. Those at work don’t understand that I write or am involved in politics. Those who are in politics don’t understand that I work in a hospital for a living. Those who are my friends don’t understand the clouds of darkness that sometimes seep from my soul, nor the burden of being a servant by commission, and being neglected by those whom you serve. I’m not a chicken soup for the soul guy, and I disdain meaningless tropes warmed over in vain attempts to inspire. I don’t go along with party lines. I stay informed about my country, and while we celebrate independence today, our world is far less free than it was. I persuade people of my beliefs through quiet persistence, reasoning and logic. I’ve done that for years, sometimes to people’s own amazement. I’m no prophet, but sometimes it seems I’m not truly happy unless persuading someone of the truth.
Do I say all of this to brag? A thousand times no. These are talents I’ve been gifted from above, abilities which I’ve sharpened, but which are burdensome to carry. With wisdom comes sorrow, and with knowledge comes grief.
How peculiar that we celebrate independence today, when true freedom comes only in confinement to the grace of God and reliance upon His provision. And, by His grace, each other.
I’m sure much of these thoughts are the delirious fruit of a fatigued mind, one that only wants sustenance and reprieve. When Elijah raised his complaint, the Lord sent only an angel with food and then let Elijah sleep it off. Funny thing about that old prophet. He won a tremendous victory before all of Israel, then panicked in the face of a wicked queen. He runs fleeing into the wilderness. “What are you doing here?” God inquires of him. “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty,” Elijah exclaims. “The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
No one’s trying to kill me, but the dismay at the rejection of God in my world, while I try to remain zealous for the Lord certainly strikes the same chord. And just as He did with Job’s challenging philosophies, the first thing God does is display His awesome power before him: “There was a great wind…but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake…but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire — but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”
True power isn’t swaggered.
But, God doesn’t promise to save you from fatigue, especially self-imposed. Nor does he promise to pay the bills. But beyond mortal troubles, there are times I walk and feel that I should pray, but that I haven’t time to pray for the people and places that need want it.
As I look back over the years, and even over these letters, it’s surprising to see how much we’ve grown. I think we all look back on our younger years with some embarrassment, don’t you? And yet at the same time, I think we all spend our lives in the shadow of our youth. That is, deciphering, interpreting, filtering and comparing most of our lives against the first 18 to 25 years of it.
Well now, Darling. If you love me, you may have to do some looking too. If you want me, come find me. I’ve tried, and will keep trying, but maybe this story is supposed to begin differently than either of us intend.
In fact, I have no doubt.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air;
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.
Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go;
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all,—
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life’s gall.
Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a large and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.
“The urge to run, the restlessness
The heart of stone I sometimes get
The things I’ve done for foolish pride
The me that’s never satisfied
The face that’s in the mirror when I don’t like what I see
I guess that’s just the cowboy in me.”
I’m not entirely sure my little vacation did me the good it ought to have. I think instead it was a respite without requiescence, disrupting the restless and sometimes reckless pace that I love — and hate — to maintain. The past couple of nights at work I’ve struggled. There were patients who offered a meaningful thank-you when I was able to console and relieve their pains; a tender reminder of exactly why I’m in this business. Of course, tonight I must needs reshuffle the sleeping arrangements for church tomorrow, and the hours of night already fly.
1) I went walking tonight, but I find my walks less productive of late. Perhaps they needn’t always produce fervent prayers or glimmering revelations, but it does seem as though desire and inspiration have trended downward. Perhaps I am in a holding pattern at the moment, biding my time for studies to resume, and until I find you. Perhaps desire smolders and inspiration is subdued through some disuse. I haven’t found you to live for and care for, nor anyone to render like compensation in my name. I think I’ll always need something for which to struggle, even though it weighs heavily at the time. I’ll always need something to which I can look forward as well. I hope you’ve likewise set goals for yourself? If not, I hope you will. I hope to learn archery, to ride a hot air balloon, and to once again straddle a horse. Then of course there’s the travel I mentioned, and the time to pursue more outdoors sports such as biking, canoeing and kayaking.
So my walk seems devoid of true purpose. The thoughts aren’t so loud as the often seem, nor so pressing. The silence seems a poor gift to lay at the throne, but so do the same names I’ve brought before, or the nameless, selfsame bride to whom I write.
2) There are nights where yours and my words will run dry. Ah, but that’s why they invented kissing.
3) I’ll write more about this one day, but as you might imagine, there are a great number of women who think shedding the majority of their raiment for seaside recreation is perfectly acceptable. By society, it is. (And what man wouldn’t approve of a woman feeling herself “liberated” from clothes?) By myself, it is not. Please remember, my dear, the simple reality that you can either cover up, or contribute to the constant battle of a man to look at women honorably, no matter how dishonorably they dress. Some men still wage such a war, and I greatly hope you will want to air on his side.
4) On my travels back, I sat between a Buddhist and a lesbian. I struck up a conversation with the former and, being a dabbler myself, was able to instruct him about some of the more technical points of photography and camera operation. The woman to my right paid some attention, and when our plane landed, we all sat down for a bit before our connecting flights. I was able to share the gospel with both of them at that time…perhaps the most gratifying moment of my trip. At a time when I felt like I’d neglected the things of the Kingdom, or that I wasn’t shining bright enough, it seems He sent to me the opportunity to shine for Him, and for that I was thoroughly grateful.
5) Within two sunsets of my having returned, I prevailed upon a friend to temper his urge to move, and accompanied him on a thirteen hour excursion into the deep south with a load of furniture and possessions. He is an intellectual, and he understands fully the perilous direction society is trending. Our conversation was heavy with topics ranging from Catholicism and transubstantiation to farm subsidies and taxation. Before we left, I had occasion to play with, feed, change and then rock to sleep his infant son. It reminded me again that although there are things I hope for us both to accomplish before we begin our own family, I will be gratified when the day comes. On our car trip, his father noted the Catholic enjoinment that marital intimacy was reserved strictly for reproduction. This reminded me that I am most certainly not Catholic.
6) I wonder what excuses I will find when I am finally out of school and fully commissioned, but this summer has afforded the opportunity to resume some reading. I’ve put away the Diary of Anne Frank, The Last Lecture and am currently working through Oliver Twist, to say nothing of the poetry I continue to peruse. (That last bit comes from a volume I found tonight in the shop, and is best read with a crisp Scottish brogue if you can manage it.)
7) Did you ever stop to wonder when you became “the smart one”? I’ve noticed an increasing trend here of late. A comment on the subjugation and colonialism of south African nations (and how diamonds are a marketing trick) led one nurse to look at me and ask, not entirely without sarcasm, how I got so smart. I’ve reached a cruising altitude in my job now where some nurses ask me questions. A friend asked me the meaning of a word. Naturally this makes me check myself to make sure I’m not swaggering knowledge. But of course, I forget not everyone is on the same page as I.
8) Do you ever evaluate in your own way whether or not God is happy with you? Of course, we are all made perfect in the sight of God, but if that is the only standard by which to measure, then there is no incentive in striving to please God passed the shadow of the cross. For example, does it make God happier that I sponsored a child than if I hadn’t? Would be be more pleased if I paid more? Not, of course, that the favor of the Almighty can be purchased, nor that scales such as the widow’s mites can be ignored. But I do find myself wondering, asking, hoping, that God can smile down from heaven in pride, knowing that His son is seeking and striving to better the world as often as may be, and imploring others to repent and be saved when he can. I do know that I need to work on grace and forgiveness, love and acceptance and patience. I think the prayer we must all pray is that God may make us more like His Son each day.
9) In olden days, men of valor performed great deeds and the minstrels sung of them. Now as a rule, neither men nor their deeds are great. They sit idly by and revere the minstrels. I live to see the most amazing things, working with the warriors, the guardians and sentinels, the menders and the healers, preservers of peace and keepers of health. We don’t ask for admiration. But on nights when I venture out among friends, I often harbor a hidden disbelief that they laud the vapid and insignificant stories and brush aside those who stand on the front lines of all that has meaning in this world.
10) Often it’s the saddest and heaviest of emotions that drive me to process them in a letter to you. I think it’s the same with God; we hear him best when hardship drives us to Him for answers. And so, when I seem to unburden the gravest of loads, I hope you appreciate that these are not the sum total of my thoughts or experience. Much of it means I’m only unhappy in your absence; that I don’t have someone else to live for, and that when I have entertained such hopes in the past, I’ve been far more pleasant to be around. My dearest, you’re the answer to this problem. You’re the other half. You’ll mellow me out. You’ll make me okay either with relaxing or with not being relaxed.
There’s more, Darling. There’s always more. But for now, the loose ends have been threaded through honesty’s ink-jar and arranged in a way which I hope you will find agreeable. Doubtless you’ll be rising before long for worship, and I hope you find it meaningful.
O Tell Me How To Woo Thee
If doughty deeds my ladye please,
Right soon I’ll mount my steed;
And strong his arm, and fast his seat,
That bears frae me the meed.
I’ll wear thy colors in my cap,
Thy picture in my heart;
And he that bends not to thine eye
Shall rue it to his smart.
Then tell me how to woo thee, love
O tell me how to woo thee!
For thy dear sake, nae care I’ll take,
Tho’ ne’er another trow me.
If gay attire delight thine eye,
I’ll dight me in array;
I’ll tend thy chamber door all night,
And squire thee all the day.
If sweetest sounds can win thy ear,
These sounds I’ll strive to catch;
Thy voice I’ll steal to woo thysel’,
That voice that nane can match,
Then tell me how to woo thee, love;
O tell me how to woo thee!
For thy dear sake, nae care I’ll take,
Tho’ ne’er another trow me.
But if fond love thy heart can gain,
I never broke a vow;
Nae maiden lays her skaith to me,
I never loved but you.
For you along I ride the ring,
For you I wear the blue;
For you alone I strive to sing,
O tell me how to woo!
O tell me how to woo thee, love;
O tell me how to woo thee!
For thy dear sake, nae care I’ll take,
Tho’ ne’er another trow me.