Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

From Luthien (#2)

Dear Beren,

What if you waited all these long and lonely years, and stumbled right before you meet me?

Don’t worry, Beren dear. Cast all your cares on Him. He cares, and so do I.

Love and kisses,

-Luthien

January 29, 2013 Posted by | From Luthien | Leave a comment

Grief Unbidden

There are some nights, moonless and shrouded, when the darkness reaches in for an embrace. There are some nights when the devil’s snares are laid bare and you tremble, even atop heaven’s gate, for those caught by them. There are some nights where one feeling feeds into another like a caustic mixture, boiling over into words that race breathlessly through the mind, compelling you to rush through a shower just to get to your keyboard and give them their head.

She was nothing more than a business colleague. Not even a business, just a nonprofit. Someone two thousand miles away who began working with me over the phone as a liaison to a large entity in her state. The topics slowly expanded to cover more than just our mutual business. She was hardly unattractive, yet she was professional, mature, competent and ambitious. She even texted at random intervals merely to ask how I was doing or follow up on situations of a harmless, personal nature every now and again.

If a woman’s body irresistibly draws man, a woman who randomly and sincerely inquires after my well-being or remembers to follow up with me about something which should be of no consequence to her irresistibly draws me. Or at least, draws my attention.

And whether out of desperation or simply recognizing the same listener’s ear so many others have complimented me on, she opened up at times about uncertainties in her life. Pains, disputes, challenges, even complications with her boyfriend.

He seemed unhelpful to her in her hour(s) of need, but I was engaged in conversations with someone else and had no real motivation, opportunity, means or desire to truly pursue this girl. So I listened. I offered thoughts. I defended the boyfriend on some occasions, but was also very pointed in noting his flaws, whether they were chronic, and what they would mean for their relationship long-term.

She shared his shortcomings and her frustration about them again. I inquired why she remained involved. I asked the question I shouldn’t have asked, the question I always, always regret asking and yet the lay-counselor side of me needs to know, the lonely virgin longs to know, and the small percentage of prurient curiosity itches to know. Was she sleeping with him? To learn what a man truly is, encounter him when he has nothing to gain, I advised.

Though her story was sad, the ultimate answer was yes.

My heart sank.

In the movies when beloved characters die, the main character(s) always scream “NOOO!” as if their verbal denial could undo the indelible passing of time. It’s called denial, one of the well-known stages of grief. The others are anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

I still don’t know why I take these things personally. A close friend of mine I tried to counsel, strengthen, encourage, also confided she had surrendered her virginity. I withdrew from the online world for several days. Somehow, it always strikes a resonating chord of deep, deep sadness in me whenever someone admits this. It’s even harder when I think it’s someone I would like to know better.

The lay counselor is saddened. He knows this makes things far more complicated, introducing baggage, bonding, and the possibility for pregnancy and disease. He also mourns the loss of innocence, another priceless gift surrendered with regret.

The lonely virgin just needs to know there are others out there, Vow-keepers, beacons of strength, even if unseen. He needs to know he’s not alone. He needs to know he’s not the last bastion of morality and discipline…that his wait isn’t in vain, that someone of surpassing worth will one day look at him with proud, shining eyes and tearfully thank him for the long and weary years of battle against the indwelling desire to surrender. And more than that, he needs to know there are others, with heads held high, standing tall, sharing the struggle and remaining undefeated. He needs to know, like Frodo, that “as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.”

And the pruriently curious one, well, he just feels jealous and left out, wondering when it’s going to be his turn, angrily contending with the fierce and volatile appetite to which he is chained.

So all three, residing in this same man, experience the grieving process. He is in denial, literally shaking, filled with grief over something which is simplest and commonest and yet most profound and bitter. There are no U-turns on that path. One “first” is all any of us are given, throughout all eternity. It can’t be undone. The seal is broken. The fruit is bitten.

He is angry. How could she be so weak? Why must she continue to be appealing otherwise, who has now so quickly and predictably removed herself from the book of possibilities?

There is no bargaining. There may be some depression and acceptance, but the stages of grief aren’t linear. You can’t peg down human emotions into a solid timeline. You can traverse them all in an hour, a day and a year. They are cyclical; they chase each other.

Why? Why mourn a stranger’s choices? Just because they preclude your own? Because they make the flesh envious? Because someone is out there, otherwise a decent and kind person, “getting some” and you aren’t?

I can’t answer those questions. But I do grieve. I grieve for each person who has chosen to leave the path of wisdom, even those claiming they didn’t know better. And there have been so many! Each of them left me a little bit lonelier. Each of them leaves me a little more sad about the world. Each of them makes the quiet side of my heart ruefully wonder if I will either have to join these vow-breakers, or be the only one to arrive to the honeymoon bed with my gift intact.

Choose your actions well, friends. All of you. No soul ever truly knows the impact they will have on the choices, thoughts or peace of another.

January 27, 2013 Posted by | Loneliness, Purity | 2 Comments

I’m Not Normal

“It may sound absurd, but don’t be naive
Even heroes have the right to bleed
I may be disturbed, but won’t you concede
Even heroes have the right to dream
And it’s not easy to be me.”
– Five for Fighting, “Superman

Dear Darling,

I’m not like the rest.

Oh I know, everyone says that. They all proclaim how unique and original they are.

They have no idea.

I’m not like them. I’m not normal. I don’t think like the normal person. I don’t feel like them. I don’t act like them. I don’t see the world the way they do. I’m not looking for what the normal person looks for. I’ve never been normal and never gotten along with what the world calls normal.

I never will.

Parts of me are divided. I have a stake in the property of many different worlds, none of which understand the other. As such, I have to conceal those parts of my life from the other, simply to blend in and appear normal.

At times when I was younger I tried to welcome the odd ones and make them feel normal. Somewhere along the way, I figured out I was the odd one. I learned the world and I operate off entirely different paradigms; we don’t understand one another.

That’s not always a bad thing. I don’t want everyone to be like me. I like being original. But as a Christian it goes beyond just taste or preference. Sometimes it’s right or wrong. But sometimes it’s hard to know what is just personal preference (the standards you’ve grown up with, coupled with the “Christian gray areas”) and what is sin. There are some things, even the finer points of faith, that I believe need to be represented. Discipline. Chastity. Wisdom. Sacrifice. Service. The goal is to be at the place where if everyone had the character of Christ that dwells in me, however imperfectly, it would be better. But God created variety, and uniformity “even” of myself would be intolerable.

They tell you as an adult not to judge people for what they’ve chosen. What this actually means is, make people feel bad for being good, and don’t make people feel bad for being bad. I made a decision not to drink or swear or watch horrible movies. This means not joining people when they do these things for fun, because I can’t go along with it in clear conscience. But people are mad at me because I don’t. They ostracize me, because they feel guilty for the things they do. I remind them they don’t have to, much like a woman who has worked hard to become fit and healthy is disliked and frozen out by women who desire her success but not enough to duplicate her effort. Sometimes, I take a stand and people feel condemned. Sometimes, through silence or abstention, they feel condemned anyway. And so, feeling judged or condemned — even silently — they judge and condemn. They sentence me for a crime I didn’t commit.

“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own,” Jesus explained. “As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,” Romans urges. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

1 Corinthians says not to associate with the sexually immoral, but says avoiding all in the world who habitually sin would require leaving the world. Yet, it says, do not even eat with those who claim Christ yet are habitual sinners. We are to keep ourselves unstained from the world.

How do you do it? How can you remain unstained by the world, frowning at sin and smiling at the sinner, appealing or coaxing them into the kingdom? They know you don’t approve of sin. But did I draw these battle lines? Did I force the issue, or force the division? Not at all.

Yet I’m excluded. I’m shamed and condemned not for choosing wrong, but right. Very literally, I’m in the world but not of it. I’m weird.

Sometimes I don’t want to be. I’d like to know what it is to blend in; to be accepted, or to have these common experiences with which to identify. To go through these common experiences of high school and prom, a first kiss at 16 and first bittersweet heartbreak at 17. But coupled with that seems to be this foolish, stupid behavior brought about by playing social games and trying to impress peers. I was young, yes, and plenty stupid. But I didn’t have peer groups to entice me into trouble. I was never “foot-loose and fancy-free.” My greatest vice may only have been laziness and a lack of vision or ambition. (I’m more than making up for it now, I assure you.) I was never reckless, never heedless of the consequences.

Everyone else is. They live in the moment. They don’t plan their lives, they let life plan them. Instead of imagining saving up all their love for one person, they sprinkle it around and play at it. Rather than daring to hope for something great, they settle. They don’t establish a foundation for a wife and children before they have them. They overspend their resources, and then complain at being poor.

So it’s hard to find people who “get” me. There’s always some hidden side of me that, if known, gives people to know I’m different. I can talk about work and school and family and friends, but I am furtive to bring up the opportunities God has given me in my “double life” pursuits. Maybe, Darling, if I did find these people, I’d be writing fewer letters.

But maybe that’s just as well. Maybe I only want a few people who get it…who get me. Darling, maybe you’ll be the only one who does. I can tell you one thing. The day you “get” me is the day you get me.

There is an ironclad fragility to being different…to being alone. Outside, you are unbreakable. Inside, frail and brittle.

People are intrigued by me.  They don’t understand me, and yet they want to. They say I’m special, and different. They don’t understand, to be different is to be alone.

Maybe all I’m looking for is something as strong as I am. It seems like everything and everybody caves to stress if pushed enough. I guess anyone would. But I haven’t caved to sexual temptation, or many of the other vices to whose grip people so voluntarily surrender themselves. I want someone with the same strength under pressure. People tell me I’m strong and have a strong personality. I want someone who can match that…who can match me. At least a little. I want to be impressed and amazed, and that just doesn’t come easily for me anymore. I know we’ll have different strengths, and that’s just as well to overlap our weaknesses. But I want those different strengths to be of equal tenacity.

Ultimately, I’ve got to be me. The me continually rejuvenated and reformed by my Savior. The me following the path appointed by His calling, the me constantly striving to be better than my former self, and inspire others to do the same…but me. I must guard and monitor myself to be kind and loving, but I can’t keep obsessing over who thinks what about me. One moment people are doing things that seem improperly familiar to my way of interaction, and they’ll tell me I’m too stiff. The next moment, I’ll do something less formal and more familiar and someone is uncomfortable by improper familiarity. It keeps me guessing, in a constant state of foolhardy social anxiety. I don’t care anymore.

It’s important to be me.

It’s important to remind myself — and you — I’m not normal.

Love ever,
Beren

January 24, 2013 Posted by | About Me, Loneliness | 1 Comment

Two Weeks Later

Solitude

“Spend all your time waiting
For that second chance,
For a break that would make it okay.
There’s always some reason
To feel not good enough,
And it’s hard, at the end of the day.
I need some distraction,
Oh, beautiful release.
Memories seep from my veins.
Let me be empty,
Oh, and weightless,
And maybe I’ll find some peace tonight.”

Dear Darling,

I may be writing less frequently the next few months. I don’t yet know if this is good news for you or bad.

I know that tonight I’m missing you again. I miss you every day, but some days are worse than others. I’ve plunged back into my studies, into work, into my double life. And somehow, I find my light dimmed a little tonight. It is but a temporary depletion, but I’ve shone a little too much. I want to step back for a while and be calm and quiet and at peace. I don’t want the burden of importance or responsibility. I want you. I want us to be boring together, to relax and be at peace and let the rest of the world go by. I want to find hidden meadows or solitary streams, a modern and beautiful log cabin high up on a mountain. I want our island. I want time just to be alone, you and I. To come down off this frantic restlessness in my mind. I don’t want to think about debates or work.

I want to go walking along a beach at twilight and let the waves soothe the mind, to stand on the overlook and gaze at the stars. To walk slowly down a misty forest path, you with me, the dirt quietly crunching under our feet, with fireflies and moonlight to show the way. I’d like to take shelter in your arms, and comfort in your kiss. I’d like to chase down a thoughtful solitude, to let the world worry about itself for a while.

And it’s so funny, because I never choose it. I never choose to take care of myself, to relax. I need you to pull me away like that.

Tell me; do you think is it wrong to want not just to be joyful but happy? Do I ask for too much to want my breath stolen away? To feel the pull of love and desire and romance even if I must master it?  To find an equal? Would it be okay for just once in this life to find what I’m really searching for? To find someone who arrests my attention and affection, who catches me by surprise, makes me say “whoa!” Can I not just sweep you off your feet, but have you sweep me just a little bit?

“Don’t embrace more darkness than you do light,” someone wisely told me lately. But where is the light? In the Lord of Heaven, and His word of course. But were we not made to need each other too? Where are the people willing to be lights in this world — a world which condemns those who shine because we burn to the touch, we cast away darkness and blind the eyes of those accustomed to it?

I’m not sad tonight, Darling. Or if I am, only a little. I’m just pensive, missing you, and missing myself — the me I know I’ll become with you.

Goodnight and Godspeed.

Love always,
Beren

“So tired of the straight line,
And everywhere you turn,
There’s vultures and thieves at your back.
The storm keeps on twisting.
Keep on building the lies
That you make up for all that you lack.
It don’t make no difference,
Escape one last time.
It’s easier to believe in this sweet madness,
Oh, this glorious sadness,
That brings me to my knees.”
Sarah McLachlan

January 19, 2013 Posted by | Loneliness | Leave a comment

Sundry Thoughts for a New Year

Dear Darling,

Happy New Year. For someone who loves the old and traditional, somehow the phrase seems trite to me. Oh, it’s not that I’m unhappy. I’m just in that pensive and somber mood I get in from time to time, conditioned by loneliness.

I didn’t have enough time to enjoy the holidays. Or if I did, I didn’t take it. It didn’t count. About the time I was able to relax enough to feel the magic in the air, I was smelling the wake of Christmas as it disappeared over the hill. I didn’t have enough time to reflect fondly and thoughtfully over the past year and settle into the seat and welcome the new year with arms wide open. My family traveled a short distance to spend an hour or two with my estranged older brother — the one who abandoned my family years ago and has been hostile and absent ever since. The encounter went strangely well, but I had to be back home for an early day at work. Thus I barely saw the new year arrive before I had to retire for the night.

The next day was spent in nothing short of paid, vigilant idleness. (I do so hate inaction!)

Interestingly enough, the evening was capped off with a date I arranged with a certain young lady who I thought was out of the picture but returned. The reasons for her departure were not what I thought, and upon a chance encounter I suggested we meet. It was a true date, Darling, and while we both agreed there was no call for a second, it put me in the mind of how fun it would be to arrange dates for you and I. She and I…we just weren’t on the same page. It’s disappointing, but no venture fails which gives you direction…whether it be which path to take, or which path not to take.

I question myself in this whole scheme of dating and courtship. I can hardly stand accused of treating dating flippantly, but there seems a balance I cannot find. Some say relax, turn it over to the Lord, and don’t try to take your fate in your own hands. It will come when you’re not looking. Others say God gives man a choice and a will and He expects us to use them. When I relax and am not active, as I was for years and years, nothing happens. When I am actively seeking, choices seem to pour in and I am overwhelmed to evaluate, and none of them seem like you. That’s my problem, I guess. I think too much about the rest of forever. I don’t ask if a girl is merely pleasant or cheerful to be around. Internally, I’m asking if she’s you. I don’t ponder if she’ll be fun for a few more dates…I ponder if she’ll die beside me in sixty years. In the purest possible way, I’m trying on every woman I meet or go out with to see if she’s you…to see if she could be you. Now many would say that I am placing too high a standard on her, but really I’m not that strict. There are many hopes I have for you, but not so many of them are dealbreakers.

Thus, I don’t know if I am being too human in taking my fate into my own hands, or showing proper kingdom initiative in searching for God’s best. And once again, I’d really rather He just point you out to me and let me pursue you. The uncertainty of being right, and the gravity of getting it wrong, are both difficult anchors to weigh while going out “just to have fun.” The funny thing is, when it comes to conversation, most people tell you to stay away from the “big three” topics: sex, politics and religion. I very naturally find myself discussing all three. They are fundamental and important.

School will be starting back soon, and I’ve barely de-stressed from the last semester. Coupled with that, there are duties in my other life that lend a sense of urgency for action. It would become a full-time pursuit if I was not careful, and I am grateful that God reminded me I’m not accountable to work in that field alone. It is one in which I can do much good and from which I can even profit, but it is not my ultimate destiny.

Meanwhile, as if all these luxuries were not opulent enough, I also fell sick once again, a good fierce flu bug. Reminded me of who you might be when I’m sick.

I’ve had occasion to be told again how much my work means to some. It pleases me to know that. I was put here to minister and persuade, to coach and coax and fight for the truth. But sometimes, gratitude isn’t enough. I still need the one person who won’t say thank you and then leave. Sometimes I just need someone — someone wearing my ring — to slide their hand up my arm and say “hey, c’mere big guy.” And I’ll say “why, what is it?” and you’ll say “just come here. Sit down. Breathe. Relax. You’re working too hard. Your forehead’s all scrunched up. Just sit.” And I’ll protest that I have too much to do and you’ll say “just SIT.” Your voice is firm but gentle and loving.

Because I don’t. I don’t take enough time out for me. The world keeps on spinning and I keep on chasing it, trying to keep a dozen flames of hope alive, trying to kindle new fires and beat back old enemies, while studying and working. I don’t let myself relax like I ought.

But for you, for the person who cares enough about me to arrest me from my perpetual motion, I’ll sit. I can’t even imagine what a back rub would feel like right now. Arms wrapped lovingly around my neck, hands rubbing my hair. I can’t even imagine what it would be like for someone to care enough to give me those things, to look out for my needs even as I look after hers. But the thought fills me with a heartfelt longing, and enough motivation to keep searching for you, however long it takes.

I won’t give up on you. Don’t you give up on me.

Love always,
Beren

January 6, 2013 Posted by | Holidays, Loneliness | 1 Comment