Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

Patiently Pacing

Dear Darling,

I believe everyone processes and reacts to events and emotions on different levels. There is a primary response,  that which is reflexive and impulsive, emotionally autonomic if you will. (Don’t be offended my dear, but in my experience, it is on this level that the female of the human race typically dwells.) There is a secondary level of response, that of analysis and reasoning, a more complex process of thinking and feeling and responding. However, it occurred to me today that my level of response seems to take place at a tertiary level, a blend of observing and reacting, but to the secondary level of response, and its peculiarities. In other words, “I seem to be feeling upset. How queer.” An analysis of the analysis.

So for example, after having worked a shift today as a favor to a friend, I get some take-home Mexican food (it’s not often I eat out, much less drive thru or order pizza) and make some notes for a radio appearance tomorrow. Ultimately, tonight I found myself pacing back and forth, feeling squirrely and restless; incomplete. It’s as if I had cabin fever, which of course isn’t the case. I like having the house to myself, but I do tend to go a bit nonlinear without human company.

This built-up of kinetic sentiment comes from frustrated analysis of how a day’s events impact me. It’s from missing the companionship I enjoyed over the summer. It’s from reading that another friend, with whom I once shared the same trajectory of life, is now expecting a baby. It’s from missing you. It’s from wishing things were different. In short, it’s from all the reasons that play into my everyday life. Engagements and pregnancies are commonplace these days, and while I’ll never get used to missing you, the sensation isn’t foreign.

So it seems in this tertiary process of observing the observation of the response, sometimes it takes a while, and sometimes it builds up. Being fairly adaptable to circumstances doesn’t help. (Heaven forbid either of my parents to be called home to be with the Lord, I know I would be too consumed with the responsibilities necessary to grieve.)

Just one more piece in the puzzle that we’re both trying to solve.

Yes, I’ll be on the radio again tomorrow. Of course, I can’t tell you where. It’s a local station, only for an hour. The host and I have formed a distant, amicable acquaintanceship. I didn’t expect the invitation, but it’s an excellent way to close out the old year.

God keeps creating opportunities for us to trust Him, and He’s creating another one for me now. In less than a fortnight, your Beren will be homeless. I’ve not yet found new living arrangements. (Rather than rooming off of a cottage, I’d be charmed to find a castle in need of a guard or two.) I suppose I should be worried about it. But I’m not. Our Lord has always looked after me; He won’t stop now.

And yes, I miss you still tonight, Darling. That old familiar desire came back, the desire to pick up the phone and call anyone who wanted to catch up. To scroll through a list of thoughts and interests strewn across a Facebook profile. (I use mine too much, and will try to scale back in this coming year.) I know it’s not your fault you aren’t here for me. But the end result is the same, so it’s hard. I don’t have any sensational New Years plans. If you were here, I would find us both a dance to attend, something formal and special and wonderful to ring in the new year…with kisses withheld until midnight, the strike of which would be rung in with plentiful kissing and embracing — in token of the hope we both share for the new year.

Hold on tight, my dear. I have a good feeling about this year.

Until then, you might just find me patiently pacing across the hands of a clock as it counts down the hours…the waning of the year, of my time in this house, and the time remaining until our meeting.

I will be patient forever if necessary.

Love,
Beren

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December 31, 2013 Posted by | About Me, Holidays, Loneliness | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not Just Anyone

UnknownBrideDear Darling,

“You should be talking to her,” he said. The officer, a friend of mine, who knows my goals and wants me happy. “How old do you think she is?”

I just shake my head.

Tell me, how do you deal with the people who, through no fault of their own, fail to hold your interest? Do you give almost anyone a chance, or are you as discriminating and skeptical as I?

For all their flaws and failings, people do try to be kind when they hear you are single, or newly-single, and will try to set you up with people.

How can you explain what you’re looking for to these people?

Someone at the megachurch tried very hard to set me up with her friend. Someone else has suggested that I date his daughter…or other women in that church. (I haven’t the heart to tell him that anyone satisfied by the superficial placebo sermons presented there is, much to my sadness, almost automatically out of the running.) A production volunteer has prioritized finding and talking to me between services, enough for others to think perhaps we are an item. (I neither encourage nor discourage her, but she knows I am not interested.) Another volunteer outright asked me to coffee.

At the hospital, one or two nurses have told me they want me to meet their daughters…or (between their smoking breaks) make subtle overtures of their own interest. (And in some cases, not so subtly.) And another acquaintance has suggested a girl I should meet.

Darling don’t think I tell you these things to brag or make you jealous. You know you have nothing to worry about, and I know that a woman as fair and kind as you must also be solicited frequently. How do you turn them down gently? I, who would not do injury to another’s heart for worlds, find myself in positions where I must decline with tact and gentleness. It’s kindly meant, but how can you explain the sum total of my philosophy on dating to such as these? How would you summarize the thoughts of these letters into a few fleeting sentences? I know many of these people sufficient to know they lack the qualities I look for in you, and I am skeptical of any other offers of strangers who might fit the bill. I know the impossible odds I face; a random stranger who goes to church and likes guns isn’t nearly a good enough reason to suppose there is great hopes for a marriage. And it’s not like I can ask random women for phone numbers based solely on looks like the rest of the world. In fact, I can’t think of the last time I met a devout servant of Christ where I work. Why pursue a woman and waste her time if you don’t see a marriage in your future? I’ve felt that connection before…those growing hopes that won’t be denied, no matter how viciously your cynicism wants them gone.

How do you tell the people that ask what you’re looking for? How can I explain that I’m looking for a lady rather than a girl? Someone of unimpeachable character, a fist of iron in a glove of velvet, a lady of exceeding purity and depth and faithfulness, a sanctified daughter of the King whose foremost goal is to shine for Him and to set other souls ablaze? Someone who abhors vice, of enduring strength and beauty and grace, who has weathered the storms long enough to recognize the fatigue of battle in another’s eyes, yet not so beat-down that she can’t kiss away those sorrows, or have her burdens lightened and joys multiplied in return?

You know I no longer desire furtherance of the dialogue on purity with my coworkers. I won’t shy away, but people always get quiet and, I think, guilty when I say I’ve upheld that standard and seek its equal in another. What if someone made a mistake, they ask. They think it sounds too harsh to say a woman may do as she pleases, but must accept the consequences of her decisions, since I want someone who values what is sacred, who is strong enough to keep those unspoken vows and has honored the marriage bed. But of course, it’s more than that. How do you explain shyness and boldness wrapped into one? How do you explain that you seek an enchantress who can bewitch with innocence? And how to contend with the many aspiring women who long for their own Beren, but without having to put forth the effort of becoming Luthien?

I need a caretaker for my heart, who will take it in hand and examine it for meaning, combing out the prickles, stings and scars from the day…refreshing it with compassion and grooming it to be loved. I need someone who asks but doesn’t question. Who shares its joys and smiles away its sadness. Who cleanses it with compassion, forgiveness, acceptance and unconditional love.

I love old people, and if ever I discuss the challenge of finding a good-hearted, God-fearing woman that walks the earth in these latter days, they often nod with grave sympathy and understanding in their eyes. They have watched the decline for decades longer than I, enough to know how bad it’s gotten. They know. And they feel bad for me.

You know now that there is nothing I ask that I haven’t already undertaken in myself. When you have my heart, all will be well and whole, and complete. We’ll never have to worry if it was a mistake, because I promise I’ll never marry if I lent any authority to such doubts. And truly, once you wear my ring, you will hold a foresworn promise of devotion and service, no matter what the cost. And all my hopes and purposes and dreams will lie with that ring, and its bearer. All that I have will become yours, not the least of which my heart. I won’t want anyone else. I’ll remind you I love you.

Sometimes, I imagine you already know who I am, and are just waiting for me to find you. Do you know, with a word, you could turn my world around? Sometimes I imagine a day when, if you were to find me, you come right up to me and say “Are you Beren?” or “I’m Luthien” and watch my entire world shift. Everything else would fade away except you, you would draw in all my attention and, as if on cue, I would probably say “What did you say?” Then we would find somewhere private and quiet to talk. All a fantasy of course, but don’t tell me you haven’t imagined your groom, in all his invisible armor and raiment, emerging from the crowd to take your hand and take your breath away?

If I could, I would find you now and set your world to spinning properly. If I could, I would enter your dreams this very night if that would sweeten them. I would find a New Years ball and take you dancing if I could. I would do anything to lighten your load and end your year on a high note. As it is, I can only bottle up these letters from the prison of your absence and hope they wing their way to your heart.

Love always,
Beren

December 29, 2013 Posted by | Holidays, Loneliness, Uncategorized, Wonderfully You | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Empty Hours

Dear Darling,

We’ve reached that time of night once again where I’m at a loss to fill the blank spaces between dinner and sleep. There’s a cold rain falling again, and it’s hard to believe there isn’t but 48 hours left in this year.

There’s never really anyone around this time of night to talk to. That’s probably a good thing. There aren’t that many people that should see me like this, or know who I really am underneath. Every man needs to keep up that barrier and illusion to preserve his dignity and pride. You’ve read far too many of my laments and elegies for me to attempt concealing them now. I’m sorry they’ve multiplied so much in your absence. Maybe the best thing will be to burn them some day, a testament to the end of the solitude. I hope you will remember that you’re reading only the rawest and most intimate of my thoughts here, in the gloomy and bleak recesses of my mind.

Do you miss Christmas yet? I do. The season lingers, like the wake of a train already departed, but the day itself is gone. The candy and candles went on sale, the music ended at the stroke of midnight, the cards are being swapped out, Christmas for Valentine’s Day. (Because Valentine’s Day is so much better.)

But the truth is, I missed Christmas even when it was here. When I was little, there wasn’t much to do but hang out and wait for Christmas to come, pass the time with games and videos and play. The boxes under the tree were well-shaken and well-known before they were ever opened. The last few years, the presents never felt my grasp until Christmas morning, and I was equally excited to give gifts as to receive them. Christmas for me has become like everything else, always been something missing, a song just out of sight, just beyond the horizon. Maybe I won’t find what I truly seek until heaven.

Sometimes, it seems to me that we sometimes get so wrapped up in the art and motions of an activity that we forget to enjoy them. Or is that just me? And is a moment as special or memorable if you’ve whipped out your phone to take subpar photos — along with everyone else? We put all our Kodak moments into the actual Kodak, thinking we’ve preserved them, when really we’ve left precious little to store in our own memories.

But it fades, like everything else. Christmas fades into the distance, and after celebrating the new year, we plunge back into the meager months. The empty months. Oh, I’ll find a way to fill them, never you fear. But each day will be a little bit emptier without you. Just like tonight. I walked out of church (feeling more than my usual share of disgust for the cheapening of the gospel) and find I’m staring down another empty evening. As much as going nonstop can fatigue me sometimes, it worsens every blank and silent evening.

It’d be nice to have a listening ear. Someone who specifically invades and intrudes to see how I’m doing, see what I need. Like the girl who once, in a conversation, abruptly asked “how’s your heart?” Always seems like it’s me shooting off texts or messages to see how people are doing. And it always seems like I keep running into people who disagree with me on such fundamental levels. They’re okay with it, while I am ever the advocate, becoming frustrated when I deconstruct the logic and philosophy of a belief, only to have it clung to in spite of the truth rather than because of it. Wouldn’t it just be nice to have someone who, on the important parts, agrees with me and sets my heart at ease that I’m not alone in the universe?

Well well, forgive another blue note in this ongoing symphony of letters, my dear. I’ll keep playing the Christmas music for a little while yet. After all, in ancient tradition, there were twelve days of Christmas. We’ve barely begun the fourth.

I hope you are well on this night, and preparing to celebrate the last Lord’s day of the year. May God go with you and grant you peace and illumination this night.

Yours,
Beren

December 29, 2013 Posted by | Holidays, Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , | Leave a comment

Needs and Wants

Dear Darling,

I’m back home again. Alegfast won’t be back for another week, so I have the house to myself. I walk through the door, suddenly finding it interesting to realize that home can now be in more than one place. I should have turned off the heat before I left; it’s comfortably warm in here and I haven’t been home in three days. I deposit my gear and it’s off to a shower by candlelight. (Cheap, fragrant and romantic…what isn’t to like?)

Playing overhead is the album Christmas Hymns by Paul Cardall. Darling, if you ever find yourself beset by the return of winter’s melancholy and in need of something to underwrite your Christmas blues, these songs offer a companionable solace. And yes you’re quite right, sometimes I am too comfortable reverting to my sighs and sadness. I have every reason to be a little lonesome…and yet, no reason at all. I need to be reminded of both those truths sometimes.

I should be praying as I shower, but instead I’m composing this letter to you in my head.

There’s a fine line between needs and wants sometimes. By most standards, I’m flourishing under the blessings of the Lord. Someone may argue I could easily reach the end of my days without having ever had you by my side. I may even be happy. They also say not to seek someone for completion or dependence. Marriage is mutual and complementary, but without it, I won’t die.

Well now, don’t the scribes and scholars tell us a man unmarried will die sooner? Doesn’t the Word tells us that finding a spouse comes from the favor of the Lord? Maybe I’m doing it wrong, but I think I shall be looking for someone to complete me, and on whom I can depend. I’ve never yet trusted someone so completely as to lean on them and trust them not to fall — not even myself. I know that even I will let myself down if I trust myself too much. But God made us to need  — or is it want? — each other, and there is no shame in the confession. I’ve never yet found someone who aspired to be that person…or who seemed to feel that she needed me in return. But I think anything less than a love which shamelessly needs me and requires my attention, which will fight for me and cultivate in me the same response, is not worth my time.

We all need to be loved. We need to be listened to, cared for, adored, needed. Maslow says we even need sex.There is a sleepless appetite which does not disagree.

We need also the practical needs to be filled. There are deadlines to be reminded about, bills to pay, meals to make. We need new ideas, different perspectives and conflicting preferences. We need someone to tend, guard, fret about, someone with whom to fight, and dream and share the popcorn. We all need someone to take to bed, someone tuck us in when we’re sick or to wake us when the alarm doesn’t go off.

We need someone to make us be our best, and feel and look and act our best. Someone to guide us on all those subjectives we toy around with. Do I like this perfume? Do you like that tie? Are these towels too ugly, and what kind of dog should we get? What shall we name it? Hardwood floors or carpet? I’m letting my hair and beard grow out for convenience (no matter how many times my family pointedly ask when I will be shaving) but as far as I’m concerned, this is nearly as much your decision as mine.

You and I have had to cope without all of these things for a very long time. And when those around us continually settle in with their temporary beloveds, sometimes it does make us wonder what we missed…and where the line is between patience and torture. “Better to have loved and lost than never loved at all,” they say. I ask this question often enough of both the forlorn and the fortunate, but there seems to be little consensus. If starvation is checked by one hearty meal, is it a kindness or a cruelty?

I do “need” you…unapologetically. You are among the many bright hopes I have for the coming year. So I hope you will stay strong as we alternate trudging and sprinting towards that wonderful finish line of each other’s arms.

I hope to find out a little more of the story behind those letters in the attic. They seem to promise stories, secrets and antiquity — a concoction you know I can’t resist — and a story that includes love, romance and a secret marriage!

Goodnight my dear. Look for me under mistletoe, behind snowflakes and next to the shadows cast by the flickering candlelight. And perhaps next to the Christmas close-out bargain bins tomorrow.

Love, cheer and Christmas kisses,
Beren

December 27, 2013 Posted by | Holidays, Loneliness, Questions | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Merry Christmas, Darling

“Greeting cards have all been sent 
The Christmas rush is through 
But I still have one wish to make 
A special one for you 

Merry Christmas, darling 
We’re apart, that’s true 
But I can dream and in my dreams 
I’m Christmasing with you 

Holidays are joyful; there’s always something new 
But every day’s a holiday when I’m near to you 
The lights on my tree, I wish you could see…I wish it every day;
The l
ogs on the fire fill me with desire to see you and to say 

That I wish you Merry Christmas; Happy New Year, too 
I’ve just one wish on this Christmas Eve 
I wish I were with you 

The logs on the fire fill me with desire to see you and to say 
That I wish you Merry Christmas; Happy New Year, too 
I’ve just one wish on this Christmas Eve 
I wish I were with you…
I wish I were with you.”

We’ve spent all our Christmases apart, Darling. Maybe this will be the last. Goodnight, I love you, and merry Christmas.

Beren

December 25, 2013 Posted by | Holidays | Leave a comment

Christmas Attic

LoveLettersMy Darling,

Did you ever begin a letter or a phone call before you knew what you were actually going to say? Some nights, the words burst at the seams and my only fear is the time and eloquence to arrange them presentably. And then some nights, I realize I just want to write you without knowing what to say.

Christmas has been cast over my corner of the world. It came in quietly about a half-hour ago. Its precious and fleeting moments are barely here 24 hours, but lighting up lives in so many different ways. There’s not to be any snow here, and while disappointing, that’s nothing new. I’m not surprised, there’s not a lot of magic that lingers in this part of the country sufficient to conjure a white Christmas. That’s okay. Save the snow for some wonderful night when the magic has returned, the moon is as full as my heart, and you are in my arms.

I’m staying at my family’s tonight. We’ve made a temporary bed in the attic. I was a child up here once, what seems like eons ago. I played for hours with my brother and sister. I helped build the closet in the middle of the room. I sat cross-legged in bean bags reading. I remember two different aunts up staying up here, neither of whom particularly cared for my side of the family. Maybe you and I will stay up here some night when we come home to visit.

It’s been made over once or twice, this room. They use it for storage, books, clothes and a sewing corner. It’s sufficiently cozy for a night or two, and while getting ready for bed, I spy a clear plastic box across the room, a treasury of those letters I wrote about before. Only they’ve been sorted and rearranged; there’s more of them, dozens, dated the late 1920’s and addressed to my great-grandmother. They’re yellowed and feel exactly like you’d expect a trove of love letters from eighty-five years ago to be. That’s them, there in the picture above, see? The catch is, I can barely read the scribbled cursive!

“My Darling – ” this one begins.

My Darling –

Well Jane, I am very sorry for the act that I have made. If I had only done the right thing, I’d have brought you back with me when I married you.

Jane, you know deep down in your heart that I love only you, and for you to write me such [something] understandable [something] it just makes my heart ache with pain. I am so very sorry if I have caused you [something something] the last straw that you are unhappy. So Jane, I’ve made you every kind of promise in all the world and I’ve tried to keep them, if I broke any I am so sorry.

Here reads another, eight months prior:

Dearest Wife,

I am sure that you are having a real good time [something] as I suppose that you will something the dance of the [something] on the [something]. I suppose the whole town has gone mad over the affair.

It has been raining almost all day and say it is very bad [altitude?]. 

I wish I could decipher them better, but the script is poor and strange to my sight. Maybe one day when I have nothing better to do, I’ll transcribe them. I suspect the word “affair” doesn’t mean infidelity, but there’s clearly a story to be told.

I’m away to bed now. Don’t forget, tomorrow night, under the mistletoe.

Love,
Beren

December 25, 2013 Posted by | Holidays, Loneliness | , , | 2 Comments

The Eve of Salvation

FiresideKissDear Darling,

Any war can end when either party resolves to discard all prior offenses. Consequently, I was under the shadow of the tree tonight in all its glory, dining with the family and watching a Christmas movie. My budget really wasn’t thrilled with the array of gifts purchased weeks ago and only now wrapped and brought to the tree, but it doesn’t matter. Whether or not it is returned, whether or not it’s always carried out in prudence, I am a giver and that cannot be changed. I always hand-wrap my gifts, and this year I experimented with some new packaging which turned out splendidly, minus the glitter on my cheek.

I’ll be headed back to spend Christmas Eve and Day with them, but for now I’m home. The clock strikes two. I used to be a stranger to this hour, but now it’s an old friend, full of thought and memory, rhyme and reminiscence. I wrap myself in them, and arrange their finer aspects for your consideration.

I cannot recall a time when Christmas and I were more estranged. I don’t like it, but I’m learning to be okay with it. It is a hazard of maturity, perhaps. Man goes from believing in Santa to disbelieving, to becoming Santa, to looking like him. I have not quite mastered the properly indomitable spirit of Christmas to be as giving as he, but the act itself is gratifying, and I enjoy the thought process of giving. Indeed, it came all too easily to me this year.

We grow wiser with each year that passes, I think, and with it comes the sight to see the problems of the world, and how gravely we still need the Savior born in Bethlehem.

It seems that to everyone I know, this Christmas, like the last, finds Christmas shining less than it once did, which causes me to think it’s more than just age that has seen its colors fade. If you think about it, fewer people decorate with lights than used to be. I remember going driving for hours with my parents to look at the decorations. The times are growing darker.

The traditions seem musty to me now. I shudder to imagine I have outgrown them, but I can quote nearly all the movies word for word, and the songs. It’s all very predictable. For me, the kingdom of Christmas needs refreshing, and I am too old to expect Santa to do it.

Perhaps it is proper that our shimmering veneer be peeled back for a time, that the days be seen as they truly are. Maybe the fact that work and school have kept from me many of the customs will allow them greater fondness through absence. Or perhaps the rest of the year has seen pleasures that simple Christmas can no longer rival. Regardless, stripping away many of the childhood comforts does help return one to the proper focus of the day, to the definition of true love, and remind us that there really is only one Reason needed this season.

You and I will make our own refurbishments, carve out our own new traditions upon our arrival. I’m certain you will breathe fresh life into my Christmas, and seeing my family’s traditions through your eyes will be a blessing. And one day, you and I will (I hope) be Santa and Mrs. Claus to our children. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize one cannot depend on others to make merry. Therefore, I hope you’ll understand my interest in hosting Christmas parties, and of course, a dance or two for the winter and new year. I’d certainly like our lives to be devoted in some measure to the happiness of others, and not just those who can reciprocate.

And of course, if I haven’t already exhausted the thought, there are so many nights awaiting us to sit with nothing on but firelight and tree light, sharing of our hearts and bodies and souls, waltzing to carols and murmuring our love amidst kisses uncounted.

The warmth and depth of my wishes for you this Christmastime transcend the weight of words. May joy inexpressible permeate every aspect of your season, and may you forget for a time the griefs and loneliness which life so rudely imposes. Be sure to find a sprig of mistletoe somewhere, and meet me underneath for our annual Christmas kiss.

Love always,
Beren

December 24, 2013 Posted by | Holidays, Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas Fancies

Christmas Fancies
Ella Wheeler Wilcox


When Christmas bells are swinging above the fields of snow,
We hear sweet voices ringing from lands of long ago,
And etched on vacant places
Are half forgotten faces
Of friends we used to cherish, and loves we used to know —
When Christmas bells are swinging above the fields of snow.

Uprising from the ocean of the present surging near,
We see, with strange emotion that is not free from fear,
That continent Elysian
Long vanished from our vision,
Youth’s lovely lost Atlantis, so mourned for and so dear,
Uprising from the ocean of the present surging near.

When gloomy gray Decembers are roused to Christmas mirth,
The dullest life remembers there once was joy on earth,
And draws from youth’s recesses
Some memory it possesses,
And, gazing through the lens of time, exaggerates its worth,
When gloomy gray December is roused to Christmas mirth.

When hanging up the holly or mistletoe, I wis
Each heart recalls some folly that lit the world with bliss.
Not all the seers and sages
With wisdom of the ages
Can give the mind such pleasure as memories of that kiss
When hanging up the holly or mistletoe, I wis.

For life was made for loving, and love alone repays,
As passing years are proving, for all of Time’s sad ways.
There lies a sting in pleasure,
And fame gives shallow measure,
And wealth is but a phantom that mocks the restless days,
For life was made for loving, and only loving pays.

When Christmas bells are pelting the air with silver chimes,
And silences are melting to soft, melodious rhymes,
Let Love, the world’s beginning,
End fear and hate and sinning;
Let Love, the God Eternal, be worshiped in all climes
When Christmas bells are pelting the air with silver chimes.

December 24, 2013 Posted by | Holidays, Loneliness, Poems | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Worth It?

Saddened Knight

“He believed in the things that he always thought he knew
And had done all the things that he always wanted to do
Collecting each thing, reflecting his worth
But now he pondered, how he had wandered this earth

For we all seem to give our lives away
Searching for things that we think we must own
Until on this evening when the year is leaving
We all try to find our way home.”

Dear Darling,

The storm’s blown over. I woke up this morning before alarm or sun, finding myself feeling hurt and distant, continuing this feeling of being on the outside looking in. Four and a half hours’ sleep will have to do. I roll over and begin telling these things to God, but even He feels distant.

I don’t have to be at the church for two hours, but I dress anyway and prepare breakfast while asking of the Lord what He would have me do. Am I truly in His will? To be sure, He has blessed me with unique and rare gifts and experiences this year, and taken care of all my needs. I am not rich, but if enough is as good as a feast, then I have feasted. But does that mean I am doing what He wants me to do?

The question that has been haunting me of late is, has any of this been worth it? Trying to be worthy…worthy of God’s favor by following His laws. Worthy of men’s favor by being a servant, a hard worker, someone who helps. Worthy of you.

I have not seen my family in a week; it’s the first time such hostility has gone down, the first time I actually thought I would be disallowed from spending Christmas with family. I serve them as best I can, and am treated worse than my elder brother. Mounds of ill overshadow mountains of good.

Is it possible to please God? “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Therefore, there are very specific things that I have tried to avoid in deference to remaining unstained from the world. I don’t drink. I don’t indulge the angry or frustrated impulses to swear, although God knows the words have entered my ears often enough to be found in my heart in times of anger. I don’t go to see movies which I feel dishonor Christ with such behavior, and I view dimly the celebrities who do so.

These are rifts between myself and my culture, and with this culture, they grow ever wider. Very often they occur between myself and my friends, or coworkers, or even would-be mates. I struggle not to think less of them for these behaviors…drinking to become drunk or even “tipsy” or leaving unbridled their tongue of fire. A good friend of mine explained that she would not have had the courage to dance unless she’d “had a few.” Friends gather to watch movies or shows that are crude and crass. “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving,” wrote Paul, and so I try to avoid indulging in such entertainment. The other night I made excuses to leave a gathering because their plan was to watch an R-rated movie…a gathering which revolved around “church.” I still wince inwardly at every single profane word (particularly that of my Savior’s name) even though I hear these words constantly. The minute someone casually swears, they have told me a lot about themselves and it saddens me. When someone shuffles around in tight-wrapped jeans, indecently short skirts, obscenely tight yoga pants or revealingly low-cut tops, they too broadcast a message which saddens me.

Whatever happened to Philippians 4:8 and thinking only on what is righteous? Whatever happened to walking as children of light? Whatever happened to putting away “anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth” or not even naming sexual immorality and impurity? Is life so miserable that we must chemically augment its reality with fermented grain and grape? Is God asleep that we should defy Him by conversation riddled with the ugly and bitter words of profanity? Is the darkness not sufficient for our ignoble deeds that we now parade them into the light and make them acceptable? “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

But why? What is the good of trying? Why worry about trying to please God? Where did we get the idea that our good behavior will be rewarded? The Bible talks of obedience “so that it may go well with you” but even the Psalmist worried and wondered about the righteous man suffering while the wicked prosper.

The challenge goes like this. I hold a standard, of finding a wife who is wholesome and dignified and pure. People ask me what I’m looking for, and then question that decision because it tweaks their own guilt. “We’ve all made mistakes,” they say. “If you’ve looked with lust, it’s the same as having sex,” others insist. (Looking with lust is a sin, but surely not equivalent to the deed itself?) “You have no room to judge if you’ve ever looked at pornography.” Can it really be true that the occasional loss of every man’s battle is tantamount to fornication itself? Do the moments of weakness which I would easily forgive or overlook in a mate nullify the hope or expectation for a partner who is not plundered of physical purity by choice and surrender? Are some sins not greater than others, or do we damn a child’s lie with equal enthusiasm as a murdering rapist? And if the sins and their penalties are commensurate, why wouldn’t someone struggling to please the Lord choose the sin with greater pleasure?

The Workers Wages and the Prodigal Son, of which I’ve written before, both point to the futility of sacrifice, of following God and disciplining one’s self to remain unstained by the world. Where is the incentive to act in a way which pleases the Lord if there is not greater merit to be found in obedience? I esteem more highly those who take God’s will seriously, and who have disciplined themselves sufficiently to follow His word. Likewise, I aspire to the same standard to please God and show Him to the world. But in doing so, I’m accused of thinking myself better than others, or of looking down on others. Not to say I am better than anyone else, but if there is not greater value to be found in such pursuits, why ever would we try to uphold a higher standard, or to find fellowship with others of like mind? Why not drink? Why not carouse? Why not flirt with disaster and dance on the fire’s edge?

Thus is the riddle. Obeying a standard earns no favor. Asserting such a standard means you are judging. Seeking it of others is too discriminating. A disappointed or diminished opinions from such behaviors make you critical and harsh.

Very well then, why have I tried so hard, consciously trying to prepare myself for a wife of virtue, faithfulness, kindness and compassion when none seem to be found who desires the same, and when others encourage me to lower these expectations out of practical reality in the world? Why place a higher premium on good behavior if everyone in the kingdom is redeemed, and preference beyond that is subjective and ungracious? Perhaps she has slept with a man or two before she got holy. That is no reason to reject her. I might just as well bring home a repentant murderer or a penitent stripper — after all, if they are forgiven, who am I to judge?

You cannot earn God’s favor but through Christ. But can His favor be earned beyond that? Are all really on the same platform, the repentant serial killer and the charitable benefactor? Does God really care whether we drove ten nails or ten thousand into the cross? If there is no favor except by the blood of Christ, why try to be “good” if you cannot maintain any higher degree of pride, favor or approval from God for “behaving”?

And what of your favor? As my third decade dwindles and I cannot find anyone to match your description, I find myself asking what was the good of trying to anticipate how to please you, when all I can find are those who insist I should lighten up and relax.

But fear not, Darling, if fear you ever did. Conscience and principle still forbid great departures from the path of wisdom. But increasingly, I fail to see the solution to this riddle between virtue and virtue’s reward. Increasingly, despite the words of Paul in Romans 5, blanket pardons and those who wave them increasingly appear as a license not to worry overmuch about one’s sins. Let those who read and follow hereafter gainsay if they can.

Love ever,
Beren

“For we all seem to give our lives away
Searching for things that we think we must own
But on this evening when the year is leaving
I think I would be alright if on this Christmas night
I could just find my way home.”

Trans Siberian Orchestra

December 23, 2013 Posted by | Holidays, Loneliness, Purity, Questions, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Longest Night

Dear Darling,

It’s the longest night of the year. It’s unseasonably warm, and they just stopped sounding the tornado alarms. (As if I fear such a death.) It’s only rain now…rain and candlelight.

Tonight, it is once again the best of times and worst of times. I have finally conquered the hurdles that have been clouding my horizon since May. My mind is finally free, to think again, and to dream. I can read books again, rest without guilt, work some overtime, and even, Darling, I even sat down at the piano tonight. What a burden to be free of!

On the other hand, bizarre tumult within my family has led to some curious and temporary estrangements that have put my relationships in a slight tailspin. That and other factors shadow the edge of my success, and coworkers rather than family celebrated it with me.

It is the lonely fate of man to sail the seas of heartache, and nowhere is it written that anyone should be exempt.

I feel bad for the students who now stand where I stood, but I was grateful to witness at least one of them on the verge of melting down, that I could intervene to buy her hot chocolate and talk her through her fears. It seems I’m often appointed to be the person for someone else that wasn’t there for me when I needed the same thing. That is partly why we suffer, isn’t it…the better to help others.

I’m going to feel lost again with “only” work to occupy my time. I want to read more, but I’m often torn between reading books which better myself (history, philosophy, educational), and books that I enjoy reading for their own value.

And of course, need I say it? I miss you. You know I do. Such fun we could have on these nights…surrendering to winter’s enchantments. The snow, the skating, the movies, the decorating, the parties and gatherings…the dancing! Your Beren went dancing the other night my dear. I never much thought it would be for me until I found you, but then, I’d always wanted the chance to learn within the confines of obscurity.

I wish you were here to celebrate with me, to congratulate me and invite me over.

Whether in storms or gentle rain, stay strong and keep your head up, my dear. It won’t be long.

Love,
Beren

December 22, 2013 Posted by | Loneliness, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment