Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

All Too Tired To Tell

Tired
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

My heart and soul are all to tired to tell;
So weary, Lord,
Of this long, ceaseless work of doing well,
Without reward.

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.

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July 12, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Poems | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gentle Whispers and Great Expectations

Dear Darling,

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.

Love always,
Beren

July 5, 2014 Posted by | Holidays, Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Asylum of Solitude

Weeping Knight

Solitude
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.

July 5, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Poems | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sundry Summer Thoughts

Man Alone by the Sea

“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.”

Tim McGraw

Dear Darling,

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.

Yours,
Beren

June 29, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy We’ll Be

beachlove-15Dear Darling,

I’ve lately returned from a seaside excursion with friends. I expect you will wonder if I had a pleasant time, and the answer is partially. My friends are a bit absurd, as so much of my generation is. There were some nights where the conversation could be guided into a greater depth of topics, but for the greater part of the trip, self-photography and deep thoughtful conversations on how warm coffee should be. These are adults chronologically more advanced than I, yet the senses of humor drifted between the risque and the childish, the perpetration of acts of flatulence and a childish amusement therein. By virtue of my disapproval , I was rendered the antediluvian mossback.

Furthermore, I found irksome the contemporary conversational expression “I feel like” as a substitute for a statement of belief. Instead of saying “this bread tastes stale” the statement transitions to “I feel like this bread is stale.” Coupled with the trend of phrasing each sentence as a question, I observe that these are symptomatic of the subtle poisonings from relativism, self-centeredness and a slackening of conviction. It seems most Christians I meet are liberalized in some form, shallow in conviction and supposing themselves enlightened because they can see “shades of gray.” I wondered at their intimate knowledge of songs and films not just that fail to honor God, but which actively dishonor Him.

Well then Beren! Is this all that you have surmised in the wake of your retreat? Could you not take even a small reprieve from your consternation over the encroaching ills of society?

Naturally not.

And so you see now my dear, your Beren cannot even holiday by the sea without expounding on his grim expectations for society and the church. Yet I challenge you, as a woman of dignity and grace, to overlook the churlish pastime of breaking wind for idle laughter with no more than a rolling of the eyes.

Satisfaction and fulfillment in their true forms seem more elusive for me. Perhaps it is my situation and circumstances. I prefer the company of those who value purpose and depth over those who prioritize fun and pleasure, and find more loneliness than satisfaction among the latter. I prefer distant mountains, challenges to myself, and a sense of accomplishment. I would rather canoe, camp, hike and cycle, or see more return on my investment than just a moderate tanning of the skin. I prefer that which draws me closer the Lord, and on this trip I quite nearly forgot Him. Furthermore, I found in myself a striking lack of inspiration. I quite thought rejuvenation should be the necessary conclusion of such a trip!

Insofar as you are concerned, your absence wasn’t escaped, merely diminished. You’ll think me rather silly if I tell you I looked for you as I made my way through the concourses and byways of my trip. You do think me silly, I am sure, but I’m not afraid to own it.

I did find time for reading and relaxation. And I suppose I am dissatisfied to find the trip dissatisfying, if you take my meaning. Happiness is simple, but not easy.

Ahh, but then there were the moments wherein I imagined you present. I rewrote the script in my head starring you, and bathed the moments in the imaginings of us. The planning of the trip, and the packing. The travel, the arrival. The dinners out, the picnics together. I saw you in a gentle island-print dress as we dined on seafood, and I saw you silhouetted against a nautical sunset as we waded in a tranquil sea of deep red. I saw the freedom we had with each other, the breathless racing back to privacy when desire overcame us.

I wrote to you but once throughout the week, a letter which was surrendered to the waves by twilight.

So Darling, as you lay your head on the pillow tonight and if your thoughts drift to your future groom, consider that somewhere beyond the sea, your lover stood on golden sands and watched the ships as they sailed, and thought of you. In the company of friends and food, still the moments were incomplete, and he spent them loving you. And that we may very well return to these shores, to the fulfillment of the song that flowed through my head each day: “Happy we’ll be beyond the sea; and never again I’ll go sailing.”

Yours,
Beren

June 26, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Comfort

No Comfort
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

O mad with mirth are the birds to-day
That over my head are winging.
There is nothing but glee in the roundelay
That I hear them singing, singing.
On wings of light, up, out of sight—
I watch them airily flying.
What do they know of the world below,
And the hopes that are dying, dying?

The roses turn to the sun’s warm sky,
Their sweet lips red and tender;
Oh! life to them is a dream of bliss,
Of love, and passion, and splendour.
What know they of the world to-day,
Of hearts that are silently breaking;
Of the human breast, and its great unrest,
And its pitiless aching, aching?

They send me out into Nature’s heart
For help to bear my sorrow,
Nothing of strength can she impart,
No peace from her can I borrow.
Her rose-red June and her billing tune,
Her birds and blossoms only,
Mocked at the grief that seeks relief,
And leave me lonely—lonely.
If I might stand on the treacherous sand,
And know I was sinking, sinking,
While the moaning sea sang a dirge for me,—
Why, that were comfort, I’m thinking.

June 15, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Poems | , , , , , | Leave a comment

So Late It’s Early

TheBridge

“But always and ever when high and far
The old moon hideth her troubled face,
I think how the light like a falling star
Lit all my world with a new strange grace.
The passionate glow of your splendid eyes
Shines into my heart as it shone that night,
And its slumberous billows surge and rise
As the ocean is stirred by the tempest’s might.”

– Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Dear Darling,

It’s the brightest moon of the year tonight. A “honey moon” they call it. It’s directly opposite the sun tonight, and lowest in the sky. Having one this close on a Friday the 13th won’t happen again for another 84 years, if you didn’t know. So enclosed you’ll find a picture of the old bridge I keep talking about. It isn’t much to look at; no testament to architectural art or tribute to an era gone by. Just a simple old bridge that does the job so no one has to ford the creek.

Now that I’m back home, it’s so late that it’s early. Adjusting back to days is always a bit of a hassle after working nights, and often leaves me a bit down, especially with no one to talk to on nights.

Tonight I’m somewhere on neutral ground between felicity and futility. What did I call my lifestyle? Binge and purge. This week on my way to work, I felt myself infused with an energy, eager even to lift many times the panel of patients I would care for that night. Brief periods of rest and relaxation often give me that surge.

On to the news before I cash in for the night.

I adopted a child this week. Not physically of course; I decided it was high time to give a little more of myself than I have been, so I’m now the sponsor of a young girl on the coast of east Africa. Now this led me to an interesting ponderance, Darling, and on this I must solicit your opinion. Where do we draw the line between letting our light shine before men, and not doing our good deeds to be praised by them? In sponsoring this child, I wished to urge others to join me in the act. But then I questioned whether I was doing so to garner the praise and attention of others. Our Father who sees what is done in secret will reward us. But I also believe good deeds are easier done in tandem. I gambled against my own pride and haven’t told anyone, except a coworker or two. (I met one young co-worker who reminds me a little of you; her soul smells of Jesus, though her language sometimes stank of hell. She has a heart and passion for overseas missions, and her position as a nurse allows her that luxury.)

Now I will brag just a little. I’ve alluded to the fact that I’ve been going to the gym since the beginning of the year. We gym monkeys sometimes do deadlifts and obviously want to do our best. This week, my new personal best was 270 pounds. This too leads to another question. I’ve been working on the concept of doing my best for my own sake, not because it will make a good story to tell others, or because it proves something to them. But, we like to share personal triumphs with others, and heaven knows our friends and their albums are full of them. So I found myself again asking, would I be showboating if I were to have documented this moment? Again, I hedged my bets against pride. If in doubt.

A patient of mine was featured on the Today show. One thing about being with a nurse my dear, you’ll never lack for good stories!

I’ve also been (tentatively) invited to speak at a convention overseas. The expenses would be covered, but the times and dates are up in the air. I’m hopeful. You know I do love to travel…and if God is willing, I will go to the beach, the mountains of Appalachia,  the jungles of South America, the orient, and India all in the next six to eight months.

Tomorrow begins the first journey, and hopefully one of relaxation and rejuvenation. I’ll write as often as I can, but if you don’t find any further letters here, look for one or two bottles afloat in the Atlantic ocean addressed to you.

Goodnight, my dear, and Godspeed.

-Beren

June 14, 2014 Posted by | About Me, Loneliness, Nights Like These, Poems | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Don’t Stop

Don'tGiveUpDear Darling,

Loving a shadow and a thought is a tedious business, isn’t it? I should rather embrace a genuine soul with a hundred flaws and thousand virtues than to endure somewhere between grace and devastation.

If you are anything like me, you are making excellent strides in the never ending task which life has handed us, the task of becoming. We all have to walk that line, between earthly fulfillment and heavenly discontent. We look to find a place in the world without letting the world or its prince find too great a place in us. And you do well enough, I am sure. So long as you don’t focus on being alone and lonely, there is a rich harvest of gratification. But sometimes, we must be judicious in knowing which among the voices of the world to heed.

I was disoriented for a short time by the suggestion that I despair or am too negative, or require some method of fixing before I should be suitable to meet you. Upon reflection, I don’t think this is fair. I may be dismayed at times, and downcast. But never despair. Aye, sometimes I wrestle with my own thoughts. I don’t take enough of them captive for Christ, but I have reached an equilibrium where I may take them for a walk, and hash them out before the throne of grace in the process.

And of course, some voices urge a lessening of the standards to which I aspire. Darling, I exhort you as I exhort myself: unattainability is a poor barrier to attempting perfection. I may never have the chiseled abs of a model or sculpted shoulders of an actor, but will should that stop me from trying? Our life may never be the fairy tales we imagined when we were young. I’ll never be the perfect man for you. I’ve got so far to go, so far! But shall we let that stop us from trying?

Darling, I know you’re out there. I know that you’re trying. And I know that this world sits on all our shoulders a little more heavily than it used to. I know some voices urge you to relent, voices even from within that bid you to stop trying to hard, that nobody’s perfect.

Don’t.

Don’t stop. Don’t you ever give up.

Don’t stop believing. Don’t stop trying, or praying, or hoping. Don’t stop preparing, waiting and becoming. Don’t stop running.

It hurts, I know it has to hurt. Day after day you carry others, and you wonder who will carry you. You wonder when it will ever end, ever be worth it, you wonder if you’ll ever be rewarded or fulfilled, if you’ll ever cross the finish line, receive the medal, the victory kiss. You wonder if you’ll ever find arms to hold you or another soul who listens and understands. You’ll get there! Somehow, some way, we’ll both get there. But don’t you quit on God, don’t quit on me. Not now, not ever.

I can only send my deepest regrets and sympathies that I can’t whisper these words in your ear. We all need the voice of encouragement now and again. And it may be that these are only the pinging thoughts of a lovelorn heart; that once we’re together, the struggles we face together would drive these thoughts and the need to say them from my head. I hope I never stop being the voice of encouragement for you. I hope I never stop writing letters to you. It’s a dangerous thing, you know, hanging your soul out to dry, putting your heart in a glass cage. People can find your secrets. Maybe I’ll just keep writing them here, after we’re married, and you’ll be able to come read them. I can’t give up, and neither can you.

Don’t stop, and don’t give up, not on you, not on us.

Because one day, behind closed doors with my ring on your finger, I’ll slowly begin kissing your neck. Then, in delicious, fiery liberation, you’ll be able to use the same words on me:

Don’t stop.

That’s my girl.

Yours,
Beren

June 11, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | Leave a comment

Is That Okay?

Dear Darling,

There is much that I would speak of in these past few days, in the spirit simply of continuing the narrative of my life in hopes that you should find it pleasing to read one day.

Friday night found me restless again. For the past several weeks, if not months, I find very little that is new or exciting, fiery or passionate in my life. Helping people wears even the best of us down, so that I was even too footsore to gun my engines for a good run or workout as I’d have liked. I may walk in the nighttime province of the moon, but the stores are closed, the roads are clear, and all sane folk are abed. I spent part of the night celebrating a family member who just passed boards and will become a nurse quite soon now, but the night later took me wandering down the road to find an open sky and quiet lane. The road I chose was too close to the road, and the cars proved too noisy and distracting. I chose a hiking path on the northside, which proved even worse due to its proximity with the interstate. So that evening was less meditative than I’d have liked. I returned home to inscribe some thoughts for you before sleep took me.

I more than made up my deficit of sleep the following morning and into the afternoon, after which I joined Alegfast and company at the pool. We spent some hours there; an excellent reminder for me that oft’times I must force myself, quite literally, to relax. It was an afternoon of solid rejuvenation, and I must take greater caution in the binge-and-purge nature of my work and sleep schedule, as well as budgeting for the off-times. I was able to read, and swim, and take in the sunlight (in cautious doses, but we night-shifters have greater need of it than most!) and spend time with friends.

I ruminated once again on the subject of being different from the world. A classmate sought to offer advice to me about women over lunch…very little I hadn’t heard before, such as relaxing my standards, or relaxing my approach toward women. He has no spiritual inclinations, though I did share the gospel with him. There were some points he made that seemed worthy of consideration. Even prophets have been advised by donkeys.

But fundamentally, he will not understand where I’m coming from. Very, very few will. And why bother explaining to the world why I’m different? It sounds either egotistical or dramatic, and if I am secure in my disparities, I will have no need to defend them. But of course, I continue to question which parts are my own frailty and mistakes, and which are simply the ever-hastening speed with which our culture descends.

I am immensely grateful for my times of walking, of silence and prayer. I don’t escape into nature to have a theatrical brawl or an intellectual wrestling match with God. I come before Him a tiny and broken soul — just big enough to know how truly small I am, and living in a world of people too small to know how small they are.

There’s an old 10th century Norse poem entitled The Wanderer, which reads in part:

“Ever it has been my lot to bewail my sorrows in solitude in the twilight of each morning. There is now no-one left alive to whom I dare tell frankly the feelings of my heart. I know truly that it is a mark of nobility in a knight that he should fasten securely and keep to himself the treasury in which his thoughts are stored — think what he will! For all his grief of heart a man cannot resist Fate, nor can his troubled spirit give him any help. And so those who are eager to be of good report generally keep their sorrow imprisoned in the secret chamber of the heart.”

“Beren, you’re not happy,” they say. “Perhaps you should fix that before you expect to find someone else. There’s no one that can fix you!” “There’s seven and a half billion people on this earth,” my colleague told me over lunch today. He has a good heart, though not a redeemed one. “Don’t carry them all.” Of course, not, but who will? Every man for himself, is that it? And how few are the solutions offered for such problems! They call me cold because I’m awake. They say I despair because I’ve seen the truth. In some ways, I’m hardened by a battle few others see or heed; a battle for the mind. At times I feel as though watching from afar, speaking the truth and being ignored. Only fools think they are immune from the deceptive arts of the evil one.

Darling,
I balk at the term “sensitive,” but there are some indications that I could be described this way. You should know, very few people who encounter me professionally or socially would suspect such musings stirring in the murky depths of my soul. I don’t advertise this. Nor even in my private moments do I break. I don’t collapse. I don’t melt down, or have panic attacks. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God made me strong, and makes me strong.

Yet, even saints have dark nights of the soul; a chronic fatigue of the world’s weight, and a desire to carry it heedless of the cost.

And increasingly, I struggle to find the balance between becoming a better man, the man I know I am becoming with each passing day, and remaining true to myself, not losing my identity and conforming to an image and unrealistic expectations of the world. I dearly hope you are doing the same.

And so I find myself wondering, on the times, however brief, that I want to fall apart, will you let me? Is it okay for a man to have wounded wings, and need a little saving grace? Or shall you scorn the violent honesty of a man who uncovers his wounds? Is it okay if I need you and want you, and know I cannot be happy until we’re no longer apart? Or will you toss your head at such poetic nonsense? There are things husbands need from their wives, and I feel it’s important that you know.

Ah, and Darling, though the wounds be from a friend, they still bleed. What if I have missed the big picture? What if women don’t want to be adored? What if they want me to be strong, to sit down and shut up about the silence within? What if a woman’s lacklustre treatment of me was secretly how she expected me to treat her? What if I’ve failed to communicate my needs in the past, instead of simply hoping to find latent compassion within a good-hearted woman’s soul?

How should I conceal a love so great as to give it in small and disinterested doses? Shall I not lay my cards out, speak plainly, avoid games?

I don’t know the answer to these questions. Yet I know this for certain, that my God is sovereign. Not even my own stupidity or cluelessness can thwart His plan.

And so, we may entrust this as in all things, to our Savior and guide.

The morning birds are beginning their sun-conjuring, my dear. Lightly may your head rest on the pillow tonight! Lightly may your labors alight on your shoulders tomorrow.

Yours,
Beren

June 9, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These, Poems | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not Enough

Dear Darling,

The fireflies are back.

I know I’ve described the creek and bridge to you plenty of times, and always inadequately, but I find myself in hushed awe again tonight as I cross the bridge and see the muted glimmers of a thousand twinkling fireflies along the tree line, the meadows and beyond.

It’s such a blessing that my eyes alone are awake to observe this silent spectacle. Were I absent, still it would be beautiful, and yet because I’m here, it’s no less than if it were meant only for me. And to think, how many other sights like this go unobserved each night? Even a blessing like this strikes the lonesome chord of my inner heart, because my instinct is to share it with someone, and of course there isn’t anyone. What good is it to stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon alone?

As always, I am beset by a disquieted restlessness, wondering whither now can I go to find peace. I’m struck again how I can be blindsided by the blanks in my schedule. Dizziness comes about when you feel as though the world is moving even when it isn’t. Me? I feel the weight of inertia…the feeling within that the world isn’t moving and should be. In laying plans for this weekend, I realized that in essence, no one can give me what I need or desire and no activity would satisfy me in your absence. That rendered everything else null, bland and quite nearly meaningless.

They say enough is as good as a feast. But sometimes it seems people have different definitions of what “enough” should mean. That is, they set a feast with which they would be pleased, not realizing such foods don’t satisfy others. I think those who would peer into my life would, on the merit of their own appetites, suggest I have almost enough, and should certainly be grateful for what I have.

But if I’m being honest, as I take stock in who I am and what’s around me, even if it should be, it’s just not enough.

I don’t get enough sleep. That’s my fault, I have a lot to save for, and as you already know, time is not on my side.

I have friends who care, but it’s not enough. They still don’t understand me, and at the end of another long week of shifts, there’s still no one with soft voice and tender compassion to say lay your head down honey, tell me about your day.

I benefit greatly from the preaching at this church. But the worship isn’t enough. Quaint and bouncing little melodies, not a one of which was composed longer ago than a decade. It leaves the soul parched for the old and strong.

I’m grateful for the experience of drawing near to the throne, to feel the pain of conviction and know the weight of my sin as I set it before the cross. I’m not enough, and as strange as this sounds, it’s good to feel that weight.

I’ve waited a long time. I’ve worked a lot, and planned a lot. I’m becoming a better man every day. But it’s not enough. I’m not where I wanted to be in preparation to meet you. My wait isn’t over yet, even as the restless fires flare up within. I’ve gone this long without truly botching things, and now it’s a long way up…or down. Sometimes the pressure itself makes you want to fall.

Every night I can manage it, I go walking to find some peace. The other night, it was something like two miles. I think how someone once said that Dwight Moody, when asked to pray, simply said “God, stop.” Sometimes I think my prayers are just a fumbling attempt at eloquence in repeating the same sentiment. It’s funny that I learn about myself and others as I pray, thinking and reflecting. I’m not sure if it’s right that I skim off the top from those thoughts and confessions to God and put them here. There may be the slightest intersection between that which I tell the Almighty, and what I put here for you to find.

Time goes by. Someone observed the other day that I’m an old soul. You and I already know this, but it was the fact that she deduced this that made it unique. Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong decade, maybe century. Such stock placed on luxury and pleasure nowadays! Such incompetence and dishonor. My people aspire to so little any more…they want greatness, but make little provision in their lives for the tools or training that would enable them to perform deeds of which men would tell stories.

The boys now take little initiative; they’re drifting and listless. Instead of cooking like their mothers, girls nowadays drink like their fathers and swear like sailors. We’ve gone from “I loved you the moment I first laid eyes on you” to “I loved you the moment I first laid on you.” The other night I impressed upon Alegfast’s friend Gladhbrui the importance of women not stripping down to the barest of clothing for their poolside escapades. She suggested I was too sensitive to the whole affair, that I should accept society’s evolving context of decency, and that even though her friends have come dressed in bikinis, they’re not immodest people by nature. Modest is as modest does though, Darling, and if I’ve never commended this to your attention, please hear me now. So much as it depends on you, please understand that it is very important that you keep yourself covered. We men…our eyes play such tricks on us. So easily awakened are the passions within us, and while the burden lies with us to wage that battle of discipline, if you are not careful in what you show, then you lend strength not to us but to our carnal appetites. You will not always be so fortunate that the eyes whom you bless are waging a war of honor within. You have not been privy to the locker room conversations as I have.

Enough on that subject.

Most people you know would ask “did you have fun?” if inquiring after someone’s day or experience. That’s what sets me apart; if asked, “did you have fun?” I’m at a loss to respond. That’s the peculiar thing about it; I can’t answer such questions. I don’t live for my own pleasure. I weigh matters by their benefit or utility, not their frivolity or amusement. Sometimes I envy those who can easily make up their minds what will bring them pleasure, and then set about doing it. That’s something else that makes me different. They make quite the sport of me among the halls of the healers for bringing in food (chicken, vegetables, fruit) which they don’t find appetizing. But I’m eating with a specific purpose, to last the night, to gain nutrition, and to continue my fitness pursuits. I don’t mind it so much, because as I look in the mirror, I’m pleased with my results.

I’m not sure I was born for evil days such as these. Can you see it growing, Darling? Do you hear the rumblings of the land, see the world turning to greater evil? I can. I see acceptance of evil which men call tolerance. I see the pervasive displays of vice acted out as our nightly entertainment. I see the moral degradation, the decay. I see the cascade of instability lurking beneath the surface of all we think to be true and steady. I see sloth and inaction.

And somehow, the fault is mine for noticing.

I feel quite often like I’m on a pedestal overlooking others. I didn’t earn this position, but it did arise as a result of many decisions I’ve made, and it’s a peculiar vantage point of humanity. I try to be congenial and cheerful with people, but still find it strange that I find such favor with them. One night last week, one of the doctors took note of my initiative during a resuscitation attempt and asked if I was a medical student. I explained I was in nursing school, but he didn’t let that stop him from commending me and offering to help me out if I needed anything. This week it became apparent, even though I’m no longer in my role with politics, I still have major play with people in the industry. The article of which I spoke before created such a local stir that it was reported by every media outlet in the region, prompting the interview subject to hold a press conference. An editor for the organization called me to ask if I might lend some insight as she prepares her own interview.

And then, the group I once headed is now making poor decisions and drifting, but they’ve decided to call a conference of their own, largely ignoring me in the process. And yet, the people they call upon to speak are calling me to inquire my advice!

Normal people would share these impressive developments and flattering events as they unfold. I withhold it. The people with whom I work…they just wouldn’t understand.

I suppose what I’m telling you is what I’ve already told you before. I’ve never met anyone like me, and that’s as flattering as it is disturbing. How then can I find someone like you? The odds now aren’t in our favor. I’ve always had in my head this idea that you’d just absolutely need me, much the same as I need you. But the passing of the years means we each will have learned how to get by on our own merely to survive. You aren’t going to need me quite so much as I’d have thought. It may be that the darkening years have infiltrated your own thinking and clouded your perceptions of society versus the Word.

And of course, I’ve built up my own guard up too much now for love at first sight.

Funny how my overthinking brain lands so heavily on each of these thoughts, rather than enjoying nature or friendship or weekends like I ought. I cannot ask you to make sense of this. It wouldn’t be reasonable to expect you to fill such a gap. I suppose all I ask is that you try to understand, take it into account, and respond accordingly.

I’ll take you out to the bridge some time to see the fireflies, Darling. If time and limb permitted now, I’d be out here til morning.

Yours always,
Beren

June 2, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment