Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

The Comfort of Darkness

Darkness“Darkness, Darkness, be my pillow, take my head and let me sleep
In the coolness of your shadow, in the silence of your deep
Darkness, darkness, hide my yearning, For the things I cannot see
Keep my mind from constant turning, to the things I cannot be
Darkness, darkness, be my blanket, cover me with the endless night
Take away the pain of knowing, fill the emptiness with light…”

Lisa Torban

Dear Darling,

I’ve a window open tonight. If there weren’t so many neighbors stirring early, I’d leave it open all night. The noises of summer’s waning come through the window, crickets and cicadas. Both species humming and chirping to attract mates, I expect. Isn’t it strange that the anthems and beauties of nature are all the music of loneliness and mating? How much of all that is beautiful and sweet in this great big world would fall silent if every living thing found its match?

When you love the darkness or the night, they call it nyctophilia. I don’t know that I love darkness intrinsically, but it has been the province of my labors all the season, and I find it beautiful when night falls, with its contemplative silence. I wrap the dark of night around me like a cloak as I walk.

Some nights, all is right with the world, and all I lack is your company. But this is a difficult time of transition for me again. I’m having troubles with my family, they’re having troubles of their own and cannot offer stability or haven. It seems most people are. Friends are fading into the background, or fighting illness, or facing untold struggles of their own. Studies resume, finances weigh, loneliness waxes, kindness wanes.

Of happiness I wrote last, of how and when it is. I have to come to learn that sometimes we don’t know happiness when we see it; sometimes we don’t recognize we’re happy until after the fact, and that by then, it’s too late. And the times are emblazoned into your memory, crystal clear, along with the ways you could have made a difference, things you should have done differently. And you want to go back, you want to explain, you want to be understood. And you can’t.

Sometimes what we think we want and what we actually want are two different things…and finding what we wanted only shows us it isn’t what we really wanted in the end. I don’t know why our subconscious plays such cruel tricks on us…why women seem to respond better to detachment, danger, disrespect even. Men find exactly what they want, but don’t want it because it would come too easy. Playing hard to get always seemed a silly game, but it works. Every woman with whom I’ve been genuine and honest and open has, eventually, rejected me. Woman who I’ve politely declined have only been more attracted. We find it strange, and yet, I often find myself pursuing the ones who reject me. Unfortunately, I find myself in the position of having to gently part ways with someone else new. I make up my mind too quickly, and I find it sad that people who look like they align so much with my beliefs and preferences simply don’t work out at all in person.

And sometimes, you grow afraid. You worry you never will find happiness, that it’s passed you by, that you poured yourself out too much for others and they took you for granted and moved on.

You can’t think like this. You have to surrender these thoughts to God. But how do you do that? Is it mere words, announcing you’re surrendering the thoughts to God?

And why is it that either married couples or unbelievers are the ones willing to lend an ear, or to advise?

I’m facing a situation now where I don’t know what to do. The Bible really doesn’t tell us about every situation, and I simply don’t know how to proceed. Forgiving someone that isn’t sorry is necessary for your own sanity, but at what point is that behavior then sanctioned, enabled, encouraged?

To hear me talk, you’d think life is one big toil and pain, and I’ve halfway dug my own grave. Is it of any use to tell you that isn’t the case? It isn’t. People decently close to me don’t see this as an ongoing trend, except perhaps that I’m more grave, vigilant and somber about the whole affair. I think my biggest problem is, seeing. I can see the chaos of the world around me taking shape. I see a degrading culture. I see that financial collapse is a very serious possibility. I see misery and want and pain. Every smile you see on the street masks some kind of hidden pain. And I see it. I see vanity and selfishness on the other side.

And I don’t act Christlike in response nearly often enough. The other night at work, someone took out his frustration on me in contempt, and I was more tempted to confront than to return a soft answer. When someone beheads an innocent onlooker or the children of God, rather than pray for them as Jesus did, I want to murder them myself. I had to force myself to pray for those enemies tonight. Those enemies were among very great company, for I also prayed for you, as I do several times a day. And I wish I had happier news to report to you. If given the choice, I’d rather people be genuine than falsely happy. And writing down genuine sorrow at least lets me get it out on paper.

No matter what, cling to the promise that we’ll carve out better days for ourselves soon, and even if the days grow even darker, we will still have each other; I’d rather stand with you in darkness than alone in light.

Yours,
Beren

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August 26, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Haven of Tempests

Caught in the StormDear Darling,

The fireflies are gone from the meadows, their light replaced by the whirring buzz of cicadas.

I don’t find a lot of answers hanging from the overhead limbs near the bridge as I walk tonight. Maybe that’s because I’m too tired to ask the questions. Last weekend, the lightning lit up the sky terrifically and while it quite reflected the disquiet within, it also shortened the time spent outdoors. And yet, sometimes the best shelter is the storm.

The moonless night offers very little sympathy, and off yet another long week of shifts, with barely time to wash, dine and sleep before rising to repeat, I find myself mentally probing through the lack of havens I have. I have plenty of friends with whom I can call up and go see a movie. Plenty that identify with the dim and daunting view of a rotting society. But no one that’s proved much of a shelter, nurturing, energizing, pleasant, and yet without sacrificing the knowledge and understanding that might contribute to such concern. It’s uncanny that some of the people with whom I am on best terms are at work. Long labor is, like people themselves, both the curse and the cure.

“What’s really wrong?” I imagine you asking, as if you were in spirit at my elbow and writing the question across the page.

Darling, you know enough, and I needn’t multiply these thoughts by spreading them.

You’re hurting. Tell me.

Very well, you asked.

What’s wrong is that I’m tired, the kind of tired that cannot be fixed by a vacation. It dawned on me this week that for the first time, I grow a little tired of this job, or at least of its dominance in the schedule I keep. Whether clouds or sun, there is a tempest within that cannot be fled.

I grow tired of an amoral society. Of mediocre friends who neither understand nor support nor share my fledgling attempts at righteousness, who don’t see the storms forming in the eastern sky. Of working and eating and showering and sleeping, and then working and eating and showering and sleeping. Tired of dwelling with those who put forth a fraction of effort and reap far more generous harvests, enriching businesses but not lives. He produces value for companies; I produce value for people, one tender and failing soul at a time. Everyone looks down on someone whose job expects of him to bathe old people for a living — until it’s their grandmother that needs a gentle hand. I don’t understand the people who live for themselves and their personal pleasures. “Day is done, now my life can resume”; the people who get loud and drunk, who have card games and drinking matches, club binges, all-nighters.

I’m tired of being inundated by sex; of seeking a quarry so necessary and yet so elusive.  Tired of needing someone who understands, but too tired or or too unwiling to lift the weights and raise the gate. I don’t want to feel invaded, nor to be someone’s burden. Tired of seeming worthwhile and impressive to everyone except the people I find worthwhile and impressive. Tired of making sacrifices which are seldom seen and less often appreciated. Of giving all night and being underappreciated. Of sleeping through the choice times of day because I need the money by night.

I met a man who told of revitalizing the asphalt industry by infusing greater percentages of polymer into the mix, at a time when it was most needed. Then competing companies orchestrated false reports of danger to undercut his efficiency and maintain their lucrative contracts. There now, you see? Everyone who does important work is overlooked. The cleaners and bakers, the butchers and road-makers, pilots and engineers. I suppose in the end, everyone’s story is forgotten, even if their labors live on.

I’m tired of eating right, living right, exercising right, working right, and sensing no reward. Of all that I need being all that I lack. Of the song and singer, act and actor, the poet and lover, all confessing “You are all I need” and “how could I live without you?” and knowing their fear has been my reality I every day of my life.

Tired of feeling like I have no true haven. Tired of being suspicious of those that portend compassion, holding people at arms length because I distrust the ambition behind their kindness.

I’m tired of a ceaseless flurry of thoughts unfulfilled. Of becoming dull and witless, by virtue of time spent in the company of the dull and witless.

Of loving more and not being able to. Of hungering and thirsting and not being filled. Of seeking the kingdom of God and not having the rest added. Of being told God is enough, yet feeling empty as often as not. I’m weary and heavy laden, but not given rest. But then, maybe Jesus didn’t mean those choosing to work overtime hours to put themselves through school.

I’m tired of civil enemies and uncivil friends. Of waking up on a Friday and having no idea what to do with the evening because places are closed and you aren’t here to spend it with.

Of looking for something new.  That’s why a stranger saying hello at the theater was welcome, even though I was guarded against it. Even though I had to tell her I wasn’t looking for a relationship, not with someone who wasn’t in the kingdom. It’s also why I bought a trove of new books recently. Maybe one day I’ll take you to that store and buy you some books.

I suppose, in the end, I see very few caretakers left in the world, and I worry that I won’t be able to find someone to take care of me.

I flatter myself in taking for granted that I will care for you. Caring is in my DNA. To protect you, I have worked federal and private security, trained with weapons, my hands and my mind. I am tall, my gun is never far, and I train to be strong. To provide for you, I have left the calling I thought I knew to pursue a sure career. It will provide opportunity to grow and advance. I have given of my life to learn how to save the lives of others. To look after you, I’ve learned about how your body works, and the battle-plans of the many diseases which afflict mankind. To please you…well, we will discuss that when the time comes. To plan for you, to prepare for you, to listen to you. I’m ready for that. I’m ready to try. I’m not afraid.

One reason I hesitate to venture into the land of internet matching is because I am ever the writer; in my head, the story you and I are writing separately, but will one day harmonize, writes much better if we meet and happen to hit it off unintentionally, rather than selecting each other as acceptable to meet in hopes that we will hit it off. There is so much less pressure, obligation, expectation.

There you have it, dearest. There’s the lion’s share of the clouds in my heart tonight. Thank you for asking, and listening. To know you care, well, that is a gale that would daunt any dark horizon. They aren’t always yours to drive away. Sometimes God drives away the storm…and sometimes His greatest lessons are taught in its midst.

I remain ever

Yours most sincerely,
Beren

August 2, 2014 Posted by | About Me, Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

In Due Season

Be Not Weary
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Sometimes, when I am toil-worn and aweary,
All tired out, with working long, and well,
And earth is dark, and skies above are dreary,
And heart and soul are all too sick to tell,
These words have come to me, like angel fingers,
Pressing the spirit eyelids down in sleep.
“Oh let us not be weary in well doing,
For in due season we shall surely reap.”

Oh blessed promise! when I seem to hear it,
Whispered by angel voices on the air,
It breathes new life, and courage to my spirit,
And gives me strength to suffer and forbear.
And I can wait most patiently for harvest,
And cast my seeds, nor ever faint, nor weep,
If I know surely, that my work availeth,
And in God’s season, I at last shall reap.

When mind and body were borne down completely
And I have thought my efforts were all vain,
These words have come to me, so softly, sweetly,
And whispered hope, and urged me on again.
And though my labor seems all unavailing,
And all my strivings fruitless, yet the Lord
Doth treasure up each little seed I scatter,
And sometime, sometime, I shall reap reward.

July 17, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Poems | , , , , | Leave a comment

There Was Evening, And There Was Morning

MaidenVoyageDear Darling,

The days and feelings all jumble together.

Two nights ago, there was a great storm. Alegfast is away and I’ve the house to myself, and my heart smiled to hear rain on the roof. The clock struck midnight, and the lightning flashed on the horizon. I chanced to venture outside before a particularly close bolt strongly recommended the indoors as a safer alternative.

What phenomenal creatures, lightning! Transient suns in forests of rain, huntless game both proud and wild. They contain more power than we could hope to harvest, and yet are casually wasted in errant displays of might, flashing as if only for their own sport. They outpaces the blink of an eye, creatures “which doth cease to be, ere one can say it lightens” leaving its footprint on the ear only in the wake of departure. Yet they are idle enough to meander in their path. Fearsome to hunt indeed, would be the lightning.

The following day is mild and beautiful; it wants something done with it. It wants wordless enjoyment and appreciation, it beckons to be celebrated and reveled in. Yet, here I am torn, for words are all I can avail myself of which affords any sort of connection with you!

Changing winds always stoke up the restlessness, and this preview of autumn is no different. It wants for impatient chasing through pastures and by creeks, it wants for hiking and biking, snuggling and conversing. It challenges us to chase starlight and hail the smiling moon. There is nothing I can contrive to satisfy what this day wants of me. It wants us. Fleeting winds brush the skin only remind me they can’t be caressed in return, nor do they care. They only whisper “She’s not here. She’s not here. She’s not here.”

Uncertain of how to answer these challenges, I load up my bike and drive to the southern trail. The rain-washed sky against the vibrant green fields makes the perfect backdrop, and I listen to sermons as I ride.

Telling myself I can still go to work later in the evening, I open the windows, wash and lay down to rest. Hours later, I awaken halfway through the night, well-rested and faced with a neighborhood submerged in silence. Circadian rhythms are overrated once you break out of them. Now, with nothing better to do, I dress and go for a walk. It’s a morning crisp and chill, promising another mild and inviting day. Prayer and memory mingle with aromas and essences, some of them unexplainable. Why do I smell the old motorhome that my grandparents once brought to my childhood home? Or why the disinfectant which recalls a class three summers ago? How inextricable are the aromas from their memories.

Wherever you are, I imagine you are somewhere adrift on the high seas of your dreams. Your chest is rising and falling amid slumbering sighs, missing me during your days too if I’m not mistaken; you’ve no idea that you’re being prayed so intently while you sleep.

I’ve examined this paradox before, but I remove it from its box to ponder yet again. Contained within this life of mine are all the ingredients that should make a body happy. (And indeed, coming off one of my longest stretches yet, logging nearly a hundred hours at work, there is a sort of blissful content to be had, the kind only wrought by cessation of an unpleasant task, or a pleasant one maintained too long.) My work has purpose and meaning. I seem to find favor with my colleagues and clients alike. The path none too distant can only improve. During intervals in which I don’t work, I collect whomever will follow and find some dinner or a movie or both. I owe no financial attachment to anyone, and the Lord is attending all my needs. My prayers ought to consist only of thanks and gratitude. Indeed, for the present, there should be no petitions to present, no pleas to proffer. The Lord knew them before they were spoken the first time, and they’ve been spoken often enough since.

And yet. And yet, when I’m out here, I am aware that in a way, life hasn’t truly even begun yet. That’s a harrowing thought, considering the ages and afflictions of some of my patients aren’t so much greater than mine. This life misses the care and companionship of someone sensible, gentle and devoted, someone made kind from seeing enough pain and loneliness. The kind of person who wins me over with the little things.And you know, it will really be the little things. It’s always the little things that catch my eye, that give grounds for a second look. Someone using a minced oath rather than a true one. Someone who ignores or walks away from the obvious vulgarity. Something as simple as handing someone else a piece of cake before taking yours. The way you interact with children. There was a girl with whom I worked some days back. A patient, half out of her head, expressed fear. We attended her physical fears as much as we could, and as I left the room, I heard her gently ask if she was a woman of faith. Halfway out the door, I was awestruck as I listened to her unfold a prayer before the throne that would make any minister’s congregation proud. Oh, she’s taken, never fear. But it’s little things like that which grab and hold my attention. It’s the behavior of an outlier, and seldom have I seen such deeds as make me give glory to God.

She later confided troubles she faced between her family and her current suitor, troubles which I could tell she would not tell just anyone. (I’m always so infernally safe for people to confide in.)

And look at all my friendships. Most of them seem to be ministries of a sort. I wasn’t the sort of kid when younger whom others came up to and invited me along. I learned how to grow up on my own two feet. I can’t immediately think of someone who isn’t family that I’m not on guard against in some small way. Some nights, I conclude I need to leave people to spin on their own wheels for a while and attend my own needs. But only for a night. A full night’s sleep later, I’m fresh enough to start the circuit of checking in on people again, because I know they need someone to check in on them. I can’t really think of anyone who’s doing the same for me.

You know, I was listening to a radio program on my way home from biking, one of those programs that troubleshoots and advises couples on love and marriage. The wife interviewed spoke of mismatched blind spots she didn’t anticipate, like being a morning person versus a night owl, or serving someone who’s laid up sick. Surely these are the words spoken this side of ignorance, but the warnings mentioned did not even faze me. I’m both a morning and an evening person as need calls; and pull 24- and 36-hour shifts when need arises. I’m used to attending the needs of seven and twelve patients at a time, laid up sick and hurting and all having needs to be prioritized and met. Do you think one wife laid up will be a trial?

I am considered by many to be unwavering and unbending on many issues of import; but beneath that, beyond the standards laid down by God Himself, I believe most people who truly know me would say I am pleasant and easy-going. I don’t get hung up on the trappings and bickering of too many insignificant things like I’ve seen so many colleagues or friends do.

So when I make my vows to you, to serve and honor and cherish, it’s because I will mean it. When I discharge the duty laid upon me by the Lord Jesus through the Apostle Paul to love you as Christ loved His bride, it’s with the intent of loving you up to and including my own death. You will be my wife. You will be part of me. As woman was taken from man, so man takes woman back to himself; I will fold you into my own existence and protect you as my very own — bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. There will be times when reason rejects and inclination opposes; you won’t want to love me, nor I you, and for perfectly valid reasons that either of us is, in the moment, acting incredibly unlovable and stupid. There will be highs and lows of our voyage together. But when the storms come, at least you and I will have each other to stand beside at the helm.

Until then, my dear, I salute from afar the memories we have yet to make, and the appointments we have yet to keep. I’ll turn my attention back to the waves and sails, and navigate them as best I can until you come to claim your place at my side.

Affectionately yours,
Beren

July 16, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness | , , , , , , | 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

Sundry Thoughts and New Beginnings

Hello Darling,

The week is drawing to a close at last, and with it spring’s respite. I’ve been glad of the time off, but I’ll be glad to get back to a regular schedule; this week’s been awfully full. In a way, it’s a week of new starts…new week, new season, new house. I’ve left the megachurch job as well as making the move to another house — back with Alegfast, incidentally. A clean break from some unhealthy places, and a good chance to make some changes.

I’m here in the new place tonight in fact, hopefully to stay for at least a year. It smells old, like my great-grandmother’s house I was just telling you about. I like that. It’s a lot closer to work and school which will be nice. Moving three times in one year is quite a feat, and it can take a toll. And what is it about change that makes you nostalgic even for the times that weren’t that great? Just because they were present in your life for some part of it, even a difficult part?

And what is it about darkness that frees my thoughts?

1) The other night as the shift wound down, my colleague thanked me profusely for my help, knowing that her labors would have doubled if I hadn’t come in. “Mister big personality,” she called me. “Works his butt off.” It certainly had been a busy shift, and with the occasional gratification of achieving tasks that even the nurses weren’t able. That’s always nice, right up until they start asking you to do them again.

2) Have you ever wondered what people say about you behind your back? You shouldn’t eavesdrop if you don’t want to hear the truth, but I do wonder. “Ah, old Beren,” they might say. “Pleasant enough in his own way. Bit of a dreamer, he is. Bit of a loner too, not a lot of fun to be around and a bit taken with himself.” I wonder…I wonder what they’d say at my funeral. Oh, all nice things of course, no one’s allowed to be mean. But I’m not convinced it would be well-attended, even at this stage of the game. And it makes me wonder, have I made enough of a difference in the world, proportionate to what I’ve been given? Am I doing enough? Will people remember me? Is it so important that they do? God also gave me the ability to function well in the spotlight. Even to need the spotlight now and again. So he also made me want to shy away from credit, because I know my inclination towards pride. I work as well behind the scenes as in front of them, and sometimes I prefer the anonymity for its own sake.

3) It’s only within the last few years that I feel like I’ve broken out, firmly established my place in the world and found my calling in it. I used to walk up and down the lane late at night praying for guidance and purpose. Now it feels strange not to pray for purpose, but in a sense I know I’m now following the path God has intended for me, and the main thing is to thank Him and to ask for course adjustments as events warrant.

4) I’ve mentioned before the concept of broad shoulders. God gave me the fortitude to muscle through tough situations, to be a sturdy influence, and to absorb a lot from the world. A few people know they can hit me up online or call me if they’ve had bad days and want to vent. And sometimes I read back the thoughts written within these letters and think, there’s no way any self-respecting woman would find this attractive, it’s just the belching out of each and every hidden angst and insecurity, most of which should be shut up and shut out and not talked about. Guys aren’t really supposed to be this whiny. Is that what it looks like to you? I suppose I’ve been just arrogant enough to presume you had the same view as I, that any thoughts or sadness was precious, because it came from the dark and raw recesses of your heart, the place I long to go, to earn enough trust to be escorted into. Perhaps I misjudged. I recall telling you before how they say Winston Churchill, who put on so brave a face as the leader of the free world, would go behind close doors, put his head on his wife’s lap and just sob. Are you willing to know that side of me, and to bear it up on occasion?

5) What value do you assign to aesthetics and appearance? I don’t find myself altogether terribly handsome. Some would disagree. Of course, beauty is only skin-deep, and personality survives as we age. But don’t looks matter? Fitness? My sister admonished me about looks recently, because I mentioned someone to her, and noted she was not altogether attractive. It’s not as though that’s all I value, but on the face of it, that’s all one can evaluate someone by. That’s the flaw I’ve mentioned before as a single Christian. We can’t just approach someone we find attractive and say “say kiddo, what are you doing for church next Sunday and let’s go together!” More likely than not, they’re unbelievers. Even within the ranks of believers, it’s tough to find someone compatible. And yes, looks, personality, fitness and chemistry all have their part to play. Fitness is becoming increasingly important to me, perhaps as an outlet to burn off some of this fire within.

6)  I think the flaw of so many people today, trusting themselves too much. It’s hard to find the voice you trust enough to place more weight on it than your own judgments. And yet, although I have to trust them enough to act on them, I know myself too well to place too high a premium on my own judgment. My record has taught me to be wary of it.

7) I was thinking recently on the subject of going against the grain, and how I’ve always wanted to go against the crowd because the direction of the cultural is so diametrically opposite of true north as to function as its own poor man’s moral compass. I realized that, in general, I like finding and hearing the things I don’t want to hear. I don’t want sermons that tell me I’m okay the way I am, because I know I’m not. I don’t want to listen to my mind telling me to lay around and be unproductive, or my mouth telling me to eat unhealthy foods for their taste. Sometimes, doing the exact opposite of what your body tells you is how best to grow. Oh sure, I lay around or eat unhealthy often enough, but in general I thrive best in challenging and disciplining myself. I’m a fighter, and my greatest and most challenging foe is myself. I don’t need to be told what’s good and right…I need reminding of it. I need to dwell in it and inhabit it, constantly, because like every other human being, I forget. And somehow, we need to find a way for you to challenge me like this, or to help in those disciplines.

8) What does it mean to be a great guy? I think if you asked the random girl, she’d say a guy who listens and understands, who gets the doors and isn’t mean, who takes out the trash or does laundry and dishes once in a while. I don’t know, I find myself striving towards this standard, and when I think about it, I don’t quite know what it entails. When I fall into the trap of comparing, I have to admit, my pride looks at a fellow and gets ahead of itself, saying there’s a lot I have that he doesn’t. What does that mean to you?

9) The gathering last night went well, quite well indeed for the first real hosting I’ve done solo. The “act like you’ve been there” part is a bit eclipsed behind “I have friends! And they’ll all come over to my house when I invite them, and enjoy themselves, and thank me on their way out!” But I was feeling a bit lonesome after everyone went home. I’m not sure why. I guess any theater feels empty after the crowd leaves. Which means nothing will ever truly be fulfilling because it ends. You could throw a party tomorrow, invite guests and honor me before all the world. And even if I were willing to relish the moment, a part of it would be tinged with bitterness because it would end. Sometimes it’s hard for me to live in the moment because of its transience. But to go out with you and know I can see you again, or one day when I can go out with you and then come back home with you, tuck into bed with you. That has more meaning to me than the rest of the moments of boom-and-bust. Sometimes boom-and-bust is the story of my life, and I love the running, but there are aspects of my life in which I would prefer something quiet, steady and constant.

10) Have you figured out people very much yet, dear? Me neither. It’s a progressive and limitless task. People, my dear, want the world to be different and better. When it isn’t, they drift into stories. That is why movie stars make so much money and why the magazines sell so well which dissect their everyday lives. People don’t want to be told the truth — that the world is crumbling, that we have a duty to save whom we may, that dragons roam the land and that our boots must be planted firmly to resist the darkness. People want their life cozy and soft, with just enough solid underneath to keep from sinking. I’ve been engaging in a bit of an experiment lately with social media, posting thoughts about dogs and cookies and beaches and movies, and less of the news of peril and danger and duty. The response has confirmed the hypothesis. They don’t want to read your deeper thoughts, or know you’re in pain. People, my dear, are the same. The more you meet of them, the more commonalities you find in human nature. There are divergent people out there though. I call them Outliers, and I do love a good outlier. Outliers are familiar with a state of semi-gloom. They are wise enough to be content neither with the world nor with themselves, for they are wise enough to know the limits of both. Outliers are not so easily satisfied by the world, and more attuned to its darkness. (If only such darkness passed as quickly and surely as winter.)

11) This site was recently compromised, my dear. People I didn’t ever want seeing these letters found their way. It’s hard to complain too loud since this place, although anonymous, is public. Yet it took some searching to find, so it’s still an invasion of sorts. I contemplated removing the site, shutting the walls and staunching the soul. After all, there are parts of every soul that were never made to be seen, at least by those close to them. I considered returning to my old medium, and found plain document paper not at all compelling. There’s something, my dear, about knowing these words to you may give light and warmth and comfort and inspiration to others as they wing their way to you. A hundred people have subscribed so far (which means there’s maybe two dozen actual pairs of eyes that read) and in a way, knowing that someone else is watching keeps me accountable. But for whatever value such promises hold, I’ve been promised it won’t be viewed again. To have rawest secrets rooted out and ingested is a bit like being robbed or pillaged, so I trust those promises will be kept.

12) Writing these letters is like cooking, plucking the best of thoughts from my mind and moments from a day. Some of these thoughts have been on ice for a while, I’ll admit. And how many more times do you think I can reprise the theme of missing and needing you without you growing tired of it? How often can I reiterate that I’m empty and lost without you? At least a few more times, I am sure. Will you ever grow tired of such a message, of being told you’re needed and wanted and missed?

My time is long since gone. Thank you for reading, and I hope you rest well.

Yours,
Beren

March 24, 2014 Posted by | About Me, Sundry Thoughts | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Good Days and Loud Thoughts

man-and-the-moonlightDear Darling,

I’m back on the homestead tonight, managing by myself. It’s a full moon, and probably the first one in months whose light I can walk in, quietly and undisturbed. But like a head that keeps spinning after the ride has stopped, a swirling mist of thoughts still impede the calm I’m seeking. It would take a World Detox to restore the full potency of the moon’s calming effect.

It’s not that I lack peace, or am deeply troubled by these thoughts. It’s only that the ringing of ears and whooshing of thoughts doesn’t slow just because my pace has. And anyway, the pace the last few days has still been crazy.

I fear my prayers are falling into something of a cycle any more. I’m rising before the sun five days a week now, and often eating the morning meal while preparing the afternoon meal. Thus, the Word falls by the wayside, and while I’m making up for it by listening to its preaching, I know I need to be more diligent about carving off my own slices when I can. I’m mostly praying for friends, family and my own horizons. (And, of course, you.) But the slain saints in Iraq? The oppressed in Russia? The grieving in Nigeria, the laboring in Haiti, the political struggles and ever-diminishing freedoms of my own people? The patients I see at the hospital? Not often enough.

Here we find two conundrums of the Christian’s walk. The first, forgetfulness of neglect or forgetfulness of repetition. The Lord repeatedly admonished His people on ways to remember, because we humans are prone to forget. He carved these traditions deep into the minds of His people, lest we forget. But then, how many times have we said a token prayer before a meal because it’s ingrained in our mind to pray and we sent not the slightest emotion of true gratitude heavenward?

The second, the balance of living in the world while not being of it. You want to find some degree of comfort and rhythm to this life, but not finding a place in the world so much that it finds a place in you.

That’s where I am right now. I’ve had several good days recently. The weather has changed, and kept on changing, bringing with it the sunshine’s thaw and then winter’s freeze, sometimes under the same sunrise. I just don’t want to drift afoul of God’s will.

So these thoughts continue to swirl along as I walk. The robins in the pine trees protest my presence, and I’m pretty sure that’s a rabbit I hear bounding away in fright. Maybe my thoughts are too loud for them. And unless I’m mistaken, that’s the first spider-web of the season caught on my forehead.

I like a good quiet walk…but I like a mad pace too. Yesterday I wrapped a class, ran some errands and then returned to swim a personal best distance of six and a half furlongs, on top of a mile run. This morning I ran a race with a classmate and his brother-in-law, and we unexpectedly took second ranking in the whole city.

I previewed the miracle of birth this past week, my dear. Three tiny lives newly-begun in the world. I couldn’t stop smiling. It’s such a privilege to be at the forefront of such pivotal moments in life, spending time with the laboring mothers or the nursery with the infants. Once again, it will put me ahead of the curve for when our time comes.

Looks like I’m moving this weekend. Although I do believe the Lord opened up the opportunity at the time, I came home the other night and am fairly certain my roommate had engaged the services of a hired woman to share his bed. He isn’t the sort I estimated conducting such business at all, and my judgment may be far askance. However vague the nature of the transaction, the process was abundantly obvious. I believe I even heard the muffled exclamations. Such things were thoroughly lacking throughout my upbringing. So, yes. Time to move on. It tends to keep one imbalanced when “home” changes so much, you know.

Also, I hope you’re not particularly attached to television. Mind you, the point is inconsequential. I simply find that if I sit down to watch it, the hours while away in idleness and I’m ill-at-ease when I rise and see how much time is wasted with nothing done.

Ah, but these have been some good days of late. I’m laying by some promising plans for the summer, and it’s only another handful of weeks before that begins.

I hope your mind is bathed in serenity and your hair bathed in moonlight tonight. Rest well, love. Pleasant dreams.

-Beren

March 16, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , | 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