Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

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

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

Downtown

Church StreetDear Darling,

I’ve been meaning to go down there for a while now. Tonight, it seemed the best way to solve the silence — or at least pretend.

After all, I can’t just haunt country back roads or lonely parks. I may as well venture downtown and see what there is to see. Not that Saturday night after the races is the ideal time. It’s not like I don’t know who I’ll be seeing…the same inebriated and the partiers I saw trackside earlier, the stags and drags of the town who’ve shuffled through another week and are ready to tender their wages into drinks. They’re loud. They’re inappropriate. And they look like they’re having a darn good time. I guess those sorts of things just aren’t marked out for me…I don’t want to surrender my caution or senses to the bottle. I would be less useful to people if I did. Don’t envy the wicked, right? Don’t desire their company. Be zealous for the fear of the Lord, right? Aha, and who is fearful or zealous for the Lord anymore?

For good or ill, we’ve gotten away from who we used to be. Feminism in its more extreme sense arose in response to the perceived insult on women. But I read an intriguing theory on this construct recently. It says that the concept of male and female equality only emerged because there was no longer hardship or competition in the land. Men no longer commanded respect for founding the household, providing the food and shelter or protecting the family from danger. Man has become weakened through his success.

None of that is on my mind as I stroll passed the eateries and pubs. The landmarks are of greater interest to me. I’ve been here before, last year. I may be haunting the city, but its bittersweet memories haunt me back.

The fountain in the park presents a fetching portrait, as does the courthouse by night. As I walk along the row, I spy a lit church steeple a few blocks over, under a crescent moon. The music and frivolity are fast to die away as I make my way to the base of the church. I’m sure there was a time when a restless and world-weary fellow could walk inside and be welcomed there, and meet with his Lord silently. I do love a good empty sanctuary. But of course, it’s Saturday night in the city, and nobody’s home. Those lights are just for show. (I’ve known Christians like that.)

It doesn’t last long. ‘Tis no place can quell the dissonant vacancies that stir my heart night after night.

I know one reason why I’m restless. It’s not just the weather. It’s that I’m not useful. I’m not really caring for anyone. Today I worked, but I only put on band-aids and tended drunks, not the truly ailing. Nor do I mean just patients. I guarantee I’ll be restless even through the summer as I work. I mean you. I keep thinking of places to go or things we can do. I keep thinking of nice things to do for you, and then those inspirations just sit unused.

It’s my job to make sure you’re okay, and I’m not able to. There’s a lot of things in this life trying to make sure you’re NOT okay and I’m sorry I’m not there to balance those out. Such a mystery God would create a heart bent on giving, and then withhold the soul who would receive it.

Rest well tonight, love. See you soon.

Beren

P.S. Did you know that humans glow?

May 4, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These, Restlessness | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Wind Is Favorable

Dear Darling,

Here you are, you’ve made it to the end of another weekend. As the world views it, you’ve spent two days at port and it’s time to put out to sea for another five days. I hope you were restful and productive, but more important, I hope you are caught up in something meaningful and worthwhile, sufficient that your week isn’t comprised of equal parts misery and endurance.

If I should be so fortunate as to receive your inquiries about my weekend, I had to work the megachurch again. I told them I would give them two weeks to find a replacement, feeling as I am like I am taking the devil’s paycheck to guard the church of sloven and slop. They exhibited music by Katy Perry, clips by Ellen Degeneres, and are inviting the audience to vote on the next best sermon. (There’s already a suspicious tally of votes cast for a concept so newly-unveiled.) God’s Word isn’t meant to be picked through like a child’s repast; it was meant to be a progressive meal, advancing through both the difficult and the easy parts, lest we conveniently avoid the difficult teachings.

Otherwise, much of it was spent on school projects, with some time spent visiting my family (at last). There are echoes of how things used to be, but bittersweet, because I know now I can’t seek refuge there anymore to flee my troubles. They have troubles enough all their own. It’s not a place of stability to which one can retreat.

We had more surprise snow last night. Most of the city is ready for spring, but of course it made me happy. I like the ground reflecting starlight, and the clouds reflecting the lights of the city. I like houses framed in frost, hooded in white with golden light wreathing the windows from within. Snow seems to be God freshening the canvas for us, if only for a little while. There’s something magical in it. Now they say warmth is coming. Nothing lasts forever.

I decided to visit the book shop tonight to see what specials could be had, or what treasuries of poetry could be found. I can never enter that shop but that I exit with several volumes. The problem was solved because they were closed upon arrival. And who should I spy discovering this fact at the same time but Loswen, her unmistakable silhouette visible in her unmistakable car. We’d never be lovers, Loswen and I. But I text her to editorialize the irony of mutual disappointment, and then later send her a message to tell her I can see she is having mild identity issues and to encourage her. Because of course, I can perceive the things in people that others don’t. (And when I say don’t, I mean won’t. Because after all, once you know about the problem, you can’t ignore it or not be accountable for not being part of the solution.) She was surprised, and then solicited specific prayer on the matter. Sometimes it’s like having emotional x-ray vision.

This apartment is quite nice, as is the price and arrangement. But compared to Alegfast, the extra pricing and distance made it worthwhile. This man, whom I shall call Araquilde, is deathly silent, introverted and unsociable. Moreover, his daughters came to visit — silly, giggling girls still amused by their own adolescence — and left personal hygiene refuse in my washroom.

I did something very silly on Valentine’s Day, my dear. I have a large black book bag that I carry with me nearly always. It contains weeks of papers, post-its, pencils and pens, as well as markers, highlighters, mints, lights, food bars, cords, a knife, pepper spray, a stethoscope and much more. I put it in the back seat instead of the passenger seat. You know, in case I met you. Such foolish things we do when we’re alone and lonely; such foolish hopes we cling to.

I read this quote recently: “It makes me sick, the way sadness is addicting. The way I can’t stop. Sadness is familiar. It’s comfortable and it’s easy in a sense that it comes naturally to me. But everything else about it is hard. The way my body aches with self-hatred. The way my mind spins and spins with hopeless thoughts. The way it poisons everything I do, every relationship I have. Yet it’s addicting, because I know sadness, and I know it very well. And there’s a sort of comfort in that, like being home after a trip or sleeping in your own bed after being away. There’s just a sense that this is where I belong. This is how it’s supposed to be.” (Marianna Paige)

I know I’ve wondered this before my dear, but maybe all these letters are in vain. We do have to allow for the possibility, don’t we? Maybe there is no high and lofty calling. I’m approaching my thirtieth trip around the sun. I’m too old to find young love, but too young to settle for old love. You know this; I’m older than my years. 

Maybe there is no reward for virtue. Maybe if we actually find each other, our existence would be its own poetry, without all these frills and flames and rose petals — a fair lot of nonsense fueled by fantasy and flowery-tongued poets. As I look back over the last couple of years, there’s so much I’ve done and so many things I’d do differently. I’m sorry I’m not ready in time, Darling. I’m sorry I haven’t found you and swept you off your feet. I thought business and law were my calling, that there was goodness and purpose to be found. I thought that being right, that behaving and living by God’s principles would pay off. I thought being tall and caring and intelligent and listening would be enough. I didn’t expect to miss you this much, and I didn’t think it would take this long to find you. My strength isn’t fading, my dear. I can and probably will keep holding on simply because I’m stubborn that way. But as the church emphasizes grace over obedience, repentance over loyalty, and as even the Savior himself promises the worker hired to work through the heat of the day will receive the same wages as the roustabout who comes on board for an hour’s labors, I increasingly question the purpose of clinging so carefully to hypertraditionalism.

Sometimes I’d like to break this silver armor of mine. I already wrap it round to conceal it, because people hate its shine, just as a woman may dislike another for being attractive.  Sometimes in days of uncertainty, we look for surety in the strangest ways. If insecure, we seek control if even through throwing away the things that made us secure. Sometimes I’d like to be more at ease with life and its vices; drink too much and become both the triumph and pity of the culture. “See Beren, laid as low as we! He drinks to forget. He’s no better than any other, he’s just like us.” With derision they’d say I’d fallen, and yet, it would relieve them of the uncomfortable knowledge that someone could both preach and uphold such a standard.

But I don’t. I won’t. I know now there’s little reward here on earth for those who wrestle with their attempts to be good. Women don’t find it appealing, men find it annoying and neither wants to afford the sacrifices it demands. The world doesn’t love it, the church finds no incentive to reward it, and even the Almighty seems not to reward good behavior like we were taught.

Don’t be discouraged by these thoughts, Darling. On nights like these, as we each trim our sails and prepare for another excursion across choppy seas, the darkness presses close, wringing only the saddest of thoughts onto the page.

Goodnight, my dear. I love you.
Beren

February 17, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment