Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

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

Advertisements

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