Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

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

Advertisements

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

Sundry Thoughts on a Frigid Night

Even Santa needs Mrs. Claus

Even Santa needs Mrs. Claus

Dear Luthien,

It’s after 3 a.m. on a frigid November night. I’ve been up almost 40 hours with only a four-hour nap to take the edge off. And yes, if you were here you’d close the lid and make me go to bed, because you’re thoughtful like that and I love you for it. But you’re not here. I’m free to be so irresponsible as to stay up and write to you, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do to stop me.

1) It’s funny the changes in mood and outlook, and how they vary. That’s why we can’t rely on something as vague and transient as emotion. Yesterday I realized that, short of meeting you, life seemed to be going well. It’s a period of time where I’m competent and entrenched in the flow of juggling all the tasks in life and keeping a good rhythm. Then today I woke up from my nap and felt depressed. No, I don’t know why. I’m sure a little more sleep will remedy the problem.

2) Likewise, at work last night you could have convinced me I was the best in the hospital. We become different people depending on who we’re around, and once again I received the compliment of someone hoping they would work with me again.

3) I’m comfortable in my own skin, but there are times I need to know how I appear to others. I can’t wait to look at myself through your eyes. I want to see myself, failures and successes. I want to see the giant you look up to, and the flaws you rightfully abhor. You see, we’re constantly told we should compare and compete only against the person we were yesterday, not against other people. And yet, we should let another’s lips praise us and not our own. The end sum of those two axioms is that you can’t praise yourself, and you can’t gauge yourself based on the praise of others.

We all want to know we are good and brave and kind and skilled and compassionate. We strive for it. For my part, every time I allow myself to think I am, the built-in warning in my head cautions against pride. So Darling, I need to be told these things, and reminded of them. (And likewise, I must remember to do the same for you.) Alegfast left me a note of validation the other day, telling me he was proud of my work ethic. (It was after another one of those legendary 24-hour days.) I need to remember to leave validating notes for you like that, and I hope you can leave sticky note stepping stones of encouragement for me as well.

4) You know that identifying or blending with this culture is a losing battle for me. Chivalry, vigilance and virtue are scarcely prioritized. Add to that, the disparity of difficulty between jobs. Specifically, the concept of a “bad day at work.” During my appointed rounds, I contend with illness and pain and blood and death; the basest of circumstances are par for the course. How does one fit into a culture whose major problems are jammed copiers and difficult traffic? How do you make someone understand that while they were nursing a paper cut, you were holding back the hair of a patient wracked with liver disease as she vomited blood infected with hepatitis? And how do you avoid developing an ego or overdeveloped sense of significance based on these differences?

5) Do you like poetry as much as I do? Not the feeble and senseless meanderings without rhyme, reason or rhythm, but the kind intricately-woven and skillfully paced both to please the mind and to soothe the soul. I buy poetry books in pursuit of poems about you. Sometimes I sit and read them aloud to myself. I believe I’ve affirmed before that I would equally enjoy reading them to you.

6) I told you I’m done with my Christmas shopping. This year marks the another step in the circle’s completion, going from the boy who receives to the man who gives. That’s the transition we should all experience as we grow. I like becoming Santa Claus; I like finding and giving gifts. Mind you, even Santa needs Mrs. Claus.

7) I read some articles lately that I think you might appreciate. This one reminds you all the perks of dating someone in the medical profession. (They’re true.) This article is helpful to identify that lust isn’t just a man’s problem. Third, this article from a Christian source discussing virginity, and its alleged overemphasis in churches. I understand the sentiments behind it, but truly it seemed only to devalue yours and my struggle.

8) I was driving by the Bridge last night, and saw a man and woman walking their dogs in the cold. Sounds like fun, don’t you think? You with your dog and me with mine?

9) An unmarried classmate noted that she was going to spend a few days at her boyfriend’s house. For a moment I allowed my mind to enter the mindset of what it would be like to be married, and know I was going to see you and stay with you. A bright, momentary flash of heat ignited in my heart to imagine what it would be like to know some red-hot monogamy was pending on our calenders.

10) One of my parents celebrated a birthday recently. It’s funny how the relationship changes as time goes by. For the first time, you notice your dad is greying at the temples, or that your mom is repeating news. (I can’t point fingers on that, I’ve been known to repeat stories.) We don’t like to think of parents as human. We don’t like to think of them as having doubts, or flaws…or sex. We don’t like to think about the reversal of roles. But they’ve always been there for us, and we have to understand that one day, if not already now, we’ll have to be there for them. It’s a phase we all experience, those of us blessed to have good parents. You’d like mine, I think.

11) I wish I had grandparents. I wish I could introduce you to a really cool grandma that meant so much in my life. But I don’t. They’re either gone or were never in my life to begin with. Maybe you’ll have a pair or two that you wouldn’t mind sharing? I’ll gladly adopt them.

12) Finally my dear, I want to thank you for reading. When I’ve had a bad day — and even when I haven’t — talking to you through these letters makes it better. It makes me feel like it wasn’t all in vain and that maybe you’re out there somewhere, caring for me.

Love,
Beren

November 25, 2013 Posted by | Sundry Thoughts | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment