Things Written

Recently, I've thought a lot about the significance of written communication: its weight, significance, clear intention. Other communication is so cheap to come by- and it is cheapened even more by the advent of texts and Facebook messages and one sentence emails, blown without second thoughts into electronic oblivion after being hastily consumed.

I was thinking about it because I had gotten a card from a friend whose address I do not have. I was about to text my confirmation of receipt along with thanks, when I realized the mismatch in effort was a little embarrassing. I give a digital blip of gratitude in return for a card stock investment?

It made me think of when you are around 6 or 7 and suddenly realize you are supposed to get Christmas presents for other people, too, like your parents, and you make them a home-made card or buy them a  chocolate bar. Then they give you something really nice and you get shamed just a little bit at the how unbalanced that is and how inadequate your present is.

I guess there's a lot of reasons why actual written things have an inherent gravity about them... but it is true;  important things are written down, declaring their permanence with an understated defiance.

Anyway, it's my seventh spiritual birthday today, and I remember back then when I became a Christian. I desired love, and God's love letter in the Bible spoke of it for us. So I followed Christ with a solemn mixture of gratitude and shame. Gratitude that God would love me so, and shame that any thanks or works that I could do or give would be inadequate.

I fear sometimes that's what my life is like. I try to treat people like it means something, like I can give more than a secondhand present or a touch-typed email. I give God a crayon-scrawled card, a text message, a quickly uttered prayer. But then love makes itself apparent, and though in spiritual infancy I am first shamed into greatness, my faith begins to understand the nature of grace and carries me through the dark.

But it brings me back to the origin of the name, and it convinces me that I do have paper to write back everything with all gravity, permanence, and significance:

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.



It's nearly four in the morning, but I feel I must write this one before it passes.

I wish I could talk to God. And by that, I mean I want him to answer me. Because there are questions I would like him to answer, with the most pressing one being why do I feel so alone?

I've been alone for a while. She was always veiled in ambiguity; her ambitions shrouded by a tentative spirit coupled with an unwillingness to communicate. I thought her interest in spiritual matters wonderful at first. But I realized I was the only one talking, and this blog itself was the paramount guise: it was the bridge by which she traversed into my beliefs a priori. That is to say, she cheated the system by knowing things without asking for them or experiencing them. Is not an organic uncovering of one's scruples more valid than words on a page?

I, of course, drank up the attention, but it had all the naiveté and depth of a five year-old's faith. It wore me quicker than I realized, I just didn't know it at the time. Soon enough, though, the uneven distribution of transparency rendered me vulnerable: to be known is to let your guard down. And with that fear, I, too, was unable to have disclosure at a level of any significance. How was breakfast? How was lunch? How was dinner...?

Even apart from the lopsided disclosure, I had reinvented my group of friends. Or rather, simply lost them. This was a consequence of simply a parting of ways and the following natural dissimilar stages in life. And that's where I am now. You see, dear Julia, I am alone.

So I am back to asking the same question. But again, I'm the only one talking and the frustration has been here a while.



So I've recently been running the metaphor of the size of a person's heart into the ground. You know, saying things like "this or that makes my heart grow." Although, in all fairness, I also think there's something about this season that makes people partake more often in whatever this or that is. I mean that to say we watch the movies and drink the drinks we love and so on. So for me that means I eat more chocolate and drink even more coffee and settle into my annual viewing of Slumdog... Elf and It's a Wonderful Life are around the corner. Maybe it is because of the cold. I think I'm just homesick.

Anyway, all of that has got me thinking of what people actually mean when they say that somebody's got a big heart. It is a decidedly positive descriptor; surely no one wants said of them: "you have a small heart." 

It makes me wonder how our hearts get in way they are. Because I think I would like to have a big heart, you know? To be noble, steady, whatever it is that people mean when they use the term. I also think, though, that a lot of who you are comes from genes and fate and what's happened to you in your life. That's all really philosophical though and I don't feel strongly about nature versus nurture and popular psychology or whatever. 

But it also made me think of Nathaniel in the Bible and how Jesus said about him: "in whom there is nothing false." Previously Jesus said he was a true Isrealite, but I had hoped Jesus was talking of something a little nearer to his heart than his heritage. Confirmation bias got the better of me and I dug a little deeper. 

Rather, the word dolos suggests a more fundamental internal disposition in which there is no deceit. He is honest and clear-sighted, his eye is single, he has a clear conscience. He is the sort who seeks God before all else.

I was happy Jesus was talking about his heart, but I mean, how did he get that way? Because that is so admirable, really. Were his parents just that great? And were the little Jewish boys in Jewish kindergarten a particularly good group of young men? Or maybe somewhere at sometime he decided he wasn't satisfied with being selfish. I don't know. 

What I do know is that there is not much higher praise than the Son of Man describing someone as having nothing false within him or her. I mean, can you imagine if Jesus was listing off people and he gets to you and says "ah, <whoever>... well there is nothing false in this little one." Think of it! I cannot at all. I think even if my heart wasn't big it definitely would be after that. 

I say all that to say, I feel like I've got to try. To have a big heart, to be honest and clear-sighted, to carry a clear conscience, and all for the glimmer of a possibility that at the end of my life Jesus might take a look at me and see through me and say "in you, child, there is nothing false."



I feel like I'm looking at this wreck of a collision inviting God to do something. Isn't that a little ironic? Hey God, can I tempt you to do something here?

It is this point of contention in which I say "God, if you aren't going to do anything, then neither will I. Because, quite frankly, I'm just too discouraged and too weary."

I wonder how annoying that sounds to him, and also how childish. 

So yes. I've got this angel pinned to the ground, and I'm limping because of my hip, but I won't let go until I'm blessed. 

But here is the supreme irony: when Jacob says "I will not let you go until you bless me," he was, well, holding on to God.



Well it has certainly been a while, hasn't it. I feel like I'm stuck in a yearly cycle:

In midsummer being home alone clears out my head and I finally can make sense of all that happened that year.

By fall I'm in a pretty good mood and content with the world.

But after Christmas I start fading again, and when Spring blooms all I want to do is sit by myself for three weeks.

I'm just getting over those Spring doldrums, but I'm not quite home free. I'm kind of scared that if I am too eager to embrace that better me it will disappear.

Similarly, I am hesitant to write any truths about God because I am afraid those will disappear as well.