The Gravity

This life is merely the blink of an eye, but the gravity of the blink is far greater than the blink itself. 

I believe the eye is in the moment before it will open; we are in darkness. What will the eye open to: light—or a deeper darkness than it knew before?

In this moment, we are given the opportunity to choose what we will see: our King in his glory or existence bereft of Him. We are given the opportunity to pass through the door of Mercy, to return to Him on our knees. But if we do not seek Him in this moment, if we do not humble ourselves, fall to our knees, and confess that we need Him, we will have chosen to open the door of Justice.

If we truly enter into Lent, it will reveal to us the gravity of this life. It will reveal to us our attachments, our fears, and those desires that draw us away from Him toward a false light. How do we enter in? By embracing stillness and silence in prayer.

We are afraid to be still, because in the stillness we would realize we are restless until we rest in Him. We are afraid to be silent, because in the silence we would hear the His voice, calling us to return to Him with our whole hearts. We are afraid because our hearts are fragmented, and we do not know how to begin picking up the pieces. And this is why we must be still and silent in prayer.

When we come to Him, He Himself will begin gathering the pieces, to restore the likeness in which we were made. Ultimately, I think we persist in our rebellion against a merciful God not so much in stubborn folly, but because we are daunted by what it would mean to repent. We believe it would demand too much, that it would require too much work to achieve the goal. Especially in a society that provides instant gratification through the Internet and consumerism, we haven’t the willpower (or the mental capacity) to amend what is broken, not when our lives can simply be bandaged—by pornography or Facebook or shopping. And if we find that the bandages do not work (as eventually we will), we simply buy new—we leave our spouse, we “change” our sex, and in the most tragic cases, we end our life. But these choices amend nothing, because we cannot amend ourselves.

God alone has the power to amend us. If only we truly believed this, we would be willing to fall to our knees—the one, simple act that grants God permission to begin gathering the pieces. I am too weak, this act cries out. I need you.

Falling to one’s knees is not easy, no, but it is easier than suffering with addiction, depression, hatred, with every other consequence birthed by sin. What makes humility harder to choose than sin is that the world tells us we are our own gods. We want to stand alone. But the truth (and the irony) is that it is God who sustains our every breath. Even the soul farthest from God is not untouched by Him, for no one can live without His life-breath.

During Lent, we must remember that we are dust—but dust infused with God’s life-breath. Humanity was never intended to remain in the dust, but to rise. Yes, if we pass through the door of Mercy, if we return to Him on our knees, He will reach to us, He will take our hand, and we will rise to dwell in the light that is waiting.

What will the eye open to?

Memories

Even when I was a child, I knew my childhood was good. A yellow farmhouse, forts, milking, horses, a cabin by the lake, traveling, imagination—I loved it in the moment. But now that I am an adult and memories surface daily, I find that I love my childhood more. How can I understand and appreciate its goodness more fully today, though I am no longer immersed in that goodness?

When on land, a man may love the color of the wheat field, the canopy of the tree, the fragrance of the garden, but not until he is at sea is he able to look back and see the landscape as a whole and feel drawn toward it in its absence from his life.

Memories ought not to be forgotten. I believe this is why Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart, because she knew that one day, Jesus would be far from her. And when goodness is distant, we often find ourselves in desolation. Memories are what help to draw us through the darkness to the light, like a compass pointing from sea to land, for every sailor must eventually come home. When I remember what it was like to be a child, I am drawn to the care-free simplicity that was and can be again. Mary treasured and pondered living life with the Child Jesus in the hope that, despite the sword that would piece her heart, she and humanity would eventually know eternal life with Jesus.

Yes, memories are for hope.

One Soul

We live in a world that rates success by quantity: How much money have I made? How many people know my name? How big is my house? Even we as Christians fall into this thinking: How many devotions am I praying? How many hours do I volunteer? How many souls does my blog reach?

But the Shepherd was not thinking about quantity when He left behind the ninety-nine and went searching for the stray lamb. He was thinking about quality—the quality of one soul.

One soul. Naturally, if I write a book that I believe God called me to write, I want it to be read by as many souls as possible. But what if only one soul were to buy my book? What if thousands (or millions) were to buy my book but only one soul benefited from the message? Wouldn’t that be enough? If I truly believe that every soul is invaluable, irreplaceable, and worth dying for, it must be enough.

But what if no one bought my book? Should I then conclude that I wasted my time in heeding the Lord’s call? I say no—because by my obedience to Him, by my trust in Him, I am the one soul who benefits.

Salvation begins with me. With you. Yes, in suffering the Passion, Christ redeemed humanity—but He would have borne the Cross whether or not you were the only soul left on earth to redeem, because you are worth dying for.

Amon and the Bricks

Amon lives in a shrine, and his name means builder. His hair no longer glints as a raven’s wing does in the sunlight, for age and wisdom have revealed themselves.

When his hair was black and his back straight, Amon owned a brick. He loved this brick. He loved its burnt-red hue, its precise cut, its weight in his hands. Yes, he loved it, and yet he sensed that it alone could not satisfy him. And thus he acquired a second brick, identical to the first. Surely two beautiful bricks would satisfy. But as the days unfolded, that familiar sense that there must be more crept back.

Year after year, he gathered one brick after another, thinking surely the next would be enough. But it never was. By the time his temples had begun to turn silver like the frost that came every autumn to mark another year gone by, he owned more than a thousand bricks—but he was no more satisfied by these than he had been by one.

As he was passing over a bridge on an afternoon blue and brilliant, he paused to look down at the water below. He saw his reflection; he saw a face carved from torment as surely as his bricks had been carved from clay. Suddenly overwhelmed by the many wasted years he had spent seeking but not finding, he decided he would leap into the current and let it drag him to his death over the falls.

But as he was about to leap, something on the riverbed flashed as bright as any star he’d ever gazed upon. He felt a movement in his heart as he had never felt before. Leap indeed he did—but to dive into the depths to collect the treasure awaiting him.

It was the most beautiful stone he had ever seen—as pure as a mountain stream or a flute’s voice or a child’s eyes—far more beautiful than the bricks he loved.

And yet, even after the day that Amon found the Greatest Treasure, he still loved his bricks. They had not lost their value—but they had found their purpose.

Brick by brick, Amon built a shrine in which to place his newfound love. And the moment he set the Greatest Treasure at the heart of his every desire, he realized the bricks were indeed valuable—but only ever meant to lead him deeper to that which at long last satisfied him.

A Hopeless Romantic

Our God is a romantic—truly, a hopeless romantic.

We know this by creation: sea creatures that glow electric blue when touched by night, Everest rising ragged above all else, a sky awash with a thunderhead as if with ink. Or consider blue-green waves hushing against a red beach, trees suffocated by ivy, horses tearing over Scotland’s heath, a peacock flaunting its iridescent finery. Wildflowers, a brook in the woods, a wet-black calf emerging into a world of straw and light and its mother’s lowing. One could gush on and on, because creation is utterly romantic—because its Maker is utterly romantic. It is His love-note to us. He is a Lover who knows how to swoon His beloveds, does He not? I know my own heart squeezes when I look upon creation—in the same way that my heart squeezes when my gaze connects with the one who has captured my heart.

And so we must conclude that human romance was created to reflect our divine romance with God. Why else do we exist but because God’s love swelled to overflowing? Love begets love. Yes, His love overflows into us, and that same love overflows into each other. Romance is why we are. We were created to live romantic lives.

But how does this unfold?

In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis wrote: The good of oneself is to be the good of another. 

And this is love.

Such hope dwells within that insight—fullness of life for you and fullness of life for another, not apart from each other, but precisely because your lives are intertwined. For if the Lord has designed you to be the good of another, you are not only liberated but called to become fully you. Every bit that constitutes you—your humor, intellect, likes, dislikes, dreams, even your fears and flaws—every bit is to lead the other to greater holiness. Just as they were designed for your good. Indeed, in a divinely inspired union, when you give yourself and love another, you will receive your beloved’s self and their love. And by receiving them, you are also liberating them to become fully themself and thereby bringing them joy.

But perhaps the most liberating, the most joyous thing, is that by the sheer nature of your union, those fears and flaws in you, in the other, will be ground to dust beneath your feet as you journey toward Heaven, hand in hand. For love liberates you to be the best version of yourself. 

It is a selfless calling, as you give your whole being to another, even as it is ultimately fulfilling. It is a calling that finds its origin deeper than your emotions, deeper than the other’s emotions, because whether or not you feel like giving, or feel the other’s need for you, they do still need you. You were designed to help transform each other into saints. Thus, even when your emotional love, or the other’s, lapses (as it will for we are weak), hope remains. For emotions were merely designed to stir spark into flame, to fuel your essential drive to give—which is to love always, no matter what.

But the essential is not dependent on the emotional. No, the essential is dependent only on Love Himself, on keeping your eyes ever fixed on who your beloved truly is, which is the image of Christ. No matter how tarnished the image may become, what lies beneath remains intrinsically beautiful. Christ, who is Truth, never changes, thus who the other person truly is never changes either. Your love for them, then, never need be threatened, even when it seems the fire has died and all that remains is ash. Believe that an ember yet glows, hidden but waiting to blaze again.

For the Lord desires that your love burn—because it is within the union of two lovers that His own love burns the brightest in all the universe.

Knowing this, I believe it is okay to be swept off your feet, to let the fireworks erupt—as long as your emotions draw you deeper into the heart of your beloved, where you will come face-to-face with that image of the Great Romantic. May newborn enchantment, then, give birth to true passion—that is, the passion that drove Christ to lay down His life for His bride, the Church. Just so, we must deny ourselves, pick up our crosses, and lay down our lives for the those we love. Only once we have died can there be resurrection. That is romance.

That is love.

Mushrooms

I was walking with my eyes on the way before me. Moss compressed beneath my feet and tickled my palms where it had spread to cloak the trees. Leaves ruddy with autumn were scattered through the forest in moist layers, like tiramisu. I held my breath so as not to miss the silence.

And then, just before the ground dipped into a tinkling brook, my gaze caught on pops of butter-yellow. I crouched. Mushrooms had pushed their button heads up into the world, to peer around at the dripping forest, to draw a young woman’s attention to those things that are small enough to miss were she not looking down. Small but beautiful things.

Why do I, at times, forget this? Why do I fix my eyes on the horizon—when it is only ever the step before me, and not the ones ahead, that carries me forward? Only now, having tripped over brambles and fallen flat on my face, do I remember that beauty is found in the moment.

Wake Up

One day, the world will wake up screaming.

It has created a nightmare from which it does not yet desire to escape, because it does not yet realize it is trapped in darkness. Light is a distant sphere, floating on the horizon, growing smaller and smaller as the world marches away with its back turned.

If only the world knew that the light is Christ, come to find His lost sheep. Yes, if the world knew, it would turn and run toward the light that would shatter the nightmare. Rather, the world runs away from the light, believing it is blinding, not realizing that this light cures blindness.

We the remnant, the ninety-nine sheep, flock behind Christ and follow Him into the valley, but our own lanterns burn with the feeblest light, smoking. We are a frightened flock—we are bleeding, broken, bruised, ill. Only the Shepherd has the strength to face the darkness. His light is our salvation as much as it is the lost’s.

My prayer this Christmas is that every soul would turn toward the light and run to Him. 

Simplicity

Simplicity does not necessarily mean a cabin in the woods (especially since a cabin in the woods is not always possible).

I believe simplicity is finding the One in all.

Yes, it is to find His face in beautiful people and His hand in beautiful things—but also in the ugliest people and the ugliest circumstances. How is this? Simplicity is the ability to look beyond the complexities that evil births to find what is good (and true and beautiful). And is not every person intrinsically good, created in God’s image? Can goodness not also be found in suffering? After all, did not Christ suffer to gain our salvation—a very great good indeed? All we need do is tear away the vines that hide the good: no matter how unaccommodating your boss may be, simply love him. No matter how demanding your job may be, simply acknowledge that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

Simplicity does not mean shunning every pleasure (such as a cookie or a new sweater), but simply being grateful to the One who is generous. Simplicity is desiring nothing, but also refusing nothing, as Saint Francis de Sales wrote. It is to receive everything He desires you to receive.

I live in a house that often smells of bacon and bread. We make goat cheese here, and homemade pizza, and heartwarming soup, and goodies too. Many insightful conversations unfold as we chop up this or mix up that on the wooden countertops, the dogs sprawled on the braided rugs beneath our feet. 

My bedroom curtains are white, the old window panes marbled with moisture, and the light falls on me in milky droplets in the morning. My feet touch down on a thick sheepskin rug when I crawl from bed. Often I find kittens curled up on my blankets. Four children hug me goodnight. 

As I drive over these hills in the darkness, windows glow like honey, and mist overflows from the hollows. As I walk through the woods, eagles call to each other. Amber-colored rivers slip by with nary a sound. Winter may be here, but still the ferns cling to the earth, to their color. If this island were enchanted, I know I would never escape.

Charlottetown welcomes me into its streets with lights and evergreen boughs and friends. And when kindred spirits and I break free from the city to the dunes, we dig our feet into the sand and tilt our faces to the sky. We are bedazzled by the Royal Jewels and cannot help but cry aloud, “May we keep them, God?” Ocean breezes whisper in reply, “They are yours . . . “ And I know they are. 

Beautiful things every day, beautiful things I truly do not deserve (if human, who does?)—but still He gives, softening the way of the cross with moss beneath my feet. Sometimes it is difficult to receive these blessings because I find myself asking, Why me? How should I respond to His love?

Simply, live fully the life He desires me to live.

That’s it. That’s simplicity.

A New Day

We go down to sleep, knowing a new day awaits us. Night is not eternal. But it must come for there to be day.

Snow has fallen and will continue to fall. Summer is lost to us; winter marches onward, its drumbeats shivering through us. Every day grows shorter, colder. But the world is not falling into bottomless darkness; it is not dying. It is only going down to sleep—to await a new day.

Until then, we cling to hope, even when the night seems hopeless. And then, in the depths of winter, Light will come to the stables of our hearts. We will finally see ourselves as we are—dirty, poor, cramped—and the choice will be before us: welcome in Light to make beautiful a mess, or shut the doors and enter into an eternal night.

We are awaiting the advent of Light, yes, but not passively. We must prepare to receive Him, to awaken to a new day, to enter into spring. For even if the world outside should remain frozen, we may discover that, within out hearts, summer is not in fact lost to us.

In the Space Between

In the space between emotional highs and emotional lows, that is where you discover the Lord’s will. For the highs may sweep you away, like a torrent over a cliff, and the lows may suffocate you, like too much dust. Cling to the peace that is born in the space between, the peace that remains hidden even within the highs and the lows. There, a soul finds its footing. Even should the rock be beset by a storm, you will not drown. Even should the rock be shaken, it will not crumble beneath your feet. For the Lord is greater than high waves and low rumblings.

In the space between, I know I am loved and I know I must love. For that is His will. My good is His good, and love is the Great Good.