"Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world."
just to the left of the computer screen of my laptop at my desk here in manhattan is a window sill. the blinds are closed all the way, only because i haven't been in town recently. a piece of yellow post-it is sticking out below the blinds. i've had several quotes on different note cards and post-its there for some time now. i don't remember what this one says. let me check. it says "listen to the divine whisper," something i have been having a hard time with recently, but am coming back to.
below that, what first drew my attention, is two small vertical strips of poster tape, each with bits of torn photo paper still attached to them. i took down this photo as i was moving out for the summer. it was of a hiker walking down a railed curvy road with autumn trees all around. i doubt anyone in my room would have noticed it, tucked back like it was. that was the point. and it spoke something very meaningful to me. let me peel off one of the strips of tape now.
to my right there are a bunch of pictures of scenic locations all around europe. i have thought about taking them down more recently--it's almost more painful to see them and remember all the places i've been and am very far away from now. but they're still up. they're quite beautiful places.
at my other house in manhattan in the past i decorated my room with several big bulletin boards covered in pictures from my life--CBC, family, friends. i surrounded myself with the memories of good times. there are less pictures of people in my room anymore. as nice as the memories are, sometimes its even harder to have their faces there before you. frames tucked away in closets and drawers. i have an internet filter for facebook. ok maybe not.
the past has always been a difficult thing for me. i've always had a hard time letting go of relationships. i never accepted the phrase, "some people are there for just a season of your life." it is the reality of life now, but it wasn't always this way. transience is a much more recent phenomenon, especially to the degree we feel it now.
i one heard that we were created for permanence. that death and separation is not the way things are supposed to be. but in our individualistic culture we don't even need death anymore. we create our own separation. we put people to death in our lives long before they are ever dead. what can you do though? you have to go off to college. you have to move to where you can get a job. or sometimes it isn't forced, but each passing away brings the chance for something new, something fresh. maybe then we will have the relationships we wanted, the friends who care slightly more about us, the right weather to affect our disposition.
(side note: i think the fact that we as americans are so dictated by the weather, especially in our countenance and happiness says much about our lack of constitution and inner peace that we can be so affected by such minor external circumstances--i mean, can we face trials and sorrows with hope and courage when a cloudy or windy or cold day ruins us? don't worry, i'm guilty too.)
some people it seems thrive on transience though. they are always changing, always moving, looking to the next thing. i think i am suspicious of these people--like i believe that they move forward so fast and so hard that they never give themselves the chance to look inward. and though that is probably most often the case, perhaps there is a degree of movement that we are called to, even if we are not made for it. the son of man had no place to lay his head. as christians, we are sent out to be salt and light to the world, to be aliens and strangers, enduring hardships and struggles. and yet our bodies cry out inwardly for the redemption of our bodies, the renewal and resurrection of all that is good. that is the ultimate permanence that we seek.
still though, i look at the bare spot on my wall where the picture used to be, and i see the image of what was once there. and then the tape and the residue creating a frame of emptiness. there are times when we come to a place of emptiness, and our desire for permanence tempts us to set up a home there despite its bleakness. when we are called forward we must not tarry. but if we do not know where to go, will we wander?--wander seeking or wander leaving? keep moving till you find the way, till that word is given. do not set up camp and wait for it.
we are called to go out and to move, but not alone. i think the permanence we long for is not found in a place, a city, a neighborhood, a home. it's found in the people who are there with us all the time. of course ultimately everyone and everything passes away and Jesus is our only constant--but God wants us to have the permanence of true community, of rich friendships, of love. and it is never easy when that is lost or changed. but take heart, for he has overcome the world. despite how distant that seems from the reality of your life, take heart. take it firmly. it's not easy. take it.