Eternal God

It was a day when good and bad mixed in a crazy way. There was sunshine and belly laughs and sunglasses to hide tears. The day ended in a deliciously serendipitous way–choir friends crowded into a room, spilling out of chairs and sofas, beside the fireplace and on the floor. I sat on the floor, knees pulled up to my chest, sandwiched between 2 friends who sat tight beside me.

Our conductor told us stories about living and teaching in Kenya. How he would line the songs–the words and the harmonizing notes for each part–and his Kenyan choirs learned all their songs that way. And because we were a choir, and these people never stopped singing, he lined a new song for us.

Every word thudded onto my heart with each word’s weight. Tears dripped off my chin and the friends beside me squeezed my hands.

Eternal God, faithful and true, All of our longings come home to you. All of our longings come home to you.

You are our strength, You are our stay–Go now before us, show us the way. Go now before us, show us the way.

That we might have power to see God’s love so wide and deep, so strong and free–God’s love so wide and deep, so strong and free.

Eternal God, faithful and true, All of our longings come home to you. All of our longings come home to you.   — James Croegaert

Edited to add:

Several years later, I was privileged to sing this song under this director. That recording is available here: I still listen to this CD often. I’ve sung the song many times since, but the wonder is still new.

An Obligation to Re-creation

Another tidbit from Jean Vanier’s Community and Growth, from the ‘Nourishment’ chapter:

The more intense and difficult community life becomes, and the more tension and struggles it produces, then the more we need times of relaxation. When we feel strung up, tense and incapable of praying or listening, then we should take some rest–or even get away for a few days.

Some people don’t know what to do with free time. They spend hours just sitting around and talking. It’s sad if people have no interest outside the community, if they’ve given up reading, if they don’t enjoy simple pleasures like walking and listening to music. We have to help each other keep alive the personal interests which helps us relax and re-create us.

It was good to think about the things that re-create me. Here are some: walking on a quiet road. A letter. Writing my journal. Singing. Silence. A well-crafted paragraph. Laughing til I cry. Crying til I smile. Travelling by train.

What re-creates you? You should do it today.

Happy, Fractured Dreams

I used to insist that Christians should be happy all the time. They’re the ones living without condemnation from sin, they have joy and peace and fulfillment in Christ, they have everything! Why should they squander a perfectly good day by talking about difficulties and disappointment?

Thankfully, I think I’ve grown up a little bit since then. Or life has knocked me around and showed me some things.

I still don’t have answers for this crazy, surprising life. I just know that when you talk with emotionally-healthy people, you can be having a normal conversation and then only a word will trigger tears you didn’t know were coming. And I’ve learned that tears don’t mean something is terribly amiss. It just reveals the fact that tears are often just under the surface, even for people who deeply love Jesus and know His joy. Maybe this is true especially for those people, because they are the ones who can be better equipped to have emotional integrity and deal with pain and discomfort and grief and don’t need escapes from that.

In others words, I can say that my world shifted when I heard a widow speak with tears running down her cheeks: “You know, life really stinks sometimes. It really, really stinks.” Then over her tears, her eyes lit up and she talked about God’s nearness and love and wisdom in her desperate grief.

So I’m trying to give up insisting that life feels good all the time. Because it’s not going to happen, but it doesn’t mean that life is all bad.

This morning I met a student for coffee. She’d asked if we could meet, and I said my brain isn’t working to have a lesson during vacation, but we could go for coffee, and we did, and it was lovely, and she wants me to come to her house next week to look at her vacation photos and eat food. Last Sat. morning I was in Ireland and met an old friend for coffee too, and I felt so loved and cared for and relaxed and happy. And it was at the end of a week with my whole family, in which we didn’t do much more than take care of little children and make food. And swim and go canoeing.

I’m living a lot of happy dreams. Of course good coffee always makes me happy anywhere, but living in Europe, meeting with women who want to meet just because they like me, having a student-teacher relationship grow to a dear friendship–this is the stuff of my dreams.

Which means that other dreams haven’t come true (because–surprise!–you can’t have everything) and my life stinks in places, and I cried pretty much every day this week.  Life is wonderful and terrible, and that’s about all I know about it, and for now, it’s ok.

Nobody Knows the Trouble

I was telling a friend that I think that if any five of us were standing around the table, and we had our problems in our hands and put them all–ALL of them– out on the table for each other to see, we wouldn’t choose anyone else’s problems. We’d take back our own again.

She wasn’t so sure. She said she wished she had her friend’s problem instead of her own that were consuming her energy.

It made me think of other scenerios. A girl complaining to her friends that she had no free day to pack for her 2 week vacation to a Greek island. A bride trying on her dress and saying that her shoes weren’t what she really wanted. A homeowner complaining to a homeless man about the heating bill. To someone on the sidelines looking in, these all look like good problems to have.

I maintain that if we knew everything–everything– about our friends’ lives, and saw all their troubles, we would take back our own.  But I am young and my life is good. I have problems and issues that make me sad and cry, or that I tell to only the closest to me, but most days, my life isn’t defined by problems.  When I look at my friends who appear to have beautiful, enviable stories, I am jealous for half a second before I remember that they have problems that would have completely derailed me.

There are surely people who wouldn’t take back their own troubles if they were out on a table. I think of the widow raising eight children. My lady friends whose husbands have betrayed them on every level, week after week, year after year. The beautiful girl with cancer, another friend with Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease. Life is not fair and trouble is spread wide and without respect to age or talent or wealth.

Friends walk with, support, believe in each other. So her problems look silly or petty to you? They might be, but to her they’re huge. It’s really ugly when friends get together and compare their troubles and try to impress each other with the amounts of pain each is suffering. Sometimes we can give each other a splash of reality or perspective but most times it’s best to listen and not say much. So I’d love to be going to a Greek island, and I wouldn’t complain about having little time to get ready for it.  But, well…

There’s a difference between stuff you complain about and serious life experiences.  Maybe I’m naive, but isn’t it generally true that at the end of the day we’d still choose our own troubles?