Friday, April 13, 2012

The Years of the Locust

the lepers, the possessed, the ones whom Jesus heals always want to follow him, but he always sends them home to tell their families what the Lord has done for them. Or, in some cases, to tell no one who healed them.

I think I've missed this point in the past, as I've always thought the highest form of praise is to "leave all things you have, and come and follow me."

To those he has healed, Christ says, go home to your family. Go be in relationship with your people. Make reparation, which in many ways, is a more difficult vocation than leaving a tragic past behind and starting fresh among new people.

In all of my years in New York City -- years of bad mistakes, of humiliation, of foolhardiness -- I harbored the secret fantasy of moving somewhere far away where nobody knew me, a place where my life would be a blank slate and I could start over. I had all kinds of career plans in this fantasy, most of which involved buying a dilapidated old warehouse in a decrepit town like the one where I now live and turning it into a thriving arts center. To actually move away from the city, though -- and probably to actually move anywhere -- you need a good reason, and to turn old warehouses into arts centers you need a lot of cash, so my fantasy stayed a fantasy.

And then it happened -- part of it, at least. We moved far away to a place where I knew no one and no one knew me. And so here we are.

Every day my life here becomes different in ways both big and small. The big ways include things like adding another child to my family through adoption. The small things include learning to accept that "all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil," that, in other words, all is not as I longed for it to be since before I can remember -- that is, a life lived through, by, and for aesthetic values, dominated by beauty, and redolent with the variegated shades of meaning not stated outright, but only hinted at in the music that, over long years of study, became part of me. The fact is that I spend a lot of time cleaning up messes, trying to neutralize extreme behavior (my children's as well as my own), and going to Walmart, all things entirely antithetical to my youthful aesthetic ideal.

Otepoti just did the incredibly generous and heroic thing of traveling from New Zealand to China to help my husband bring home our little Jude. She slept on my sofa for two weeks, and helped out with the kids, cooking, and cleaning.  She dealt fairly and compassionately with my autism-spectrum son's sometimes-maddening behavior, and she changed plenty of nappies. She also went to a big Rwandan-refugee house party with me, hosted in honor of my friends' daughter's baptism, attended rehearsals of an opera production at the regional opera company located here in which I am a cover (i.e. understudy) for one of the roles, and watched episodes of Portlandia and the marvelous Danish film Babette's Feast with me. 

At the end of the latter, there is a wonderful monologue spoken by General Löwenhielm, who, as a young man, had rejected the love of one of the two devout daughters of an austere Protestant minister. In old age he is invited to a banquet given in their home, and he gives the following speech at table:

Mercy and truth have met together. Righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another. Man, in his weakness and shortsightedness, believes he must make choices in this life. He trembles at the risks he takes. We do know fear. But no. Our choice is of no importance. There comes a time when your eyes are opened. And we come to realize that mercy is infinite. We need only await it with confidence, and receive it with gratitude. Mercy imposes no conditions. And, lo! Everything we have chosen has been granted to us, and everything have rejected has also been granted. Yes, we even get back what we rejected. For mercy and truth are met together; and righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.

As he leaves the party, he continues:

. . . I have been with you every day of my life.... You must also know that I shall be with you every day that is granted to me from now on. Every evening I shall sit down to dine with you: not with my body, which is of no importance, but with my soul. Because this evening I have learned, my dear, that in this beautiful world of ours, all things are possible.

The first comment Otepoti ever made on this blog was from Joel 2:25: "I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten." Not only did this comment mark the start of a great friendship; it also gave me hope. And I have come to believe, like General Löwenhielm, that God even restores to us what we rejected in this life, though restoration of this kind may not look the way it did in our fantasies. Indeed, Otepoti helped with that restoration herself, when she helped to bring our Jude home. Now may God help me to make the reparations I need to make in order to be in relationship with people, to live in a family, and to demonstrate to others the ways He's healed me.


elena maria vidal said...

May God be praised. His mercy endures forever.

JMB said...

That's beautiful. I wish I could think of a cool line to quote but I'm speechless.

ElizabethK said...

Thank you, Pentimento.