Melancholy has been my friend, since childhood. I am drawn to grey seascapes and misty mornings. Sad endings to books and movies often resonate more than happy ones.
An exchange from one of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who (yes, I am that nerdy) sums up my natural feelings quite well when Sally Sparrow says:
I love old things. They make me feel sad. Kathy: What’s good about sad? Sally: It’s happy for deep people.
I would argue, even, that there is a Divine Melancholy that comes from seeing the deep truth of our world. Our wide, great earth is irreparably broken. We have been irreconcilably cut off from our Creator, the source of all love.
Adulthood is a rhythm I’m trying to work out, and there are days it feels like a song hummed on some spring morning and other days it grinds inside my ears. With my first grown-up job, I am reminded how much of life is repetitious—I drink my coffee, go to work, come home, eat dinner, pack a lunch for tomorrow, go to sleep and restart again. Grocery shopping and laundry replay week after week.
Then in the news I hear of all the ways and places the world has split open to bleed. Our black brothers killed, attacks on police, Baghdad bombed, crowds mowed down by a truck in Nice. Bloody summer once again.
What can I do? My daily routine is shabby at best.
Did you know, Lord, that you could feel this – emptied, depleted in the wilderness?
Does the voice of the tempter sound just like your own, insisting, if you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread. Do you stretch a hand toward them, trembling, wondering if you can fill yourself and end this hollow torture?
Do you remember that other voice, booming as you rose from the glistening Jordan, skin dripping wet, when the Spirit descended dove-like upon you, and your Father claimed you as his own?
Then that same Spirit drove you into the desert; you wandered forty days and nights. Did you know this world you gave life to could blister your feet and turn a blind eye, deaf to all your needs? Can you hear your Father in these dry stones, or do you perceive only silent, cloudless sky?
As a child, Easter was a main event, mostly involving spring and eating a lot and having my grandparents in town for the weekend. My sister and I put on our new dresses and flowered hats; we wore white gloves to church. Before we piled into the van, my eyes would scan the hallway, seeking the plastic eggs I knew were filled with chocolate, though the egg hunt wasn’t until afternoon.
Jesus was a part of it, but I’d heard the story so many times; resurrection was hardly a surprise. Mostly, I think I was grateful the savior enabled such a holiday—where overnight a new stuffed bunny might show up on the kitchen table in a basket, along with chocolate eggs and turquoise candy-coated malted milk balls.
Perhaps as children, this is all we need; the assurance of newness, joy returning every holiday.
Easter dawned cloudy this year, and the wind felt cold walking from the van into church with my family. I didn’t have a new dress. I didn’t wear white gloves. Afterward, only one grandma came home to celebrate—the other sits in a nursing home barely aware of what’s around her, and my grandpa is years gone.
Time is both a blessing and a curse. People say that time heals, or at the very least, it lessens hurt, but in good times, time seems to sweep in only to steal away joy.
The Psalmist notes,
As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more. (Psalm 103.15-16)
So it is with seasons of joy here on earth; they come and are gone. Time stops for no one.
It seems the joys in life are few and the pain and boredom plenty. I’ve had seasons when every day seemed bright and blooming. But they didn’t stay, and they left me feeling cold and empty. Admittedly, I am one who dislikes change and am easily driven toward despair, but lately I’ve felt like life is a meaningless string of days I am growing tired of. What’s the point of reaching a better place, if any future days of joy are just as likely to be ripped away?
Lightning split the sky open in a long streak of white, and thunder echoed like the whole earth cracked within its depths. My brother and I stood outside to watch as rain pattered against our hoods and soaked through our shoes.
At the end of the storm, a cloud drifted across the shining street and above the house, moving with speed and glowing orange and white and silver tones. It looked like it was painted with curved brush strokes. It looked so close we could touch it, but even if we could ever reach so high, we would touch only particles of water. We could never grab hold.
I thought of the story in Exodus of God going before Israel as a pillar of cloud in the wilderness. Is this how he seemed to them, so close but so out of reach? So breathtaking, yet completely unknown?
I spent the summer in Virginia standing on mountains.
I came for an internship, and when I applied for it, I had some hope of it jumpstarting my career as a world-savvy international journalist writing stories that matter. Instead I wrote a bunch of brochures and read a lot of heartbreaking articles (by actual world-savvy international journalists).
At some point in early summer, I started wondering what exactly I was doing in Virginia. The series of events that led to my taking this internship in a city and an organization I’d never heard of seemed somewhat unlikely, so I figured it was a God thing. But I spent my days writing brochures and scheduling Tweets. It wasn’t exactly my dream job, and I hadn’t really made any friends in Virginia. My presence there didn’t seem to be doing anyone much good.
This is the way God loves you,
in the quiet of blue mountains
that have only to stand tall to speak,
and this is the way God loves you,
in red clay earth staining rivers across palms,
blood-splashed dirt drunk on men
who fought for freedom and men they kept as slaves;
from this unholy ground springs flowers,
pressing blue petal-lips to sky.
I’ve been trying for a long time to write a post about church, but I’ve had a difficult time sorting out what I want to say. I was at a service of my college ministry a couple months ago when I realized that I don’t trust people at my church very easily, even though I’ve been going almost four years.
It’s second nature to me to hold people at an arm’s length at church. I don’t want to build relationships with them. I would much prefer to come in, listen to the sermon, and get out. Even as far as the sermons themselves go, there are many days when I do a better job critiquing them than learning anything from them.
Simply put, I’m bad at church. I like to think I’m getting better, but some days I slip into cynical teenager mode.
I don’t think I’m alone in this. You can read a lot of articles about young people leaving church in droves. I never completely left, but I certainly checked out for a few years. My experience with church in college has felt like coming back, or maybe coming for the first time and trying to figure out what church is actually all about.
I was going to share an old post today because I haven’t had much time to prepare one, but then last night I had the pleasure of reading G.K. Chesterton’s essay A Piece of Chalk. Every once in a while as an English major, I get to read some really great and beautiful things.
In the essay, Chesterton is drawing with colored chalk on brown paper, which he says makes one realize that white is a color.
“It is not a mere absence of colour; it is a shining and affirmative thing, as fierce as red, as definite as black,” he writes.
Together at the Table is a new blog created by a couple friends and I to bring our thoughts and perspectives together in one place. We are trying to each blog once a week, rotating which days we post on. I want to maintain my own blog as well, so I will probably be posting a truncated version of most of my posts here and then linking you over. But if you want to make things easier for yourself, subscribe to Together at the Table and read posts from my friends as well as myself!