Waiting

I will warn you right now: I am not writing because I have anything good to say. I am writing lost.

I had two conversations today with two different friends about two different topics, which all turned out to be eerily similar. They were conversations with people whom I care about and trust, in which I cried and they asked questions and gave advice. This is normal. There are a lot of nice people in my life and also I cry a lot. The general consensus is that Alice is a cuddly, weepy, very-open book.

But both of these conversations were different than usual. They did not spend very long in my familiar little landscape of problems. For some reason both of them veered off towards the unknown—towards places I had not planned for them to go. They were asking questions whose answers are hidden behind walls in my soul.

I did not know I had walls in my soul. I thought I had no secrets. I was frightened. I wanted tell my friends, “No.” I wanted to get up and walk away and never come back. But there are rules and precedents about how you treat your friends and so each of them earnestly scaled the walls and started gently poking around in my sooty heart of stone and its strange, sulfurous crevices of blame.

Their careful questions overturned in me harsh, short answers, and their glaring advice made me writhe. “No, it is dark down here! Do not bring a light—it hurts my eyes!” I wanted to say. “These things are not for seeing—they are for forgetting.”

Finally I told them each that I was waiting. I told them that understanding and healing and all-manner-of-things-shall-be-well would come in God’s time. (So that they should never again try to go beyond those walls. I would not be dragged back there again.)

I’m really good at waiting. At sitting, at being the last found in hide-and-seek, at stagnating, at rotting to dust in the corner.

Before I may live there are many things my God must kill, but before He does that I must admit that they live. But I’m not ready. I can’t. I’m waiting.

Thunder

The first night of my freshman year, I was lying in bed in the throes of homesickness when I heard the train whistle. “There’s a train two blocks from me at home.” I thought. “They have trains here, too!” And I went to sleep.

I came into this year sick to my stomach with fear, much more irregular fear than two years ago. And over the past week we’ve had thunderstorms. We never have thunder here. Thunder makes me think of home and summer evenings and my front porch and dinner soon and we-should-walk-in-the-gutter-like-when-we-were-kids. Thunder, like a train whistle, means comfort. And I’ve rejoiced in that.

Comfort is not bad. My corner is not bad. But Christianity is not intended to be cozy. When Christ said “Follow Me,” he did not preface it with “Come along, children, tea and scones at the next inn!” He said “Take up your cross and follow Me.”

We hear this and we fear and we hide. We don’t want to touch our cross, don’t want to think about what our cross may be, and don’t even try to make us carry it. It’s a dreadfully common fear. T.S. Eliot even put it into the mouth of the chorus, in their last speech in Murder in the Cathedral.

Forgive us, O Lord, we acknowledge ourselves as type of the common man,

Of the men and women who shut the door and sit by the fire;

Who fear the blessing of God, the loneliness of the night of God, the surrender required, the deprivation inflicted;

Who fear the injustice of men less than the justice of God;

Who fear the hand at the window, the fire in the thatch, the fist in the tavern, the push into the canal,

Less than we fear the love of God.

We acknowledge our sin, our trespass, our weakness, our fault:

(…) Lord, have mercy upon us.

Christ, have mercy upon us.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

I cower by the fire behind the shut door, but that is not as I ought. Tonight at church, Ethan quoted St. Basil. “If you live alone whose feet will you wash?” Whose indeed? I am not called to serve myself, to obey my own frightened, sin-riddled demands.

So even if the crosses we bear and hang upon are the crosses of ourselves, as Whittaker Chambers would say, even if what hinders us is our self-made, self-inflicted, self-devouring fear, we are still to follow. His is the only heel that can crush that fear, though it may “hurt like billy-oh.”

We preface the Lord ’s Prayer with “Now as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to say:” If I can call Him who made me my “Father, who art in heaven.”  I can be bold to say and do so much else. I can stomp out the fire with a marshwiggle foot, open the shut door, and step out. The thunder is not only a comfort. It is a reminder, a call.