Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Cut Bouquet

The camera "disappeared" (i.e., I forgot where I'd put it), and I just "found" it today. So this is not a recent photo. It was made just over two weeks ago, of the few daffodils that bloomed in our little backyard. There was a freeze warning for that night, so I cut them and brought them in. And saw the photo today for the first time.

Now here comes evidence of the amazing power of projection. Because when I looked at this photo, while my first thought was, "Oh, look, the sweet daffodils! I'd forgotten I took that picture," and then, "Wow, this makes the windows look even dirtier than I realized they were," my mind quickly went to other things.

I thought how sad for the flowers to have been cut off from their stem, their roots, taken out of the dirt they lived in, away from fresh air and sunshine. Away from the only world they knew, and brought into this space where even the sunlight they get is indirect and comes to them through dirty windows, blurring the view.

I thought how often I have felt that way. Whether it was moving to a new place (whether a dormitory or a country), or losing a job, or losing a friendship that had meant a lot, or via depression losing the ability to enjoy life and feel like my normal self....All kinds of situations can feel like being cut off from oneself and from life as it had been.

And then I remembered beloved Mr. Woodroof, who preached in the church of my growing up for many years, and his talking about the inadequacy of offering someone a "cut-bouquet religion." How it isn't enough to give someone all the information about faith, without helping them actually develop their own faith that takes root and grows way after the original handing down process occurs.

And then I thought about my recent re-reading of The Great Divorce, in which Lewis does such a wonderful job of visually describing spiritual concepts of life and death, freedom and enslavement, selflessness and self-absorption. And especially the sense of joy and glory at being in the presence of the Source of Life and Joy and Glory. The strength and realness that come from being connected to ultimate Reality, the personal God who created the first garden that all living things come from, and who will one day restore all things to their original glory.

So, I looked at this little image of daffodils in the windowsill and thought how our whole life on earth is like that, in a way. We see through a glass darkly. We have some faint form of remembrance of another way of life, of being truly alive. We yearn, and if we don't kill the yearning, we have some hope of it even in this life, the more rooted we become in the Source. And we look forward to the glorious time when "we shall be changed" and the perishable becomes imperishable, when Easter resurrection becomes a shared experience, not a historic event only.

And I was just thinking, "But the flowers can never regain that aliveness! It isn't fair!" (I also encountered an ailing bird earlier this morning while walking, who didn't even try to move away from my friend and me, so I think my sympathetic capacity for innocent creatures was in overdrive.) And realized that of course they can, and they will. Because they eventually wilted and died, and I put them in the compost, and before long they will go back into the earth, and be again a part of something that grows and lives in that very real world that in the moment of the photo they could only remember and look at through the window.

(I am not writing well, just thinking "out loud." Oh dear, I was about to write, "out loud--on paper," because I'm not of course saying this aloud--then realized I'm not writing on paper at all. Now I'm feeling even more detached from reality!)

And just as the flowers have to die to live again, so do we. And the people I know who've done the most dying to themselves are the most "alive" people I know. Their willing-to-die way of life allows them to see through the window, beyond the window, even into the dust and grime of the window of this world, to the Reality that makes it all possible. They are connected to the earth, the sky, the light, the wind. To the Spirit who gives life. And if they get cut off and disconnected by circumstnaces, they know it is only temporary.

So, I think I can now look at this photo without that melancholic feel it gave me earlier. Any image is never the whole story.

But I do think I'll clean the windows as soon as I can.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Easter Night

All night had shout of men, and cry
Of woeful women filled His way;
Until that noon of sombre sky
On Friday, clamour and display
Smote Him; no solitude had He,
No silence, since Gethsemane.

Public was Death; but Power, but Might,
But Life again, but Victory,
Were hushed within the dead of night,
The shutter’d dark, the secrecy.
And all alone, alone, alone,
He rose again behind the stone.

--Alice Meynell (1847-1922)

I wish that I were at church right now for the Easter Vigil. It didn't work out for me to be able to go this year, for various reasons. We will go in the morning for the Easter service, which is celebratory and joyful beyond description. But the Vigil is thick with story, ritual, and mystery--and great joy, with them; and I wanted to be there.

Of course, if I were there, I wouldn't have found this poem and wouldn't be here writing. When I came across this poem while ago, I couldn't help but think how true it is that often the most powerful experiences with God in my own life happen in solitude, not in a crowd. And why wouldn't they? What people in intimate relationship want to display their most precious moments to strangers? Certainly you can experience a form of intimacy with a small group of people, but the most powerful relational moments, the moments that change lives, usually occur one-on-one.

In Jesus' life, we see him continually going away from the crowd, and even separating from his closest friends, to pray. And it's when he is away from everyone else that he is transfigured, that Moses and Elijah appear, and that angels come to strengthen him.

I suppose some would say that if only Jesus had been resurrected in front of a crowd, then there would be proof of the resurrection. But apparently when he resurrected Lazarus in front of a small crowd, even though their witnessing the event caused them to believe, it only caused the authority figures to want to capture the evidence (Lazarus) and kill him, to squash the story. We are all very good at explaining away the things we prefer not to believe, despite evidence to the contrary.

And so, in the middle of the night, alone except for the One he had always been most intimate with, He came alive. From the dead. It boggles the mind.

And from that time on--even though no one saw it as it happened--night became less dark for the many who have believed. Death lost its sting. And those of us who manage to escape the crowd from time to time, are also blessed with powerful encounters with the Light and Life that worked in the dark of death that night.

Maybe being alone on Easter night is not such a bad thing, after all.