Monthly Archives: March 2011
Walking from my dorm this morning, I was struck by the beauty of the frost that was still clinging to the shade of the trees. It’s already about forty-five degrees outside, yet the chill in the darkness was still enough to keep grass in a white glow. Beyond the marvel of this, I spotted a pool of water around the base of a small tree. The water was frozen across the surface, looking splintered and cracked but perfectly intact, perfectly transparent and flawless. The splintered marks of freezing were not flaws, but a part of the process. They were the most beautiful part of winter in spring.
In the past few weeks, I’ve found myself stumbling over a lot of self-reflection. Figures from my past have been showing their faces in dreams, making their way to the forefront of my mind through conversations and nostalgic pondering. Childhood friends, my Slovak grandparents, my own mistakes, the person I’ve become and how I got here. It’s funny how when needed, memories are as solid and tangible and snapshots. We can freely pick them up, feel them under our fingers, examine their details and sort them back in the drawer. I’ve been doing a lot of spring cleaning.
Much of this was started when I rediscovered my best friend from kindergarten through Facebook. At four in the morning, I friended her and sent her a message. Twenty minutes later we were catching up on chat. Not that much has changed even though we’ve spent over twelve years growing up without any contact with one another. In the midst of our conversation, she mentioned how good God is in her life – how he’s been drawing her to the things she loves most when she stopped looking for them.
My freshman year, I got into a relationship that sapped my self-esteem, my joy, my self-respect and my spiritual longing for fulfillment through Christ. I have been a part of difficult friendships, occasional frustration in my family, disappointment in myself and confusion as to where God is pointing me. But the more I’ve seen myself get wounded by the blows of life, the more I’ve realized that I’m not a broken person. I carry some cracking and scarring and some near-breaking points, but I’m still whole, I’m still vibrant and I’m finding myself being drawn to the things I love – passions, people, future opportunities. Someone finds me beautiful because of what I’ve been through, cracks and all. Some of the most beautiful artwork is made through trial, damage and pain.
I am the thin, crystal-clear ice on a spring morning.
We can exhibit all the signs of fracture without ever having been broken.
And so shall I.
We put so much stock in the worldly things that we bond to. When we build a house, we build it with the purposes of creating shelter, of providing a safe place to store our precious possessions, a space to set apart as our own and our private garden. Unintentionally, every house is built with hidden purposes that reveal themselves over the period of time in which the house is inhabited. A house allows a family to be born and to grow. It allows the acquisition of new treasures and new shared joys. It brings friends to a gathering place, provides a space to host events of joy and entertainment. When someone welcomes you into their home, they are giving you permission to tread into their closest quarters.
You enter a museum and gallery of their treasures, their memories, their past and perhaps their future. It’s their vault, their private retreat, their safe haven, their fortress. You are free to drift your eyes over the sites they see every morning when they first open their eyes and every night right before they fall into sleep. You brush your hand over walls that have reverberated under waves of joyful laughter and venomous words of disagreement. They may have captured the cries of a newborn or the last breath of an elderly parent. Cigarette smoke and dog hair are seen as pollutants, but they are just as much a part of history as the photos on the walls. Even dust, something swept away and blown off of surfaces, are tiny remnants of the people who belong in that house. Stains are not accidents, but signatures of the host.
Outside, that house may look like every other one on the block, and as you pulled up to the door you doubted if you’d found the right house. The family inside knows their own house. They know their front hedge and the ivy and the willow in the back. They know the kitchen lights at night and the curve of the drive. They know where the property line crosses and where the grass grows the longest. They know when their flowers bloom and how long it takes the mailman to stop at their box. Every action becomes a habit because every aspect becomes a routine. We water the lawn and wash the windows because that’s what we do in our house. That’s how we do things here.
The doorbell has a certain chime, the phone a certain ring. Their fridge is stocked with certain foods and their drawers with all their clothes. There is a distinct smell to their home that they have long since forgot exists as they have grown accustomed to it. They have things in their proper place and the guest is to observe with respect. This is not their house.
So much stock is put into a house. It is one thing that must always be built from the ground up, one brick or shingle at a time. It starts with a foundation and ends with a roof. Even if the original construction or design was not done by the homeowner, they make it their own and do just as much work making it home as the person who built it. We struggle and sweat to buy and own, desperate to call it our own in this brief, mortal world.
Home is where the heart is, and my heart is in my house. If that gets taken away, I don’t know where I will wander.
But then again, what is a house but wood and stone?
We can engrave our whole lives into a house and it can still be lost. We have a way of putting so much at risk.
All the risk in the world is worth it to gather the things we love under one safe roof.
“The world can’t stand what it can’t own, and it can’t own you ’cause you did not have a home.”
We met and talked today. It was so wonderful to see you all, to remember why I loved this place. I wasn’t worried about the good times or the good memories. Those are things we never think to worry about.
We haven’t seen each other in some time… I have been around to places and met people and seen those things that many long to see, but you have been constant and stayed, more weariness around the eyes and a heavier lift in your smile, but there you were. At back doors and back lots you waited and we spoke and there was so much to say as we smiled and remembered all we had and were and probably will be. But there was something you didn’t sense, that sense that I had let you down before.
You were helpful, I was gracious, it was so good to see you… and then in the pauses, in the gaps I heard all I hadn’t done right. Yes, I was so foolish then, only a child trying to find her way home. I remember the days when I thought college was going to be the steps to adulthood, but really it was the training wheels of a silly girl who just learned how to ride the bike. I lifted myself above and beyond what I thought I was, and I was really so far behind. I let you suffer through my denial of my true identity.
Only a child, and in your part, you all helped raise me. But I let you down. I won’t deny I brought you down, but you gave me much more than I should have deserved. I didn’t complete all I needed to, I didn’t come through when you needed me, but did you ever really need me? So much older, so much wiser, but I suppose we needed each other. It kept you living to see how far I’ve come.
But I won’t forget those times I made you angry. I breached the limits and you felt the sting. You let me in and then regretted forgetting to shut the door behind you. You didn’t always regret. Sometimes, it was like I had caught you before you had the chance to regret I was there and you were pleased to see me. Then, other times, I overstayed my welcome.
You bore me like a saint, and I am grateful.
Then, after leaving you and all you’ve given me, I began to reflect on others of my past. The ones who left and left me constant, who broke my heart and took no blame for the damage or havoc you wreaked. I have battle scars and trophies on the same shelves, balancing one another out. The boy who first took my heart in his hands, the man who taught me how not to be afraid, the woman who brought me step by step out into first light. In your own way, you were champions. In your own way, you were blades.
Without you, I would not be who I am. But without you, I would have spared myself much pain.
But what is love without pain? What is trial without grace? What is sin without forgiveness?
We need those opposites to make us whole again.
So, the people of my past. In the end, you will all stand together to face me for who you are.
Together, you will stand and take credit for who I have become.
Those who I will thank, you know your place.
And oh, how I shall thank you.