We need an appropriate ordering to our souls as well as our loves.
Over the past fifteen years the devotional and literary aspects of my spiritual life have taken different forms...
I remember being in about fifth or sixth grade when I first realized that I was reading multiple books at once (and thinking that maybe it wasn't such a good idea.)
A few weeks before Christmas, I thanked a friend for posting a blog interview featuring a writer who was also a busy wife and mother. (You can actually access the article here.) The article was truly encouraging, and my friend’s response was meant to be: he asked if I would be interested in being interviewed myself. There was one problem: me. Once more, I was going to have to confess to someone far more successful that I hadn’t been writing lately and therefore wouldn’t be much of an inspiration. As I clicked send, I hoped my brevity wouldn’t reveal the grumpiness and defeat the offer had unwittingly triggered.
One of my favorite stories has become Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I first met Alice a few summers ago when I learned I would be reading Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There with my eighth graders. Naturally, I thought Alice and I might need to become better acquainted. Sixth months later, I adapted both novels for the stage (with a greater emphasis on Wonderland and a few beloved scenes and characters from Looking-Glass), using Martin Gardner’s annotated version.
Regret can stem from a couple of sources: you can say or do or believe something wrong or stupid, someone else can say or do something wrong or stupid, or it can be a bit of both.
Often, those things we love most, have to be destroyed.
As with auditions for a play, we don't always get the part in life we think we want. Flute begged his director to not make him play a woman, while Bottom desired to play all the parts at once. Jo March wanted to be a boy. Lucy Pevensie wanted to be her older, beautiful sister Susan. Mark Studdock craved inclusion in the inner circles of his work, and his wife Jane despised any ideas of roles in their marriage. Moses begged God to send someone else, and then that someone else, Aaron, turned around years later and asked Moses why he had to be the one in charge. Peter asked Jesus what he planned to do with John. James and John wanted to have the right-hand position in God's kingdom. I want to be Gandalf.
My Shakespeare professor chanted the first lines of Beowulf in Old English to help us better understand the rhythm of Anglo-Saxon poetry. While I’d read the poem multiple times, I didn’t exactly have the first line memorized, but it didn’t matter. There was magic in these words I couldn’t understand and wouldn’t have recognized if you’d placed them before me. But the archaic words hailed something otherworldly, and my soul longed for it, though I couldn’t tell you what it was.
(In the final entry of this three part series, I'll apply the qualities and experiences of Whitman's noiseless, patient spider to my own search for joy.) I never thought I’d identify with a spider, but I do believe, along with many other interpreters, that Whitman captured the sentiments and tendencies of many artists and thinkers (of which I’d at least like to become when I grow up) through his little eight-legged friend. Although I’m not so sure Whitman would say the spider derived its purpose from the Lord—in fact, his poem can sound quite existential—Whitman’s spider has served, for me, as another great image of pursuing God.