Sunday, September 10, 2006

Wilt thou tarry?

It has been said that we can see ourselves through the eyes of those who are close to us. But what about seeing ourselves in their eyes? ;-)

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Pastor Stanley preached today on receiving God's blessing, and he based it on the account of Jacob in the book of Genesis. There were three strands/currents that seemed to address me: thoughts on waiting, changing and breaking.

Somewhere in the sermon, pastor said these words; "Lord... at the right time, in the right way." I don't know what the context was, as I think I wasn't listening at that particular moment, but these words seemed to pierce me. And I thought; there is nothing wrong with pleasure, but when and how is so important.

It is like when Aslan nearly crushed Digory's hopes in The Magician's Nephew, when he told Digory that a stolen apple would not bring joy to his mother, and that it would be better for her to die than to live on a stolen magic apple. Digory almost cried when Aslan then said, "That is what would have happened with a stolen apple; it is not what will happen now." And he then gave Digory an apple.

Like Jacob, we are born selfish, pastor said. We want to have our way, and often, we'll do anything to get it; if we do relent, it is frequently with a heavy heart. Somehow, we seem to think that we have our own space, our own 'rights', so to speak. And then I thought, this world belongs to God, not us at any rate.

Vulnerability (especially in deep relationships) is about the only way to dispel this false notion that we own ourselves. It is as Eliot wrote in East Coker, about our fear of belonging to others, our fear of belonging to God. Because that would mean we are no longer our own masters; we yield to a greater power. And that is something we are not often willing to do: we don't want to let go.

In being vulnerable, we learn that there is a time to embrace, and a time to abstain, just as the writer of Ecclesiastes (probably King Solomon) wrote. We learn to let go.

But I suppose what gripped me most, was the idea of breaking. The conviction that it is not wrong to want to hold on. Jacob had his name changed to Israel (i.e. he who has wrestled with God) because he refused to let go of God, until He blessed him. And here's the puzzling thing: when is it right to hold on?

All I can say is that I don't know. Sometimes it's not so wrong to be stubborn; that is, to be stubborn for the right reasons. But the story of Jacob also seems to teach one more thing: that if we hold on to get something we want, we will inevitably be broken somehow along the way.

There is no joy without sorrow, peace without pain, redemption without death. As surely as roses have thorns, love will have its share of hurt.

This begs the question: is the prize worth the price? To Jacob, God's blessing was worth the intense night-long wrestling with the angel. (I am inclined to think that humans usually don't wrestle with angels as our chances of winning are relatively slim.) It was Bono who said, regarding U2's attitude in the recording studio, that "no one notices the blows or sees the bruises. All we're concerned about is where is the beauty."

Maybe, just maybe, when all is said and done, some things are worth it. Some dawns are worth the nearly endless dark of night.

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One of my favourite U2 songs is 'A Man and a Woman' from their album How to Dismantle and Atomic Bomb. Some of the lines have been ringing in my head today.

You can run from love
And if it’s really love it will find you
Catch you by the heel
But you can’t be numb for love
The only pain is to feel nothing at all
How can I hurt when I’m holding you?

The soul needs beauty for a soul mate
When the soul wants... the soul waits...

It is said that Achtung Baby is U2's most emotionally naked album. The more I listen to it, the more I'm convinced. I like the song 'Ultraviolet (Light My Way)', though I must say I don't really understand it.

I like the second verse, though I'm not sure what it means;

You bury your treasure
Where it can't be found
But your love is like a secret
That's been passed around
There is a silence that comes to a house
Where no one can sleep
I guess it's the price of love
I know it's not cheap

* * * * *

If it's really love, it will find you...

When the soul wants, the soul waits...

The price of love is not cheap...

* * * * *

From Thomas Hardy's Lines to a Movement in Mozart's E-Flat Symphony:

Show me again just this:
The moment of that kiss
Away from the prancing folk, by the strawberry-tree! --
Yea, to such rashness, ratheness, rareness, ripeness, richness,
Love lures life on.

Love lures life on indeed.

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