...A tale told by an idiot...
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Like most parents these days, I spend at least 3 hours a day picking up or delivering my children. I look forward to this time (usually) because in our hyper-busy life, this often is our only quiet time together. Mornings are especially precious to me, since we share morning prayers during the drive.
Since we do this with consistency, our morning prayers tend to take on a "book of common prayer" quality -- some repetitive verses, same prayer - new day. We always open together ('good morning Jesus, Thank you for this day') -- in the same manner we have opened for the last 10 years (at least). My daughter (the youngest) starts the prayers, I'm the middle, my son (the oldest) always closes. It doesn't matter what time we get into the car, how many people are in the car, where we are off to -- We can't seem to leave our house without morning prayer. It's an addiction (a good one, but an addiction none-the-less).
I don't know about your house, but mornings at our house tend to be insane -- and they get more chaotic as the week progresses. We are tired, rushing, crashing into each other, forgetting lunch on the kitchen counter, panicking over homework (I put it RIGHT HERE), barking orders (get your shoes on, brush your hair, did you brush your teeth? don't leave without breakfast...etc). By the time we get into the car we have yelled at one another at least once, I have used foul language at least once -- sometime there is crying involved -- and after this mad dash, we get in the car and start the race to be "on time". It is often after a wacky start that the first sentence centers and grounds us (good morning jesus...) and reminds us (thank you for this day) and gives us the peace and preparation we need to face the day.
Some days, my mind is racing on to all the stuff we have to do. The prayer becomes automatic, and I don't engage in it. It becomes like all the other white noise -- the morning news, the kids demands for my attention -- and I tune it out. Many times my daughter's prayers (which are very long and repetitive) get on my nerves and I find I am exercising every effort to be patient for her to finish so we can get on with the real praying (how ugly, I know.)
Today was such a day. We were late out the door, my daughter not sensing the urgency, my son in the car beeping the horn. My personal prayer "lord get us to school on time, help, help, help." ("Help, help, help" seems to be my daily mantra...)
The prayers started as usual, "good morning jesus, thank you for this day..." and then on to my daughter's daily vigil: "thank you for the trees, thank you for the birds, thank you for (insert 8 million inane objects here). Let us have a good day, Let everything good happen, Let nothing bad happen." (go back to thank you for the trees and start again, repeat about 1,000 times).
Today, I couldn't contain myself, since clearly my prayer was more important. "Ask God to get us to school on time, " I blurted out -- interrupting her flow. "MOM!" she cried out in two syllables. "I'm not finished!" She wrapped it up, adding a "help my mom to CALM DOWN" to her routine. We finished praying, adding a please help us be respectful of each other, I'm sorry for my impatience, etc.
They both made it to school on time, and my brain, now free of the "please help us get to school on time" obsessive prayer, was now open and able to hear God's conviction in my heart. What to me sounded repetitive and boring was to God the sweetest song in the earth. I interrupted His precious morning song -- He delighted in that song -- the innocent lovely song of my child. And I switched the channel on Him in the middle.
Hopefully my daughter will sing it again tomorrow.
But to make up for it, today I will pick up where she left off. Maybe you could help me. The main theme is this: "Let nothing bad happen. Let everything good happen." The rest of it consists of an infinite trail of thank yous. I'll start you off with mine:
"Thank you for my daughter, thank you for getting us to school on time, thank you how you admonish me when I really deserve it, thank you for forgiveness, thank you for confession, thank you for this blog, thank you for my car and the 3-4 hours a day I get to spend in it with my children, thank you for those children, thank you for the trees, thank you for the clouds, thank you for that bird over there on the left.... (keep going until you run out of things to be thankful for -- this could take awhile...).
Let us have a good day. Let nothing bad happen. Let everything good happen.
Monday, February 14, 2005
Valentine's Day. Hope you're having a happy one. I am taking a much needed break from an extremely boring project to look at this day from an unusual point of view. I heard someone quote Revelation this morning, warning me not to add or take away anything from the scriptures -- and since that is precisely what I am about to do, I feel a little queasy. (I believe that verse that they were quoting is actually referencing the specific work of Revelation -- but that is a question for a bible scholar (if one (a bible scholar that is) is reading please feel free to comment. Seems to me if you take a scripture out of context you're already taking something away...but I'm no expert...) I'm all about Valentine's Day right now, and this is a story that I've been considering for a long time -- so the book of Revelation is not really where I want to go. Not only do I intend to review a bible story in a not so biblical manner, but I'm also considering a Pagan Roman holiday in the mix -- so if you are offended easily, you should probably log off right now. Really. And if you are offended easily, yet continue to read on, don't say I didn't warn you...
The website I referenced above is a quick summary review of the history of Valentine's Day. Those of you that have visited me before know that I am not one to miss a holiday, no matter what the origin -- and I tend to have a hard time understanding people who turn their nose up at such holidays in an effort to assert their holiness (which is clearly way holier than mine -- especially since I don't really have any that I know of (holiness that is...). I really don't mind that the Holy Roman Empire converted standard Pagan holidays into Christian holidays -- It doesn't offend me at all. I've tried to jump on that bandwagon, I actually climbed up and interviewed its inhabitants. As much as they are passionate about their reasons for not celebrating certain holidays of Pagan origin, I am passionate about my "why not?" You can tell me your thoughts if you want, but you won't change my mind. Saying that the origin of the holiday has relevance and that we dishonor God by celebrating is in my mind akin to saying that anyone observing a "sanctioned" religious holiday is in fact honoring God ("People look at the outside of the person but the Lord looks at the heart..."). I know plenty of people who walk the walk....you get my point.
The theme of love and fertility is not only visited by the Pagans. I have been reading and re-reading the story of Rachel and Leah. This Old Testament tale really speaks to me at many levels. In fact, it means something different to me at 41 than it did at 20. I find it holds incredible relevance for Valentine's Day. First of all, Jacob's infatuation with Rachel is most certainly an erotic sort of love. I've heard people say that Rachel returned Jacob's love, but I do not see evidence of this in the scripture. Maybe she did, maybe not. It doesn't seem relevant to the story, since she wasn't in control of her destiny. She was her father's possession until she was given over to her husband. I would think that maybe Rachel and Jacob hung out together with the sheep, and even after all that time, he was still excited about marrying her. ("so Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her." Gen 29:20) So we know Jacob liked Rachel. (we aren't told that they grew in love together, or that he really liked her point of view -- he like the way she looked. She was a hotty -- it even says so in the bible.) It was probably quite honorable for Jacob to wait all that time for Rachel. He probably could have taken another wife in the mean time (since that was what they did back then). I think he was REALLY HORNY after 7 years of waiting. ("Then Jacob said to Laban, "Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to lie with her." Gen 29:21). (Kim translation: I might die if I don't have sex soon...). And his being really horny is what must have lent itself to the next part of the story, because on his wedding night, Jacob didn't notice that the woman he was relieving all that pressure with was NOT RACHEL. I don't care how many veils she had over her head, and how many different ways people have explained this to me -- how did he NOT KNOW it wasn't the woman he desired for the last 7 YEARS!!?? I simply do not have the cultural capacity to understand this. The scripture makes a point of stating how much more desirable Rachel was than Leah. This blunder screams the offensive nasty phrase: "They're all the same in the dark." (-- Men).
Whether Rachel returned Jacob's affection (which most people assure me is true) Leah (and every other woman in a 5 mile radius) most certainly had to know that Jacob was hot for Rachel. After all, he waited 7 years. He didn't take another wife. He worked for free. Rachel had to giggle about this with her sister, Leah. They had to chat. No matter how you slice this, I can't help but say, poor Leah. Did she do everything in her power to make sure that the dirty deed was done? Did she hide her "weak eyes" from Jacob and pray he wouldn't figure it all out too soon? Or did she maybe have a crush on Jacob? Maybe she desired him? How did she feel about snaking her sister's betrothed? Or maybe Rachel could care less? Either way it's not a happy story. There is a haunting song by Rich Mullins (the World as Best as I can Remember it: Jacob and 2 Women") that breaks my heart every time I hear it. He speaks of the whole triangle in that song, but I still come back to Leah. Even God felt sorry for her. "When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb..." Gen 29:31) God made up for Leah's short stick by making her fertile, and Rachel, the beloved, was left barren. (ah, finally getting to the point -- love and fertility....).
The story gets even more complicated when the girls start to battle over Jacob -- not for Jacob really, but more like for Jacob's sperm. They wanted the babies. They even threw their servant girls into the mix when they weren't making babies fast enough. In all fairness, in the beginning Leah believed the sons would draw Jacob to her -- but by the 4th son (Judah) she simply rejoiced in the gift of her babies, knowing by now nothing would make Jacob love her. "this time I will praise the Lord" Gen 29:35. She eventually gets sucked into the baby battle with Rachel, and after 7 more kids (Bilhah (Rachel's maidservant) 2, Zilpah (Leah's servant) 2, and Leah, 2 more boys and 1 girl) Rachel finally has a baby boy. Not finished yet, one more baby proves to be the demise of Rachel who dies in childbirth -- the ultimate tragedy. And the injustice remains for Leah and all her boys -- for even in death, Rachel remained the beloved, and her 2 boys were highly favored by their father over all the others.
You may think this too tragic a story for Valentine's Day, but I think it is just right. I see Leah and Rachel in myself every day. I think all women have a little of both. At 20, I wanted to be the Rachel in someone's life. I wanted to be the object of someone's infatuation. I wanted to be desired and beloved. I don't think this changes from culture to culture or generation to generation, although it may look a little different from one scenario to the next. Too many marriages I saw seemed to be a union of Jacob and Leah, a baby factory without much keeping the parents together except those very babies. I didn't want to be "poor Leah" home with the babies while Jacob was out with the boys, dreaming of Rachel. Does anyone sign up for that?
Anyone who is married understands that shortly after we say "I do", our veils are dropped and we realize we barely know the person we married. In many ways we wake up with a stranger. Jacob woke up with Leah, Billy Joel referenced "the Stranger" in his song of the same title. Marriage is tough even for the most devoted couples. Babies are tougher. They transform the most lovely bride into something different. (the word cow comes to mind, but that may just be me...). Men of lesser character don't always make it through this stage. Women can be guilty of the same thing. We are attracted to the Rachel in each other -- the lovely, attractive person with good abs. Rachel is so alluring to us that we don't see Leah. She's in there plain as day, but she has "bad eyes" (or is it a reflection of our own bad eyes...). We are too smitten to see -- "love is blind" they say. So until we "wake up" the morning after, we don't really notice the Leah in our bed. Love is funny that way. Its as if the potion on that dart that Eros or Cupid shot at us has worn away, and now instead of the long, thick eyelashes and the wading pool eyes, we see the dark circles under the eyes, or the bloodshot corners.
With children comes a new challenge. Like Leah, some people do believe the children will draw them closer together -- bind them to their spouse -- but only God can do that. You can have a dozen children with a spouse who doesn't love you, and not a single one of them will make that spouse love you more. Leah eventually learned that the kids were a blessing in themselves, and by the 4th child stopped trying to win Jacob. She recognized the blessing and praised God.
In my life, I couldn't believe how blessed I was by my children. I couldn't have predicted how much I would love them. At 20, I wanted to be someone's Rachel, but at 40, I really appreciate the blessing that was Leah's. I love being a mom. I think it was a great move for God to open her womb when he saw she wasn't loved. I feel a little of the angst of Rachel. I am married to a man who loves me with everything he is. I have never felt less than the apple of his eye -- I am extremely blessed. I have only 2 children -- I still wonder why we didn't have more. My husband is content with 2. I imagine Jacob would have been content with 1. And in this I turn my attention to Jacob -- We know how Jacob felt in all of this -- He was always about Rachel. He loved her. He loved her children. He was distraught by her sorrow. He only wanted her and a life with her. I wonder did Rachel return this devotion? Suddenly, for the first time in all the reading and reviewing of this story, I feel sorry for Jacob. Poor, poor Jacob.
This Valentine's Day, I realize that I am doubly blessed. I have known love and fertility. I have spent almost 17 years with a man who swept me off my feet and never ceased to remind me that I have done the same for him. I have spent the majority of these years neglecting this man, focusing my energy on my lovely children. I have learned a lot from Leah and Rachel, and I am sure I have much to learn still. Leah represents maternal love to me, devotion, long suffering. Rachel represents romantic love, desire, attraction. For many years I believed my Rachel died in childbirth. Lately, she has re-awakened. She's all grown up and sexier than ever. She owes her Jacob some return on his investment...
++Thank you Lord for your incredible goodness toward me. Happy Valentine's Day to You. Thank you for romance. Thank you for the evolution of love in my life. You blow me away.
Jacob and 2 Women (The World as Best as I Remember It) Rich Mullins As Recorded on The World as Best as I Remember It, Volume 1
Jacob, he loved Rachel and Rachel, she loved him
And Leah was just there for dramatic effect
Well it's right there in the Bible, so it must not be a sin
But it sure does seem like an awful dirty trick
And her sky is just a petal pressed in a book of a memory
Of the time he thought he loved her and they kissed
And her friends say, "Ah, he's a devil" But she says, "No, he is a dream"
This is the world as best as I can remember it
Now Jacob got two women and a whole house full of kids
And he schemed his way back to the promised land
And he finds it's one thing to win 'em
And it's another to keep 'em content
When he knows that he is only just one man
And his sky's an empty bottle and when he's drunk the ocean dry
Well he sails off three sheets to some reckless wind
And his friends say, "Ain't it awful" And he says, "No, I think it's fine"
And this is the world as best as I can remember it
Now Rachel's weeping for the children
That she thought she could not bear
And she bears a sorrow that she cannot hide
And she wishes she was with them
But she just looks and they're not there
Seems that love comes for just a moment
And then it passes on by
And her sky is just a bandit
Swinging at the end of a hangman's noose
'Cause he stole the moon and must be made to pay for it
And her friends say, "My, that's tragic" She says, "Especially for the moon"
And this is the world as best as I can remember it
And this is the world as best as I can remember it
Copyright 1991 - Edward Grant, Inc.
Friday, February 04, 2005
My husband has always balked at people who say they are "finding themselves". This is especially funny in my house, since I am a person who is always looking. "Who am I?" sounds frighteningly similar to "where the heck did I put those keys...?" It is a daily exercise of hide and seek, of exploration and discovery. My husband always says that "who you are" is a verb. It is ever moving, ever changing. You can take a snap shot now and then -- an action photo, but you can't capture more than a fraction, a fragment at any given point in time. I agree with this, even though I continue to indulge myself in the looking. At 41, I like the view from here. Changes in direction look less like wrong turns and more like detours. I like revisiting some of the places I've been -- knowing oh-so-much-more now, and knowing that later I'll know ever more than today. It's a good place.
For many, it is a common desire in relationship to Know and to Be Known. This is what I want for my relationship with my children, my parents, my husband, my friends, God. Wanting to know yourself is part of this cycle. Some people know you better than you know yourself, and others don't even come close. When someone you care about falls clearly in the latter category, you do everything in your power to make yourself known to them. Why don't they know you? Maybe the snapshot they have is a bad angle, a bad hair day, a bad moment in time. Wouldn't it be great if the only moments recorded were the really good ones: the 3 point basket at the buzzer to win the game, the selfless act of kindness that was divinely inspired. But these moments wouldn't reflect you anymore accurately than the selfish acts of anger, jealousy or frustration. No, it is the combination of all the moments that make you you. You here now. You are different than you were yesterday, and you will be different again tomorrow.
Life powers on in its busy pace. You leave your family at 18 to go to college. You change every day for the first time apart from that family. You come home expecting them to be just as they were when you left them, and they welcome you expecting the same 18 year old. Depending on the time, the circumstances, you might go 20 years with that same unrealistic expectation. You may remember your parents as those people who were at the time parenting a teen-ager. And they may remember you as the pin-head teenager you were. But they have moved on. And so have you. (I am personally grateful to have moved on. I hated being a teenager. I didn't like myself inside or out -- and I am much kinder to myself when I look backward. As a said, I much prefer the view from here.) Luckily, parents never really expect you to remain a teenager. They know you'll snap out of it. (good ones do, anyway). How sad for those families that get stuck there in a bad moment, a bad choice. Imprisoned by unforgiveness. Good thing God doesn't stop there. He sees the whole picture. The beginning and the end. Even the psalmist seems aware of this process as he asks the Lord, "Remember not the sins of my youth, and my rebellious ways: according to your love remember me, for you are good, O Lord." (psalm 25:7)
God, the ever good parent, remembers us according to his love. Often it is he alone who can do this. It is a painful revelation when you realize that many of the people you want to engage with don't really care to know who you really are. In some cases, they've already made up their minds. "you're either with us or against us". Maybe they just don't have the time. In all fairness, how many people can we truly know in this way? I have realized several times in my short life that the energy required of one friend can sometimes take away from the relationships I want to have with my children, spouse etc. Some people just require too much time. And frankly, time is something that we don't have enough of. None-the-less, it is painful to be rejected at this level -- especially by people with whom we have an investment of some level. I have found that at 41, I have accepted that life will not contain enough time to achieve this goal with everyone I had hoped to know. We will inevitably run out of time before we are done. (here on earth, at least) Ironically, Time is something that God never lacks.
At 41, it is amazing how differently I see myself at 16 than I saw myself then. I'm glad to have snapshots, good and bad. I remember believing myself to be awkward, fat, pimply -- but the photos reveal the beauty of youth -- fresh, clean, lovely (and if only I knew how fat fat could be...!!). All of that insecurity remarkably couldn't stop the bull headed belief that we knew more than our parents, that we were completely ready to face the world -- and even that quality (as irritating as it must have been for our parents) is so young and beautiful to me now. What crime do the young commit but to be young? And how valuable to me are those that have known me for all of that time -- those that actually remember the beginning, good and bad -- For the person you see today is an accumulation of change and movement over time. Look quickly, tomorrow we will be newer still.
Yes, I am in agreement with the writer who penned the phrase, "Grow old with me, the best is yet to be". Oh, Lord, it is my prayer that you would lead us on -- help us to never grow weary of knowing the people you put in our life, whether they choose to reciprocate or not. Perhaps in the accumulation of all of them we shall see more of You. Thank you for the many incredible people you have given me to love. I am so very blessed. May you fill me with what I need to love them as you love me. Thank you for the lovely view. It's a wonderful life.