Further up, Further In — And the Difficulties Thereof

Today was a long day.

Its been a long weekend to be honest, as a person who is drained by human contact, by smiling, by witty conversation, I don’t know when I will find time to really recharge. I had a wonderful time visiting with my friend at her sort of new house on Sunday, watching the antics of her funny and sweet little girl, talking with the ladies and having snacks. I’m glad that I went. Rehearsing with John and Kelly for our debut performance outside of singing like, church music, was wonderful as well. Something about how John hands out praise makes it more meaningful, I don’t think he tells me he likes how I sing something if he doesn’t. He pushes me to be better and try harder and use my vowels and my breath correctly, so to hear that I sang a very challenging (for me) song well was like cool water on a hot stone. I can do hard things.

I was up very late last night, for reasons that I won’t go into, but am still upset about. And then up very early this morning, disentangling myself from the sheets, stumbling over the cats, swearing at the dog. I made lasagna for a million people and then I sang in the choir and then I listened to my brother’s sermon, brother preached today, today he brought it. And then I served that lunch, and then I had confirmation class. And then I came home to a messy house and a husband who is exhibiting his own classic symptoms of strep throat, which is typically pretty violent with him.

And now I’m in front of my computer (I only write fiction long hand) and I’m listening to this song that kept playing in my head today during confirmation class. She says, where do you send things to, when your heart ain’t got no room? and I’m set on banishing my undying love, unwavering favor of, all the wrong things. 

Today we talked about being holy. We talked about how this isn’t just a thing where you slick that water off your head and take off your clothes wet from the baptism and you go on about your business like, well, I’m saved! And then that’s all there is.

We talked about how we are called to be holy. How we are called, as C.S. Lewis writes in The Last Battle, go further up and further in. How we try to be as holy as we can and then when we die we are closer to God.

I imagine this as suddenly waking up somewhere, and being told that I’m not ready yet for what is coming, and being helped with strange clothing, and strange manners and ideas and language, and then, one day, having that audience, joining the seraphim and the angels around the pool in the throne room of God.

I mean, think about it, are you really ready? Right now? In what you’re wearing, in your varying states of Sunday afternoon sobriety, in your worry over what the work week will bring, are you ready right this second to walk into a room and meet a king? I know that I am not, so these ideas make sense to me.

Today we talked about stained glass glory light, we talked about a BIG GRACE. We talked about how it is possible that God’s favorite angel, Lucifer, may some day take the hand extended to him, how he may someday return home; how no one can be too far gone.

My friend said that Lent is not going super great. Its not super great for me either, I haven’t done any of the things I said I was going to do except for sing compline. I feel like a terrible person when I can’t stop doing some of the things that are daily routines, when I can’t make new routines, I really do. And then I was reminded today that part of this is getting back up, trying again, not just saying, well, its all gone to hell anyway, so forget it.

That’s where purgatory comes in, that if something happens to me tonight on my way to compline, and here I am, not fully formed, not dressed correctly, (my grandma used to tell me that I should make sure to have clean underpants on in case of just that thing!), keeping a bad lent… well, I have a space and a time to get ready, a place to become more, to learn to be holy. But I have to choose that. Does that make sense?

It made an odd kind of sense to me, that there is this BIG GRACE that lets me mess it up over and over again. But that I have to do the really hard thing, and that is to persist. To keep getting up, to keep challenging myself and the world even when, like today, I am so, so tired.

We talked about how Thomas Merton said that true prayer is to stand before God as you truly are. And I thought about standing in front of a mirror in a fitting room in a bathing suit that isn’t flattering. I thought about how I couldn’t ever stand in front of anyone other than my husband that way, to let anyone see all the bits of myself that I don’t like, that I think are ugly, or selfish or mean. He knows the bits of me that I hate, the parts that are mean, how selfish I can be. He loves me anyway. We talked about the idea that if we could see people as they really are, evil, divine, all the things in between we would be terrified.

My brother said, its hard to love people like that, to truly SEE them, and to love them anyway. And it is, I won’t contest that. If you could see how I truly am, well, there are parts of me that I don’t like, parts of me that I can’t and won’t show you; and apparently I am called to do just that, to show you all the things that I hate. To let the bright, bright light of your gaze burn away those things.

It seems to me, that its all one great circle, like stained glass windows in a nave that all relate, that all tell the same story in different words and pictures. It seems to me that the saying from my favorite homily, hell grasped a corpse and met God — it seems that is a trend that Christ started, and that we are called to continue.

That Christ took a human form so that we could become divine. That when we love as we are called to love, all of that divine creation, in all its awful forms, we are living out the divinity that he died for.

Is it just me or does this seem really hard?

We talked about the stages a person should go through. We talked about a terrifying prospect called the Dark Night. I asked if maybe we could have holy moments? Maybe it could happen in fits and starts? Could we have these divine and sparkling moments where we are who we are supposed to be, where we are holy?

In the song linked above, Lauren says, I’d like to know, how difficult is it to recreate established laws of physics, to dwell inside the confines of a minute… Because I know I’ve had those moments, those minutes, I just am working on how to make them more frequent.

I think that we can. I think that we get those moments every now and again to spur us on, to show us that its possible, like rare praise from a person who is so revered in my community, like singing notes that feel impossibly high, like talking with my guests today at the kitchen, like seeing my husband for who he really is, and loving him anyway, because I am called to. Because I want to be stained glass glory light, because I hope purgatory is comfortable but if they have bed bugs or hair in the shower drain I feel like I should not being staying a long time.

How can one girl, who’s daddy will be 57 this week, who’s husband will be 40 this year, who chose to have these children she never dreamed she wanted, who never took Broadway by storm even though she meant to, who has a relatively mundane job; how can I be holy? How can I be divine? How can I move forward?

I’m meditating on these things. I’m thinking on them, my unwavering favor of all the wrong things.

I’m thinking.

Cease not, wet tears, His mercies to entreat, to cry for vengeance, sin doth never cease. 

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