Friday, October 15, 2010

A LIGHT SO LOVELY


“We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”
--Madeleine L’Engle


My friend Linda Dickey is a kind, generous, deeply smart and well-read convert (from Judaism) who lives in NYC. After I returned from a recent visit, she initiated a friendly e-mail discussion about our respective beliefs that ended up with me (already subliminally thinking our exchange would make a fascinating post) writing 15 single-spaced pages holding forth in the most boring, blowhard way about how, to ME, being a Catholic means being willing to die for Christ, and as a MATTER OF CONSCIENCE, etc. etc., and when I read it all over a week later, I was like Oh who cares? Not who cares about Christ, not who cares that we’re passionate about and have reasoned out our convictions, but who cares about carrying on about your convictions when all any of us really want is to sit down with each other, share a laugh or two, and eat?

Which brings me to the incredible meal Linda cooked for me when I was in in town. Good olives, good cheese, roast chicken, asparagus, crusty bread, salad with avocado, olive oil, and lemon, and THE most delicious flourless semi-molten chocolate cake. 
She gave me a tour of her huge, gorgeous 4-bedroom, 3-bedroom apartment on 99th and Riverside Drive with a full-on view of the Hudson. I got to meet her husband Tom. The three of us had a lively conversation.  Afterward, Tom walked me to the bus station, showed me how to add money to a Metro card, and gave me his own extra card with 6 bucks already on it. I mean come on. How much more do you need to know about convictions? 

THE TRANSFIGURATION: RAPHAEL
So thank you, dear Linda (who btw, is a grandmother, works full-time, and spends every Friday volunteering at a food pantry and performing other works of mercy). And I include the very short END of our exchange:

Me: Christ is an event, not a theory…

Linda: Right—and yet I wonder why an encounter with Him is given to some and not others…a dear friend of mine is waiting for Jesus to come to him. And like the rest of us, he’s hoping for it and dreading it at the same time!

Me: We do simultaneously hope and dread! And yet it seems Christ always comes to anyone who truly wants Him to. He said so Himself: Seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be opened. If you’re poor enough in spirit, He will come. If you’re sick enough and broken enough and weak enough and desperate enough and hungry enough, He will come.

If I’ve had an “experience” of Christ myself, I’ll tell you what it is: being with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. Around the time I turned 50, I experienced such searing excruciating loneliness, such a profound sense of failure, grief, loss, rejection, abandonment, and inadequacy; such anguish that my work, my youth, my body, my looks, my love, and my life were not bearing and never would bear fruit that I really thought I might die. In fact, in a sense, I did die. I died to any idea that we get to dictate how, when and what kind of fruit we bear. I died not to my desire to love, which flames every brighter, but to my desire to control or direct it anywhere but toward Christ.

When you suffer a lot (whether or not neurotically)
, if you are very graced, you start to feel a little of the suffering of the world. That was when I truly began to feel Christ as the Great Physician, the Great Teacher, the Great Friend. That was when I began, in my blind, errant, often wrong-headed way to want to help him in what He does. And what He does is walk with us in our suffering. He leads us to the truth of our hearts.


AND--speaking of a lovely light, Happy Birthday to my seafaring brother Geo with a zillion thanks and deep appreciation for all the faithful, behind-the-scenes, mostly unnoticed, unmentioned work he does on behalf of The Family while, with his wife Deb, also trying to valiantly juggle a house, two kids and two careers. Hope the sun is shining in Maine... 


THE AGONY IN THE GARDEN:
WILLIAM BLAKE

4 comments:

  1. ~~and when I read it all over a week later, I was like Oh who cares?~~

    i'm taking a comp course (finally, college, after a 30-year hiatus) and we talked about what we *don't* want people to say after something we have written - "so what?"

    i can't imagine you go through the same thing!!

    this was well-written and i am happy to be a part of your blog reading public. looking forward to your next book.

    (methinks i am a groupie :)

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  2. Dear Heather

    This is my first visit to your blog, via Conversion Diary and your post about Simone Weil.

    THIS post touches me very much, because I am almost 55 and I have very similar feelings to what you had at 50, though I don't think I have the intensity of feeling that you did. I seem to be fairly happy, probably undeservedly so, despite having basically wasted most of my life and most of my gifts. But, who knows? Maybe I'm starting to learn something. I hope so.

    My other reason for being touched is an experience similar to yours with your friend in NYC. My wife and I and our kids visited her brother last weekend in Washington, DC, and he did incredible things like pay our way AND give us spending money to attend the Annapolis Renaissance Fair, fed us or paid for us to be fed, bought us Metro Tickets, even went out and bought black tea for me, and chocolate syrup for my son.

    Brought up a Catholic, he seems to be agnostic, and yet, he (and his wife) is a very generous and kind person. Even not having remotely the means, I should be at least as generous with what I have.

    And I love the excerpt from the end of your exchange. Thank you for sharing all of this.

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  3. Well, this is the interesting thing, that the minute you become a Pharisee, you (it's to be hoped) start noticing that actually practically everyone around you is acting MUCH better and more kindly than you are...

    And of course it matters ABSOLUTELY that we write. I'm thinking that what matters less than a long exegesis on our convictions, however (not that exegeses don't have their place), is living the convictions out...and noticing and admiring that OTHERS are living them out...

    Thank you for the careful read and for your insights...

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  4. Pleasant Post. This transmit helped me in my college assignment. Thnaks Alot

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