To be a follower of Christ, or even to observe and be conflicted by and troubled about the ways of "the world"--which we should, as the whole clawing-your-way-to-the-top thing is a ghastly lie--means that all around we are going to see the sleek, the smug, the well-fed, the "successful" who are seemingly achieving power, property and prestige effortlessly. We, on the other hand, are always a bit behind the eight ball. We serve a different master so we're stopping along the way to help the person we see beaten and bloody by the side of the road, or to marvel at a hummingbird nest. We're periodically going off to a lonely place to pray. We're forever anguished and stricken because we're forever yearning, seeking, longing: "Here we have no lasting city; we seek a home that is yet to come." Our sleep is seldom untroubled; our "schedule" is being forever interrupted.
Our day is rarely free of work and interpersonal conflict. The more integrity we have, the more painful when the people around us often seem to have so little of it.
That doesn't preclude also living in a strange kind of joy and peace. But it is very lonely and can be almost unbearably frustrating, discouraging and exhausting. Worse, in my case at least, it can give rise to a low-level resentment and self-pity.
Gratitude and a sense of humor are the antidotes. With a sense of humor, I remember that I, of all people, have hardly in my life modeled integrity. With gratitude, I can join Flannery O'Connor who observed--while suffering from the lupus that would kill her--"I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing."
Here'a a poem recently sent on by one of my most faithful and long-standing readers, Thomas DeFreitas of Arlington, Massachusetts. Tom is a poet himself. You can peruse and buy some of his many books HERE.
Because our lives are cowardly and sly,
Because we do not dare to take or give,
Because we scowl and pass each other by,
We do not live; we do not dare to live.
We dive, each man, into his secret house,
And bolt the door, and listen in affright,
Each timid man beside a timid spouse,
With timid children huddled out of sight.
Kissing in secret, fighting secretly!
We crawl and hide like vermin in a hole,
Under the bravery of sun and sky,
We flash our meannesses of face and soul.
Let us go out and walk upon the road,
And quit for evermore the brick-built den,
And lock and key, the hidden, shy abode
That separates us from our fellow men.
And by contagion of the sun we may
Catch at a spark from that primeval fire,
And learn that we are better than our clay,
And equal to the peaks of our desire.
|SCENES FROM THE GARDEN AT THE GETTY CENTER|
BRENTWOOD, LOS ANGELES