I heard it said once that if you want to make God laugh, just tell Him your plans. And really, how pretentious are we, to think that we could know what’s best for us better than the God who holds Creation in His hands and knows us better than we know ourselves?
We are not our own. And that’s OK, because we really don’t do such a good job trying to do this thing called life on our own.
It’s amazing really, when you practice a virtue you really don’t want to, and you see no reward from it, and the one thing that makes you want to do it all again is seeing a man hanging on a cross and imagine Him smiling in the midst of His pain.
Ever stop to think about how precious we are in the sight of God, that He has a plan for each and every one of us that leads to us being as happy as we can possibly be, and how far He’s willing to go to get us there? And how cool is it to round a corner that you thought would lead to your dreams, watch them fall apart, and still have a reason to hope and be joyful?
Forgive a man head-over-heels in love; it’s been awhile since I wrote here, and Christ had done so much. And the remarkable thing is that most of the work has been through me losing things rather than gaining them, and instead of feeling jipped and poor, I feel so free that those things don’t matter anymore to me.
Truly, God provides, and where His Holt Spirit is, there is freedom. To be more fully Totus Tuus, Mary, is so painfully hard at first, but so freeing once the bond is broken with those things that really just don’t matter in light of the unfathomable love and mercy of God.
In one sense, it would be incredibly easy to write an “end-of-semester” post. There’s so much I learned, so many ways in which I grew.
But in another, it’s pretty much impossible. Too much goes on in my head in one day; there’s no way to get it all out there.
It’s questionable whether there’s even a point to writing a post like that for this blog. But let me at least say this: For the first time, leaving campus was hard for me. Incredibly hard, actually. And that makes me rather happy, because it means that there was something I had there that meant enough to me that to lose it, even for a seemingly short time, was painful.
For the first time in a long time, I knew I had friends so close that they were practically family.
God works unbelievably slow sometimes, it’s true. I waited years to find friends so close as these. But it happened. God brought these amazing people into my life, and finally convinced me to pry my heart open to them. It’s difficult and painful to not be with them, and even being with them is hard sometimes, but every moment is worth it.
They’ve taught me something, too: that I can do more than just survive the storms of life and the trials I go through, I can actually thrive in them. Even if all I can manage is a smile, I’ve conquered something. I’ve had a little victory I can share with the Lord and Mama Mary. (Seriously, try sharing one of those with them sometime, you will not believe how proud they are of you!!)
And the thing is, even if we’re in the middle of a waking nightmare, the beauty of life, the immensity of God’s love, and the intoxicating preciousness of each and every person walking the face of this earth is untouched. What more reason need we to rejoice?
The sound of tears is only outdone by the shattering of hearts all around. It seems wrong in a way that today should be so beautiful, with a bright, sun-filled sky and flowers beginning to bloom everywhere. Only the leafless trees seem to understand, and even they are putting forth buds.
But they’re right, in another way.
We ought to mourn today. We ought to cry, to grieve, or to sit in silent reflection. Our hearts ought to be broken when we look at the wounds of Christ and hear His prayer for our forgiveness, when we see Mary weep as she kisses the feet of her Son, when we hear the soldier cry out in faith as his heart turns violently in His chest.
And yet, there ought to be just a whisper of a promise echoing still in our hearts, and echo that nature itself seems to speak today.
This is not the end.
It’s a beginning.
Tenebrae. What a melodious word. Just speaking it is like silk in my mouth. And yet it’s the Latin word for ‘shadows’, those dark things that fall gloomily to the earth as the sun sets.
The Triduum is here at last. The solemnity is almost tangible here…the shadows have fallen, and only one candle remains in this darkness which now falls: a promise. A promise of hope, of resurrection. A promise of redemption and salvation that fought back the darkness for centuries. A promise which was fulfilled, bringing light into the world to stay until the last breath of the last mortal on earth. How I long for that light.
But first, I must pass through the shadows.
I must look at my life and see the places that have become darkened by sin and covered over with cobwebs of excuses. I have to face the fearful monsters under the bed of my consciousness. I have to enter into that moment in the world when everything hung on the edge of its seat, then screamed in agony as the light seemed to be snuffed for good.
Only then can I truly know what a great miracle it is that the light would return, more alive than before, to scatter the tenebrae.
I can only know what a great miracle it is that Christ won the victory when I know how very much of a defeat it seemed to be.
Just…Monday? Is that it? Something huge is gonna happen! What’s the big deal?
…really? A lesson in patience? That’s what you’re gonna try to pull on me right now?! PATIENCE?!
Wow. Ok. That’s just–great. I mean, c’mon, nothing? No special commemoration? No big anticipatory thing? Nothing?
Well fine then, it’s not like this wasn’t, like the biggest week of Your life or anything…
What was Your Monday was like?
There was time between coming to Jerusalem and the Passover…You already knew exactly what was gonna be coming. It was going to hit Your hard when You got to the Garden of Gethsemane. Was part of it because You had to go on living, go on teaching, go on serving for another few days?
You were literally born to die. For me. For all of us. What was it like to walk among the people You were about to die for, knowing exactly who was going to stay faithful and who was going to abandon You? To walk the streets You had just been paraded down on a donkey, knowing you’d be staggering down the same way with blood, sweat, and a cross on Your back?
What kind of perseverance did that take?
And how often have I let impatience over something infinitesimally less weighty lead me to sin?
God often teaches us deep truths through some pretty odd yet magnificent, if occasionally (or frequently) painful, ways. I think He’s been doing a little bit of that the past few weeks. And months. And years…Funny how it’s only now that I’m seeing some of them unfold.
First, a true fix to any problem is never immediate; it’s slow, gradual, and intimate. This past week, I was inducted (FINALLY) into my household, called Fishers of Men, and I have grown so incredibly close to my brothers and love them dearly. I honestly cannot express how very dear they are to my heart and how blessed I am to call them my brothers. Yet the anxiety over whether I am truly accepted, the dark memories of past failed friendships–in short, all the things that originally held me back–though lessened, continue to haunt me. Even though the past is past, it has made an imprint on my heart that will never be fully erased, or at least not for quite some time; so the Lord seems to be indicating. The healing of my heart is something that will take years to complete, something that the Lord will do in stages through His grace and through those He has placed and will place in my life.
Second, God’s love doesn’t change because of how we feel. Somehow, that’s magnificently freeing: God’s love for me doesn’t depend on my emotions, my actions, my anything. It is wholly and incomprehensibly unconditional. I could go on, but no pen, no page, could ever encapsulate the boundless love of God.
Third, life just sucks sometimes, and you have to look to God for the strength and hope to continue to live and believe you are loved. The crosses I have to carry right now are such that I have to constantly turn to God in prayer just to make it through some days. His love always comes, sometimes as a beautiful encounter with Him, other times just as the next breath in my lungs. But He always comes.
And altogether, I see that God is teaching me that His plan is utterly mysterious, that it’s anything but what we expect, and that it often calls for changes so radical that they bring us to tears, pull us to our knees.
And that’s OK.
Because His will isn’t arbitrary. He isn’t just putting us through things to see us suffer, or with no particular purpose in mind for us. He’s got an end goal in mind for us: Heaven, where we won’t cry any more, we won’t be in pain anymore, we won’t know anything but joy and love and peace. Every trial, every cross, every tear–it’s all a chance to move one step closer to Heaven by trusting in God and letting Him be our strength, by not giving up but living on in hope and courage. He sends His Holy Spirit to us to comfort and strengthen us. He gives us Mary as our mother and intercessor. He gives us His very self in the Sacraments.
His love…it’s just…incomprehensible. And so intimate. I just can’t even say it enough times. Even when I’m shaking violently, or crying profusely, I can’t stop professing His love, because it’s His love that keeps me alive, that comforts me, that gives me hope, that lets me have moments of peace, joy, and happiness.
So if the pain is coming back again, bring it. If it’s the price I pay for loving God and others, it’s worth it.
Speak no more, no more, I beg thee;
another weighty word,
another vessel of steel-cased emotion,
and the scales shall tip to fear,
Grant me a moment more
in this comforting caress
of unspoken words, dreams unimagined,
a stream of potentiality on a canvass of silence
painted in tears of love and loss.
Take me not from this sweet hollow
this forgotten corner of creation
that hums yet faintly
with the musical silence of Eden.
I see through the mist
in the panes to your stricken heart.
There is a longing,
a cry to balance the scales
as the words begin to spill from your lips
and down your cheeks.
the words cannot touch my fragile mind;
no, they sink
with heavy weight
to my heart,
and I find there an endless vestibule,
a deep chasm waiting for your words
as they pour but a drop
into the infinite awaiting.
It is no longer mine to listen,
nor was it ever mine to heal.
All falls into the mantle,
and carried to the heart of Christ.
O Mother of Sorrows,
Victorious Queen robed in Eden’s silence,
take me over.
My frail spirit is so little prepared
for all that I must take in.
Take these hands,
take this heart.
Let your Spouse
breathe in me His peace,
that this shuddering frame
may come as Simon to the crosses of others
in holy fear
and loving confidence.
O how long will I watch?
When will I hold in my hands
this precious universal something
that somehow missed my cradle?
Stupid wretch. He thinks himself now alive.
What living thing e’er sat like silent stone
as life was wrung from him by Life’s cruel claws?
I hold joy inside.
Or perhaps it’s insanity.
This strange desire to laugh and cry and moan
at this stupid,
thing called “life”.
Oh, hush. Leave the air you fill with folly
for others to breathe. Stay down. Be silent.
Be still, my heart; o will you ne’er be still?
When, when, oh soul, will you your moanings cease?
Again, fool? Bite your tongue and bleed, wretch! Bleed!
Put down your fists, vile thoughts! Away, away,
and leave me! Peace, I beg! Peace! Filthy self,
show your featureless face for beating! PEACE!
Where!? Show me peace and I will yield! Show me!
WOULD YOU PLEASE SPEAK TO ME!?
I loathe you.
Because I want so badly to love you.
Maybe then I could let you believe it
when they speak the word
and act it for you…
But when will you be who you must be?
And who must I be?
Tell me this, and I will yield.
You can say nothing.
Because you know nothing.
Nothing of me.
Nothing of the world
you claim would like to snuff me out.
I know not.
And so I act not.
This is my most honest poem to date. And I think the only one where I acknowledge that I hate myself…and the only one where I acknowledge that somewhere in my heart, God tells me exactly what to do with what I’m feeling. And it wasn’t just the last few words.
It was the pauses, the silences. Where I could just be. And not torture myself with my thoughts.
I guess the super-perfectionist part of me just isn’t ever gonna be satisfied. I’m never going to be perfect, or exactly who I want to be. I’m never going to know everything that everyone else seems to know so easily. There’s no point in beating myself up and trying to shove in everything I can as quickly as possible. I can’t take life as if I’m playing catch-up. Because I’ll be playing on the losing side the rest of my life. And life isn’t a game.
It’s an opportunity. Not to be perfect. Not to be great. Not to take the world by storm. It’s just an opportunity to live and to love. That’s all. That’s it.
And that’s awesome.
The power of music, it simply cannot be overestimated. It moves what little else can: the soul. If used well, it can cause the heart to pound and mind to soar.
And it can express something…inexpressible. What it is, I don’t know. Some sort of deep…reality, I guess, some sort of intense substantial thing that just seems to pulse through the veins with every beat of the heart, something unique to you that isn’t exactly you but speaks to who you are. There’s some incredible something that gets stirred up by some music, the kind that speaks to all that has been and laughs at it, cries out with an almost rebellious spirit that there is something incredible, something completely alive that’s been there all along and is just waiting to break free and course through the world with astonishing grace and power.You know the kind–it intoxicates you, makes you want to belt it out with everything you are, because somehow whatever this something in you is needs to get out and shine, take the world by storm. Something just needs to be shared, given, expressed. Something like this:
Did you feel it? Did you feel your soul crying out with Elphaba as she literally flew into the air on the power inside of her?
Glorious, isn’t it, when it hits you that you have something to offer, something that the world should see, something you so want to share?
But it’s not always easy, is it? Letting out what’s inside. Maybe you’ve never seen it in action and you’re scared to see what will happen. Or maybe you’ve let it loose before and it caused you or someone else embarrassment or pain. Or maybe you’ve let it out so often that you don’t know how to hold back, and suddenly you’re not so sure you like it.
How do you both let loose and keep it under control?
No seriously. Think about it. Love is desiring the good of another above your own. It’s doing what it takes for the one(s) loved to be as good and happy as possible at the same time, even if it means sacrifice. And when you love, you desire it above everything else. Fear? Pride? Weakness? Everything is forgotten in the desire to do what is good and right for the beloved.
So what’s the point of this post?
Well, mostly just to share these two amazing songs. And because I like trying to explain things that just don’t really seem to be explained in human language. But it’s nice when things click together and you find something you want to let the world know.
And somehow, y’know, I can’t shut up about love. So this worked out REALLY well.
God is Love. Love rocks our worlds and helps us become who we truly are, letting out all the glorious wonder that we are, all that moans within us to be shared; Love reminds us who we are, our smallness and brokenness, and yet revels in our beauty and awesomeness. So just let it go, and defy gravity while you’re at it. You have it in you; let Love show you.
P.S. If you see a problem with this, please let me know; I always feel a little iffy putting out stuff where I’m just sort of shooting at something I only catch glimpses of. It’s difficult to describe something by its shadow. Please, if someone knows what I’m saying in more eloquent words, let me know; there’s nothing quite so wonderful as being able to put your finger on something you’ve been running through your brain and across your tongue all your life.
Let’s be totally honest: we all feel totally crappy sometimes. It just happens. Some mornings we wake up, look in the mirror, and just groan. Some days, we feel empty, lonely, or even worthless; the weight of the world and all your flaws just hangs over you. Some nights you just collapse into your bed and hope sleep comes quickly so that the day can be over already.
It is altogether too easy to look at ourselves and see only what we have done wrong, or all the wrong that has been done to us. We are bound up within our own flaws and failings, all our fears and hurts, all our crosses, all the past. Somehow, we feel as though we can’t look at reality except through the lens of everywhere we’ve been and all the ugly inside.
But there IS another perspective which we can, and indeed, we MUST take: an eternal one.
I mean this in two ways: we must be able both to look at the truth of our lives as God does, and also keep our eyes fixed on eternity at all times and in all things.
All to often, I fall into the lies whispered in my ears by my own frail ego, my past, and the evil one who wants nothing more than to keep me in darkness, away from the light of truth. It is difficult to look at myself without feeling a great deal of shame and disgust. In such times, I forget the deepest, most essential truths about me: God made me. He made me for a purpose. He has given me all I am and have. And He loves me.
Then come the struggles of everyday life. Some days are better than others, but each day carries its own particular struggles, and each day is another path along which I must pick up and carry my cross. Things happen to me that hurt me, that make me feel as though God isn’t watching, that He doesn’t care, and that no one else does either. And yet I’ve missed entirely the big picture. My thinking is bound by temporal and spacial limits. Things happen which at the time seem purposeless, painful, and horrible. And yet, the truth is that everything that happens happens for a reason, which we often cannot know, but which God has perfectly planned, He Who is outside of time and loves perfectly, in such a way that He cannot bear to leave us where we are, and allows us to break only that we may find our true, ultimate, and most perfect and beautiful and fulfilling happiness: HIM.
The two complement one another, and depend on understanding the truth of Scripture, God’s very words of challenging, faithful, constant, perfect love. And they ought to lead us to rejoice.
Hold the phone…rejoice? In suffering? Uh, yeah, sounds nice, but how the heck does that work?
Well, here’s the thing: no matter what the heck we feel or think we know, God’s love is completely constant. ISN’T THAT AWESOME?! God doesn’t EVER stop loving us, no matter what we feel! His love for us doesn’t depend on us, His greatness isn’t changed by anything we do, His mercy isn’t overcome by any sin we commit. In the words of a dear friend, “GOD IS SOOOO BIG!!!!!”
The music is God’s unfathomable love and mercy, the dance floor is this funny place called life, this wild and beautiful, rocky and treacherous road to Paradise. No matter how the wind buffets our bodies and souls, no matter how tired our legs get, there is ALWAYS reason to rejoice, for God’s love never stops pouring through creation and our very souls.
So excuse me, I’m going to get back to the dance, hands raised high, joy in my heart, and eyes fixed on Heaven.
Y’know those people who have existential crises?
Apparently I’m one of them. Or so it seems.
I’m typing this on the floor of my dorm room, and after a solid hour laying flat with music blasting in my earbuds, I’m finding some semblance of peace at last. Or the closest thing I’ve known to peace for a few years. It’s not so much that everything has gone away, because it definitely hasn’t. I’m still laying here, feeling small, looking at the enormity of my problems while simultaneously realizing how ridiculous some people would think I am.
But right now, I’m looking at it all without feeling like I’m drowning. I’ve got just enough strength to keep breathing for awhile, and just enough hope to turn the next dark corner.
And after all, what else can we ask for?
I shouldn’t be surprised, I guess, that God still cares for me. But everything I’ve ever known about life and love is that, in the end, everyone leaves you, and you’re left behind.
So it’s always a refreshing, beautiful thing when God’s constant love hits me like a brick wall all over again. Every moment that He reminds me is a treasure, completely new and completely breathtaking. And it always comes right when I most need it and least expect it.
I guess it’s almost a good thing that I haven’t been able to make friends until recently. If I didn’t believe God’s love was constant and faithful and intimate, how could I believe that human love could hold possibly hold anything good? Even friendship.
And suddenly I find myself learning both of them at the same time, without ever fully taking it in. Every time, just every time, I can’t help but feel like my heart is gonna break from the healing joy thrusting out the memories and lies. And I cry easily, so it’s been a lot of tissue boxes to go through.
There’s really nothing like it, having everything fall apart only to realize you were seeing it from the angle, and God’s got all the pieces of your heart held right where they need to be. I haven’t quite gotten there this time, but somehow, I don’t need to know.
So even though the leap is still terrifying, even though stepping out of my comfort zone has strained every nerve to the breaking point, even though I know there’s probably many more broken nights in the near future, I think I just might make it through. Just as long as I throw myself into the arms of the Lord.
Y’know, some days, I just want to say “Screw it all.” All this pain, all this frustration. I just wanna cuss and swear until the sky falls on me or the earth just up and frickin’ swallows me.
There are days I just want to drown in the tears I cry. I want to leave my cross in the dirt next to me and just stay there, battered and exhausted, and just give up.
There are days when I find myself walking backwards, looking at everything that happened and nothing that’s coming. I want to stop looking and longing, but I can’t get my eyes to turn away for fear it’ll all disappear, and everything I’ve known will vanish.
There are days I feel absolutely nothing. And those days can be the worst of all.
And then there are all the days in-between, where I’m just not sure what I’m feeling, and for some reason, it doesn’t matter.
I don’t know much of anything. About me, about the world, about God. And more than anything else, I hate not knowing.
The thing is, I sit here at this laptop, spewing all this great-sounding stuff; I spout off advice and try to follow it myself, but then there come days when I don’t know that I believe any of it.
And yet there’s this little spark deep down that just refuses to be put out, no matter what the world throws at it, no matter what I throw at it myself. It’s always been there, and somehow it got me through my darkest moments. It’s this little thing called hope, this small but stubborn fire.
It helps me speak blessings instead of curses.
It helps me dry my eyes and shake off the dirt.
It helps me turn around and face reality.
It helps me be ok with feeling nothing.
It helps me be joyful in the days I don’t know what I’m feeling.
It helps me hold on to the crazy belief, the crucial hinge of my existence, that God knows my name, and speaks it with love.
Upon blue velvet yet I weave
a terminal brocade
of golden love and silver pain
with red impatience made,
a tapestry to life and death
in words so soon to fade.
Oh Mother, Queen, all clothed in blue
and bathed in endless light,
within whose womb the Savior slept
and found His true delight,
you weave your love in simple words
that put my speech to flight.
Let me in blue your Son pursue
through you, O Mother kind,
until the day I’m brought away
eternal life to find.
‘Til then, let me your servant be.
To you, my heart I bind.
I still remember saying goodbye to him.
We’d just finished our final math exam, my last exam of senior year. He said he wanted to talk to me after class, which was surprising, because as much as I admired him and wanted to be his friend, I assumed he didn’t think much of me. When we left class, he put his arm around my shoulder and walked with me down the hall, telling me how much I meant to him, how he was so glad he got to know me, how he was going to write a letter but that it was much better this way to see the look on my face and to get a hug at the end. I don’t remember how I responded, it was such a shock, but we hugged awhile, said goodbye and that we’d miss each other, and then went our separate ways, our gazes locked for a moment before we broke off.
It was a beautiful, melancholy, wonderful, sad moment. You know what I remember most? Not the words, though I still have a foggy memory of them. Not the emotion, because it’s not new to me. The thing that’s cemented into my memory is the feel of his arm around my shoulders, the hug afterwards, and the held gaze afterwards…
Most guys, it seems, are averse to physical contact like that. There are two main parties of thought against it that I’ve noticed among guys, the first being the obvious stereotypical one: “HUGGING IS FOR GIRLS. That’s DUMB. Let’s just go out and play FOOTBALL!”
First of all, stop shouting. Please. It doesn’t make your point any clearer or you any cooler.
And second–well, maybe I should stop and let the second party speak, they’re giving me some cold looks.
“Thank you. What I believe is that physical contact of a friendly nature is simply unnecessary in this day and age, particularly for those of a well-developed mind. Such contact was only necessary in a primal time; surely now the need for intimacy is met in the meeting of persons on an intellectual level.”
…well when you put it THAT way.
I think the second point I was going to make applies pretty well equally here: the recognition that humans are a body-soul composite and are built to relate as such. All you stereotypical jocks out there, think about what you do when you hang out with the guys. How often are you guys wrestling, pushing each other, doing that chest-bump thing that usually sends me into a wall? Sure it’s not hugging, but it’s PHYSICAL CONTACT. In case you didn’t notice, football is a CONTACT sport. Why do you think you guys bond so well as a team? As persons, we access each other as friends not only through communication but through contact. By hugging, more of the body is in contact with more of the other person’s body; it expresses a deeper union as persons than simply a handshake or a high-five. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s just a natural thing to do, it’s how we are built to encounter one another.
As to the second party, those working within a more intellectual frame (physically and mentally), I would ask you how genuine you think a relationship can be that does not involve at least a little physical contact, like a hug or something similar. If you have such a relationship, evaluate it. Are you really encountering the person as fully as you could? Or should? Without this element in a relationship, you begin to wonder whether the relationship is real or simply imagined by you, a chance acquaintanceship rather than a true friendship. After all, how much of the person do you really know if you don’t even have contact with what you CAN see?
I used to be of the second camp. Ask anyone who knew me before my late junior year. I was an intellectual recluse in every sense of the word. I believed friendship was unnecessary, that I could get by just fine without it. Talk when you need to, shut up when you don’t, go ahead and forge a relationship BUT NEVER GIVE MORE THAN NECESSARY, certainly nothing on a physical level. Not even a high-five or a handshake if you can help it.
Those walls were a long time in falling. Years, literally, they stood, though I came to see them as an inescapable trap rather than an impenetrable fortress, forgetting that it was I, myself, who first erected them.
And now, now that I see the truth, the truth of what a relationship can be, what goes into it and how it works–now that I know what it actually means to have a friend and to be one–I’m paying for the wasted years. It’s difficult, even now, to believe that anyone truly cares about me, that I can truly be loved by anyone, that any of my friendships exist. My entire body language is closed, though I’m struggling to pry it open inch by inch. There are days when, all by myself, I press myself against the walls and feel every cinder-block, just to remind myself that there’s still a physical world around me, because it’s been so long since I touched anything or anyone in it.
And the moments I remember most, even the moments I experience here and now, are the ones that involve contact. Because somehow I still struggle to believe.
So speaking as one for whom it may be too late, I implore you, don’t cast aside this basic, beautiful element in all of your relationships. Even God longs to embrace us in Heaven.
People have called me an ‘old soul’ pretty much all my life, it seems like. 19 years old, and people think of me as an old soul. Is it any wonder I over-think things?
Not that they’re wrong, I guess; it comes from knowing when to keep your mouth shut. Or just always keeping your mouth shut, I guess. People around me talk all the time, as if it just comes easy to them; I wonder if they know how wonderful that is, how much my soul quivers with joy when I say something and it doesn’t come out ridiculous.
But does that really make me any more mature? Or does it just make me scared?
Perhaps it’s maturity; I like to think of it like that, anyway. While the rest of the world goes on running at break-neck speed and screaming over the static of society, I sit in the corners yet untouched by the noise, still vibrating with echoes of the mystical quiet of Eden, and wait for the cool of the day when the Lord whispers into my soul. How I wish I could walk with Him like Adam and Eve in the garden.
I guess “listener” has always been built into my soul, partly genetics, partly experience, and partly something else I can’t quite put my finger on that now and again just quivers with happiness every time someone confides in me or simply speaks with me. Sometimes I wish I could be the one doing the talking, that I could take a little more central role, stand a moment in the sun and not always feel sidelined. And yet, as Agatha Christie says of Mr. Satterthwaite in Three Act Tragedy, “the role of onlooker suited him well”.
Really, what it all comes down to is opening the heart as well as the ears. A good listener needs not only to hear and remember well all that has been told them; anyone could do that. A true listener has to be able to do something a little more: take everything they hear into their own hearts. It takes a certain kind of sympathy, or perhaps a kind of empathy, or both, with a spectacular kind of solidarity which, together in some miracle of grace, allow you to enter into the life of the other. You must be able to exercise that beautiful gift called understanding at any moment, even if the voice you listen to grates on your ears or stabs at your heart. You must have an inner life that is rich with experience and incredibly fertile.
Perhaps the best listener I know is my new “big”. Only this morning, I became an intent to a household, sort of the Catholic version of a frat (minus the drinking, drugs, and other assorted stupidity). A “big” is someone in the household who is something of a mentor, like a big brother to you, walking with you through the process to become part of the household according to the covenant. Mine happens to be a dear friend (well not “happens to”, I got to choose; but hey, he could have said no). Though he comes off as very outgoing and talkative, he has an impeccable ability to silence himself, to to quiet his heart whenever I need to speak. His quiet, gentle nature doesn’t inhibit him from being a rambunctious, quirky guy; his loud, boisterous personality doesn’t block out his calm, understanding heart–so understanding that he is often able to articulate what I myself couldn’t quite pull from my own heart.
So maybe it’s high time I took up my role as listener properly–to let go of the fears (because I have plenty of them, trying to choke out the words I want to speak) and actually fall into silence less out of necessity and more out of understanding; to let go of the twisted idea that being quiet and being talkative are mutually exclusive.
It’s time to quiet my old soul, tell myself it’s ok to rest now; it’s ok to stop being afraid; it’s ok to stop throwing up walls that just keep collapsing anyway. It’s ok to just live, to just laugh, to just love.