Sunday, July 16, 2006

Fear and Travelling

We'll take these in reverse order: We'll be out on vacation in NM for a week, so blogging will be pretty much out of the question (though I will check in from libraries from time to time to read the throngs of comments y'all lavish on me **rolls eyes at self**). Prayers for safe travel, save vacationing, and a safe return for all involved would be appreciated.

As to the first subject in the title, the relatively recent and beloved mantle of fatherhood which has been placed on my unworthy shoulders has awakened a very real passion which I have, in all honesty, struggled with immensely. The first post I ever placed on this blog, in fact (back in the "Stumble On Water" days that some of you may remember), dealt in part with this very thing. I've been told by Audra that I "scare her" with the paranoia I can sometimes display: hanging around Hope like a bodyguard, keeping my back between her and any opening for kidnappers, locking the door after I put her in her carseat and have to walk around to the driver's side--all this brought on by horror stories of middle-of-the-night kidnappings or sleep apnia (cessation of breathing in the middle of the night), or like the one where an American couple was walking down a Mexico City street and, out of nowhere, a man runs up from behind them in a dead sprint, rips their child from their arms, and disappears into the throng, their child never to be seen or heard from again...these and other scenarios of the sudden and/or violent taking of my daughter and/or wife from me are rather commonplace, happening several times a week if I'm honest...

This is part of my current internal landscape. There is, of course, the understanding that one of the things we pray for (and firmly believe in) as Orthodox Christians is an actual guardian angel, given to us at baptism/chrismation, who serves as our agent of protection for the glory of God. God is not unmindful of his creatures. As I put it in the abovementioned linked post from a year and a half ago, "I know the real to allow my Lord to "direct my life in the paths of peace," as one prayer puts it, realizing that all is a gift, my loved ones included. If...something were to happen, all things would return to Him who sent them and owns them. [My feelings] must be tempered with the knowledge that I brought nothing into this world, and I truly can take nothing out." And even the destruction of our bodies, should it come to that, will be overcome by the glory of the Resurrection, if indeed we are also dead to sin in our lives.

Tonight I will pray the last kathisma of the psalter: Psalms 143-150 (144-150 in Protestant Bibles). Lots of "Praise ye the LORDs" in that section. Would that I could be the kind of man to say, if it came down to it, "The LORD giveth, and the LORD taketh away; blessed be the Name of the LORD," or, as our Savior exemplified for us in the moment of His most agonizing torment, to scream out first, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" and yet follow immediately nonetheless with, "Father, into Thy hands I commit My Spirit!" Trust is not seen in the absence of, but rather in the midst of pain.

So the idea, I know (funny how the head and mouth can babble on about what the heart still needs convincing of), is that I must trust God to "be their guide and guardian in all their endeavors" and "defend them against the assaults of the enemy, and grant them wisdom and strength to resist all temptation and corruption of this life, and direct them in the way of salvation," yet I must also understand that, if God should allow for these precious women to be taken from me, even in an atrociously violent and unjust manner, they were not mine to begin with, so I have no right to demand them back from God (no matter what my 21st-Century, western mind tells me), and God is no less good and no less loving for having allowed that than He would have been had He shielded us from it.

It is one thing to theorize about all this, I know, and another entirely to say it through teeth clenched with rage at a God who would allow it to happen (for an actual example of this contrast, read C.S. Lewis' The Problem with Pain, which was written before his wife's long struggle with a terminal illness, and follow it with A Grief Observed, which came after she succumbed). To stand in the presence of God within my own heart, "communing with Him in the paths of peace," in spite of the dangerous waves (real or imagined) that threaten the hull of my soul and those of the ones I love, so that if or when a wave hits, the pressing would not crush--this is the goal of a Christian in the war against fear. Would that I could continually be in such a place.

Perhaps I'll go and try to do just that now. Prayers are appreciated. Lord willing, I'll have some vacation photos for y'all in a week...


Ian said...

Thank you for a thought-provking, and action-inspiring post: while I do not have a wife or children, I doubt I could say, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away", if a family member or dear friend was taken. Lord, have mercy.

Be assured of my prayers for you and your family: God bless, keep you safe and direct your paths.
[And where is NM? New Mexico? -- gets out atlas. :)]

Bryan Pitts said...

Wait a minute, as Orthodox Christians we believe in guardian angels given at the moment of baptism or chrismation? How did I miss that over these last five years? Oops!

Aristibule said...

I miss New Mexico - Roswell, Silver City, Taos ... its a wonderful place (though sometimes wierd and sometimes hot and dry!) Too bad it isn't ski season!

A day or so ago I found a live scorpion in my bathroom - no clue where it came from (do we have those on the beach in Florida?) But, it took me back to hot summers in NM, and having to watch for vinegarones, black widows, and scorpions!