Tuesday, December 7, 2010

sunday, bloody sunday

i've had some bad days here in argentina. in fact, in the moment, i would have told you (and probably did tell my mom) that they were terrible, awful, atrocious and that i just needed to hop on a plane and fly home that instant. however, if you know me, you know that i speak in superlatives, all the time, about everything. (see?) when things are going well, i feel invincible, untouchable, like i have no time for ill will or worries because life is too short and the sun is too bright to waste any time at all.

on the flipside, on my darkest of days, everything in my life is a wreck and nothing will ever go right and things are so irretrievably broken that nothing i do could ever fix the (supposedly) terrible things that have happened. see what i mean about the superlatives?

sometimes, though, i think i get it right. sometimes, my heart breaks and it's not about me, at all, sincerely. and i have found that these really are the worst times, the situations that couldn't be accurately described by the highest superlatives found in any tongue ever spoken, the ones that really might not ever be able to be made right. in these cases, my penchant for speaking in extremes is not at fault for anything except maybe an underestimation of the pain that lies therein.

piled one on top of another, griefs so great, tragedies so unspeakable seem to form an insurmountable summit. sometimes, though, in these dark moments, i remember to look up to the peaks of the the tallest mountains and ask where my help comes from. then, and only then, can i remember that He is our helper. that we can only feel this sadness with our frail bodies. mourn our losses with delicate and fragile hearts. and see the hardships with our short-sighted, human eyes. that He feels and sees and knows us far beyond what we could ever imagine, and that this God of infinities is on our side.

one of my all-time favorite novels is the road by cormac mccarthy. mccarthy is a minimalist in his writing, famed for telling tales about characters with no names, with sparse dialogue and no quotation marks. his novels are dark and tend to make bold statements about human nature in a masterfully subtle manner, without sacrificing the sincerity of his writing. the book tells the story of a man and his young son's quest to survive in a dark and cold post-apocalyptic world. as the two wearily trudge toward an as-yet unknown point, they encounter ruthless cannibals and thieves, witness horrific sights and stubbornly face their own humanity--and finally, at the end of the novel, reach their destination.

the end of the story is a beautiful and heartbreaking one, and i won't ruin it for you if you have good enough sense to go out and buy this book right now. truly, though, the most touching, poignant parts of mccarthy's story lie not in the final pages when they finally reach their journey's end, but within the trek itself--moments so strong and memorable are created despite the scarcity of words that had the ability to reach me and speak to my soul in a way literature never had before. the sweetest, most tender passages, the ones that still stand out to me after all this time are the ones in which the little boy wants to give up. stop walking. and resign himself to whatever fate would befall him after his surrender. the father would remind him, gently, that they had business to take care of, that they had a fire to carry--a load, though burdensome, that could not be given up, no matter what the cost.

we're the good guys, the father would tell him. we have to carry the fire.

days like today, i feel like this is us, the human race, fighting against the world in which we live. though we might want to, we can't give up and give in. the world may be dark, hope may be nowhere to be found, the journey might seem to be more than we can bear...but we have a fire to carry, and it's a load that we must bear until we reach our destination.

earlier today, i listened to a U2 song i used to love but hadn't heard in quite a while. a lyric that had never made much of an impression to me before seemed to scream at me this time:

"the real battle's just begun
to claim the victory Jesus won"

and that is the honest truth. every single day that we are on this earth, we have a battle to fight and a fire to carry. the victory HAS been won--hallelujah!--but our journey is not over yet. we live in the already and the not-yet of the Kingdom--horrible, unmentionably awful things happen every moment, and sometimes, it seems easier to just stop, to give up.

but, like the father in mccarthy's haunting story, we have a Father who wants to gently lead us along, who reminds us of the load that we carry and of the importance of trust and hope and faith. our fragile human bodies inhabit this world for now, but it is not our destination...and, in the midst of seemingly endless sadness and suffering, that is something for which i am truly grateful.