My regular Wednesday plans got canceled about halfway through the work day and they were beautiful plans. The five of us get together to share / encourage / challenge / laugh / pray and it’s called Club, named after the way older ladies in my rural childhood would meet up for coffee on simpler afternoons. We all love Club, so it didn’t feel right to just leave my Wednesday night empty.
Three hours of work, a couple phone calls, and two train transfers later, I was meeting up with Patrick on Bowery Street for dinner. It felt a little cliché, making dinner plans in Manhattan after work on Wednesday with the man of my dreams, but this is the real life I’m living right now.
And he is the best dinner companion. We share laffy taffy jokes and theology questions in the same conversation… over fancy mac & cheese. I don’t receive compliments well, but he gives them anyway while I blush and squirm in my seat.
We swap work stories – inside jokes from the photo shoot at a corporate office and the student at my work who was researching (for fun) the difference between weasels and ferrets. Somewhere in the mix of laughter, we talk about the beauty of trusting God’s promises. It was a carry-over conversation from Tuesday night’s home group discussion on the centurion’s faith in Matthew 8:5-17.
What does it mean to have faith that what God says is true? And what does obedience look like if we believe Him?
We took turns saying, “I don’t know” and “but maybe it means…” and dinner went by slowly.
Our well-groomed, hipster server had to be curious when we prayed before the meal and when our conversation topics jumped from food to theology to relationships. But our little conversation inside that little restaurant on the Lower East Side made the rest of the big city fade to watercolors for at least a while.
There is something special about believing God’s promises with someone else. It is good to get lost in the mystery of our Creator – good to be in awe and good to not know it all. We went separate ways at the corner of Bowery and Delancey and I let the city look different on my commute back home.
This morning I woke up thankful for slow dinners and dreamy Manhattan plans and when the big city fades to watercolors for a couple hours with a most amazing man.
This is, ahem, very personal. If that makes you uncomfortable, you might want to read something else today.
Remember in the Sound of Music when Leisl tells Rolfe about the telegram she would write him as they exchange teenage love declarations in the gazebo? She started with, “Dear Rolfe (stop)” and then he called her a baby.
If my heart wrote my soul a telegram yesterday, it went something like this:
I have two fears (stop)
I wasn’t prepared to feel what I felt or to feel it so intensely. But, the telegram didn’t get sorted until about 11:00 pm last night when I finally stopped the repetitive rhythm.
Yesterday, Patrick and I trekked up to the INHABIT conference on the Upper West Side, sponsored by the International Arts Movement. We listened to plenary speakers and attended breakout sessions with several hundred other folks from across the country who care about the ways art intersects with faith and how that translates into culture care.
And in the middle of all the note-scrawling and introductions and processing, I realized I had never invited someone into this space before. This very metaphysical, very precious and precarious space I had tucked deep away where it couldn’t get broken.
Maybe it’s what a comic book junkie feels at a comic book convention or what a car enthusiast feels at a car show or a musician feels about the symphony. I know I’m not the only one who feels uniquely at home in a very unhome-like space because I am surrounded by people who speak the same language.
This is what I feel when I pack my notebooks and pens, when I check in at registration, when I listen to the philosophical implications of architectural structures and the words communicated through a brick used in its traditional function or adapted for a new purpose. This is what I feel when I am around people asking questions about beauty and meaning and longing – people who wrestle and wander and wonder because it feels right to do so.
Eric Liddell’s painful conclusion in “Chariots of Fire” paints well the picture of this affection and deep delight, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
I’m not sure how exactly God made me – I am not fast like Eric Liddell, nor am I particularly brilliant in a profession, nor am I an established or even struggling artist.
I just know that when I work the muscles in my brain and respond with the muscles in my heart and typing fingertips, I feel His pleasure. I feel His pleasure in a strange and not altogether happy way, but in a way that I do not feel anywhere else. There is a familial comfort in knowing that other people want to use the same language, to plumb the same depths, to wrestle the same lions – believing it is a worthy pursuit and even a pursuit that reflects and delights our Creator.
These types of gatherings have been home to me for years and there are few people who share the same affinity. But that’s never mattered before. I do not expect people to understand this language and I’ve learned to filter my excitement and my conclusions and my muddled processing.
But yesterday, the fear-filled telegrams pushed up behind my eyes. I felt a bit like my self-confident exterior got cracked like an egg and all my fear dripped out. So, I have two fears.
I am afraid of being misunderstood. I am also afraid of being dull.
I am afraid that my love for beauty and questions and doubts and language and words (and all those things I have hidden in a precious and precarious place) will not make sense to the person I love the most. I am afraid words won’t come and when they do, that they will tumble out incoherently.
I am also afraid that my rambling and circular processing and childilke chasing will make my favorite person bored. I am afraid he will not enjoy the moment in a superlative way and that his lesser enjoying will be my fault.
I am not saying this is rational, I am just saying this was the telegram that I was finally able to communicate to Patrick last night after we rode his motorcycle out of Manhattan. Between sighs and frequent pauses in our late night, neighborhood pizza joint, I tried to explain that I didn’t need him to love what I love or to understand why this language feels like home. I explained that I didn’t need him to be someone who loves conferences and note-taking and the cultural implications of the functionally changing purpose of bricks.
I just don’t want to feel crazy.
I just want so much for him to experience the superlative delight I feel when I’m around this language. Whatever that is for him, I want to say yes to it. Part of what pained me yesterday was thinking that I had asked him to live less in the full delight God prepared.
In his typical and patient way, he told me I wasn’t crazy. He really said a lot more, but I think I just needed to hear that I wasn’t crazy and that I hadn’t ruined his day by making mine great.
I didn’t expect to learn this lesson along the way of love. I really didn’t expect to struggle so sincerely, but I guess I didn’t know how precious or precarious this language was to me.
And in this lesson learning, I am bending to the beauty of Christ’s love. Alone, I can hide things and keep them safely hidden. Alone, I can pretend my vulnerabilities are transparent and my guard is appropriate. But in love, I can see how tenderly Christ completes my affections – how perfectly he understands my needs and how patiently he provides.
I did not know my soul required this kind of care and I was overwhelmed yesterday when I realized Christ has been caring for me in this way all along.
As I receive love (by way of opening up my hidden spaces), I can boldly believe it casts out fears.
Two fears is too few, but it was the number needing cast out yesterday and I believe Christ is able. Not only that He is able, but that He promised to be the One who casts out. I believe that.
I am so thankful for these hard lessons, for these painful purgings of what I didn’t know was hidden.
My uncle sent me the above song today, a song I have returned to when I need a reminder of Christ’s sufficiency. Today was a beautiful day to be reminded.