Friday, July 17, 2009

songs in the night

I want everything all at once. I live life in greedy contradictions that threaten to tear me apart. To be at home and to be far from it; to love the church and curse it regularly; to live in community and to live alone; to spring into action and sit back in reflection; to take responsibility and live free of commitment; to have my cake and eat it too.

Most of this is simply a selfish instinct to hoard all the goodness of the world into my tiny little life. I want it all, and I want it right now. Like the Israelites in the desert, I can’t leave well enough alone and let the manna for today be the manna for today, can’t trust that tomorrow will bring its own joys and troubles and graces and sustenance sufficient to itself.

This is not a revelation. This is not some newfound truth. It isn’t mind-bending or paradigm-shifting. It borders on cliché, and might even be mistaken for bumper sticker philosophy: Carpe Diem, Life is Short, Live for Today. It has its expression in Buddhism’s awareness of the moment, in Judaism’s thousands of blessings for every thing from waking up to taking a shit. Jack Nicholson makes the point beautifully as the OCD grinch-turned-nice-guy in As Good As It Gets.

But beyond the selfish desire to amass as many blessings as possible and squeeze them all into one lifetime lies something else, something that I can’t quite begin to name. It’s something like the recognition that one of these things is not better than the other, that there are blessings in both, that life is life in whatever form it happens to take at the moment.

And that God’s grace is sufficient.

I guess that’s why I attempt to celebrate the gifts and graces of life-at-the-moment. I have to be continually reminded to take only what I need, that there will be plenty leftover for tomorrow, that this place and these people and this time are enough. And when I pay attention, I realize that in fact, they are more than enough. They are abundant, and overflowing, and undeserved.

What though the tempest loudly roars,
I hear the truth, it liveth.
What through the darkness round me close,
Songs in the night it giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that refuge clinging.
Since love is lord of Heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

No comments: