My brother-in-law tried to warn me. He used harsh words, extreme words. I had just told him and my sister that I had come to a decision, I was getting divorced. I stood up from the couch and made my way to the door, finishing the conversation while gathering my coat and shoes.
“If you do this – you will be irreparably damaged.” He had credibility, having been through a divorce himself. I heard his jagged words and rolled them around in my mouth for a minute. They didn’t taste like much at the time. A better future was within reach! Any wound could be healed eventually, I assured myself and drove home, crunching this phrase between my firm-set jaws like rock candy.
Despair is a deep vacuous feeling in the pit of my stomach. I don’t experience this sensation (or rather lack of feeling) in everything; I don’t think a person could live in complete absence of hope. There is, however, a deeply rooted, sickening bit of despair somewhere inside of me. It’s a dead piece of hope and I’m not entirely sure what to do with it.
I understand now. Irreparably damaged. That piece of myself isn’t wounded, it’s dead.
I would like to ignore it. I consider turning to religion or meditation, hiking and learning and an IV drip of positive vibes and distraction. What do other people do with their dead bits? My body and soul grieve its passing, the wake will not be unattended. I worry that it will putrefy if left out of sight; tainting other still-living, still-hopeful parts of me. I think removing it sounds like a good idea, but again, I’m not sure how.
Relationships are magical things, forces perceived but not seen entwining us together. Touching another soul makes a heart burst with joy; feeling seen and known a glimpse of heaven itself. We are not alone for a moment. Each encounter loops another thread between us like a figure eight, the bond strengthens and hope smolders to a warm confident glow. I am loved. I love.
How does magic cease and heaven vanish? I remember the colors and sounds. What is this that sucks the breath from my lungs? The taste of raspberry tea shouldn’t make my heart sink.
Familiar reminders of a life that I let die for self-preservation. I chose aloneness. I chose not to love.
I tell Neal that I’ve been thinking about his caution, all those months ago and admit that he was right. I ask what he did with his despair. He said he had a couple of ‘Aha!’ moments, as it were, and then found a rather drastic solution.
We compare moments and they sound something like this: “I am a really shitty, selfish person!” “Who put me in charge of me?! I would like to speak to my manager about this oversight!” “I am clearly not qualified to make decisions about my life above dinner selections, and even those are questionable!” “I don’t even know what love is.” “What the hell is wrong with me?”
Once death has rooted in your soul it cannot be severed from the living bits. You are a mixed and conflicted creature, waring inside until you are fully consumed by either light or dark. There are only two choices.
I would like to carefully pull out each twisting black tentacle, pack the wounds and carry on, but I’m eating popcorn and wine for dinner, and clearly not capable of that kind of surgical decision making.
Neal chose to die completely. The old text sums up this severe treatment plan:
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died…. those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.
And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. –the Apostle Paul
Reconciliation. Hope. Jump in head first and breathe it in.
I’m afraid I’ll drown. What’s that? Drowning is the whole point you say? Oh sure, in that case let me just ignore every fiber in my body and swim for the bottom. That sounds fantastic.
I want to say I don’t know if I believe. I want to say I’m not ‘saved’ anymore because of my fear, but living in rebellion may be more accurate. I believe, I just don’t like it. I can’t deny God, Love and Life but I can stamp my feet like a tantruming toddler. Something I read last year comes to mind:
“You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.
I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape?
The words “compelle intrare,” compel them to come in, have been so abused by wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.” -C.S. Lewis.
Night covers the sky and I’m no closer to finding an alternate sun than any man, time to dull these thoughts with wine and sleep. As Miracle Max said after seeing one who traveled through the pit of despair “there’s a big difference between ‘Mostly Dead’ and ‘All Dead’”, there may yet be hope for such as me.