Thursday, January 31, 2008

"Where do you go when you're lonely...

...I'll follow you when the stars go blue." Stars Go Blue by Tim McGraw.

The world is so full of a number of things
I'm sure we should all be as happy as--
But are we?
Definitely no.
Positively no.
Decidedly no!
Short people have long faces
And long people have short faces.
Big people have little humor,
And little people have no humor at all.
And in the words of that immortal bard,
Samuel D. Snodgrass,
As he was about to be led to the guillotine:
Make 'em laugh!

--Make 'em Laugh, performed by Donald O'Connor in Singing in the Rain

I've realized once again how Providence uses the lessons we learn in life to help other people when they get to the same place. Sometimes we get to help the next person before a week has passed.

A girl came in my room this week, on the verge of tears, claiming that she was "Beyond the Valley of the Shadow of Death!" and that she "Can't see any hope in the world at all!" and unless I could "'Point to a living example of one time--just one time!--where life was working the way it ought to," she was going to..."well, I don't know, but it'll be drastic!"

As all this was pouring out, as well as the explanation for why this despair was so vehement and real this particular night, I made her some tea, (spilled some on her hand, which made her even more despairing) and gave her some time to calm down. Once we'd gotten all the problems out on the table, I realized this was too big for me. I radioed HQ for backup, and then went in.

We talked about specifics for a while--particular answers to particular problems, and then we hit the snag which was at the base of everything--she couldn't "see" any hope, and she was "tired of all those Christian cliches!" (Aren't we all? But the truth is in there, and that's why they have lasted so long!)

I thought for a moment. I remembered a certain training exercise that HQ had required me to go through last year, and I drew on that.

"Have you heard of Aurora Borealis?" I asked her.


"Aurora Borealis? Northern lights?" I probed.


I proceeded to explain:

"Sometimes, when you're out late at night, and the sky is as black as ever--it seems like even the stars are fading away, and the moon is darkened--and usually it seems like it has to be windy and miserable--but you'll be looking up into the vast loneliness of despair in the sky, and suddenly you'll see it. It'll just be the faintest glimmer--like a ripple on water, or when fabric shimmers, but it's transparent, and it's enormous, but so delicate. It's so brief you think you imagined it, and you go on contemplating the vastness of despair, but now, curiosity is piqued. You've seen (or think you've seen) something intimate and holy--because it's what you wish you saw all along, but didn't know it. And it was so fleeting that you almost talk yourself into believing that you only imagined it--and then it happens again.

Perhaps this time you hold your breath--because you so desperately want it to be real, want it to come back--that flash of color that flutters across the empty sky--and you're waiting for what seems like an eternity. The wind blows, and the sky is black, and the world seems to mock your pain as your heart falls with the despair again that you only just imagined it, it happens again! And this time, the tide of doubt is starting to go low, and the waves that were so high only a moment ago, sink back away, so that you don't have to fear as you watch for the next one."

That's what hope is like, sometimes. Sometimes it's like the northern lights, where you have to be watching for it--and you have to be patient, and you have to wait through the darkest times in the cold and wind so that when that flicker comes, you can fully appreciate it. And yes, sometimes it is just a flicker--just the briefest of shimmers--but usually you will find, that once you've sat through the darkness and experienced this image of hope in the form of an Aurora Borealis, your mother will come outside and bring you in to where the lights are on, there's a warm blanket especially for you, and probably a cat waiting to sit on your lap, and hot chocolate, and music is playing, and the laughter and joy of the people you love is going to be so much sweeter now that you have had your eyes opened to the reality--which is that there IS hope in the world, hope which springs from faith. And then after faith and hope, you begin to appreciate the love.

Isn't life ironic?

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