Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Life as Story...

Was something Peter Kreeft said in a seminar for Act One's workshop a year or two ago in Hollywood. (Act One is a screenwriting program to turn Christian keeners, intent on saving Hollywood, into excellent writers. And Peter Kreeft is a preeminent Catholic thinker who's written about 50 books, and has his feet planted firmly on the ground.)

He said that if we think of our life as story, and understand that like all characters we have the power to resist good and embrace evil, just as much as the other way around, then we will also understand that we can only be overcome by a beauty more powerful than our choice of evil. Looking at our lives as such, also makes for less remorse over lost years, regarding them as part of the narrative arc in a journey, as long as that journey is gradually inching towards good. It allows me to see (sometimes, at least, when I'm not overcome by anger and resentment), that the things that have happened to me over the past 12 years, have also opened me up to God's grace in a way that being sheltered probably could not have. By looking at our lives as story, we are also able to see truth, because it lies there in the concrete. And goodness, he says, depends on truth -- that is, without being truthful, we can never really be good. That's why some beautiful movies can never be good, because they don't impart truth, and also why some primitive movies are good because they do. And it lies in the story, not in the costumes, sets, and special effects, though sometimes excellent goodness is seen through those things too. As flawed as Mel Gibson's personal life is, and as much as it's not always a witness for Christ, his movie The Passion of the Christ, affected people -- Christians and atheists and Jews and Muslims -- in a profound way that has led many to truth.

Another thing Kreeft said that struck home was the need to "exchange efficiency for delight." Joy is something I have either avoided, or it's avoided me, until the past few years when I have recognized the need, actually the desire, for joy.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Knocked Down...but Not Out

Apparently, the baby giraffe is knocked down by his mom just a few minutes after getting up wobbly legged from being born. He gets up again, and mom knocks him down again. This happens several times, but it's not a random cruelty. Mom does it to toughen up baby so he will be able to stand strong.

About 12 years ago, I remember thinking, you know I've never really suffered. And about a month after that, my husband announced he was leaving (the first time). I was devastated, and more so when I discovered he had met his "soul mate" and that she was the love of his life, and so on and so forth. But he didn't leave -- she wasn't available -- and the following couple of years was hell. He was in turns nasty, nice, physically attentive, cold. He declared up and down he wasn't having an affair (I've recently found out that was a lie), and during it all I got pregnant (how's that for cosmic timing).

I was so knocked down, I never thought I'd be able to stand again, and just when I would begin to rise out of this pit, he'd do something else to knock me over again. This went on for a couple of years, and friends said run, or kick him out, but don't put up with this any longer. The bad behaviour ended finally (what wasn't apparent at the time was that the behaviour just went underground). Anyway, that's a very long preamble to say that the three years of being knocked about, really was good for me, just like the baby giraffe. I dug deeper into faith, through scripture, prayer, reading what others have written, and clinging to good friends. The Christian friends did me the most good, because they supported me, prayed for me, listened to me, but wouldn't let me get away with any spiritual or emotional nonsense.

What I didn't realize was that while I was slowly rising out of a pit dug with my past -- both family and misspent youth -- my husband was slowly getting more mired in his.

Being knocked around by the original tsunami, repeated last year with much less wave action, has changed my priorities considerably. It has woken me to some realities -- especially the reality of the Presence of Christ, forever and always the Hound of Heaven. It has shaken me to see that the things I have held on to for security are false lifebuoys. I have even come to recognize and reach for Joy when it presents itself.

Not sure yet what that experience is preparing me for, though!