Monday, September 15, 2008

Love the Lord Your God with All Your Strength.

*Disclaimer: Though this writing deals with the kinds of things I have been writing about in this blog, it is of a more intensely personal nature than anything else I have posted so far. I post it with some trepidation but feel that it could possibly be of worth to someone. Some of what I have written is of a sensitive and mature nature. I just want to caution my female readers that this post deals in some depth with "guys' issues" but, at the same time, I feel it is reflective of universal human experience.*

I struggle with a flesh that is wracked by desires that are too powerful for me to control. I am at their mercy. At some point I can resist them, but, if they do not relent . . . I am slain. Alas, I am always failing, and the failure is bitter. It is never a joyous embrace of that which I have desired but a beggarly and dirtied submission to the faint and distorted outline of that to which my flesh points and testifies in its desire. What a cruel trick! I do not know my desires or what I am really searching for until I have failed and realized that what I had grasped in that guilty moment was a shameful and deceitful sham for something real, holy, and deep. Why does my body declare truths and then lie so coldly?

My body screams that it wants sexual gratification. That is true, but that is not all of it. That is just the heat put off by the fire that burns within. My desire points, not to the pleasure, but to the passionate embrace of love. It is not sex I want. I want union. I want love. Anything less is a cheap and degrading substitute for something so powerful and holy. The union of man and woman, husband-and-wife, an expression of love and self-sacrifice whereby pleasing the other brings such great pleasure.

Sometimes my soul feels so isolated; it feels so alone. How wonderful it would be to unite completely with another human being, to give all of myself to the woman I love and to whom I am exclusively, passionately, and eternally dedicated, to receive all of her in turn, so close that we are one flesh. Here, by virtue of being united, there is no distance between us physically and no distance between our hearts and our souls. We have become one soul. This is truly what it means to know fully and to be fully known. This is holy. This is beautiful. This is sacramental. Truly this is the highest height and deepest depth of love.

What a great and terrible sin to transgress this most sacred, beautiful, and deep Holy of Holies of human relationships! Nothing on earth is more sacred than this mystery. It must be kept pure. How dare we subject this mystery to our whims, to our convenience, to our perversity of will and desire! Pornography. To hell with it! Send it back to hell from whence it came. It is a sham; a demonic deception of the lowest kind! Missing the forest for the gnarled trees.

A lonely young man with little hope of experiencing this union of body and soul with another, this depth of love, the very fullest expression of life and love and passion and grace and service and joy and pleasure and grace. Oh God. How cruel it seems that I should be denied the love of a loving woman after by its absence I have learned to appreciate it so. A wonderful, soft, lovely, sensuous, delicate, vibrant, beautiful, intelligent, charming, kind, good, passionate, gracious, loving, forgiving, pleasing light that would so illuminate everything that is good and worthwhile about life, about the world, about humanity, about God. Does she know how much of my devotion she would truly have? Does she know that she would be the most loved of all women who have ever been loved by a man? Does she know the treasure and blessing she would be to me, that I would be to her in return? Why is it that her heart is not moved by the one who would appreciate her most, love her most deeply, give of himself most freely.

Where is she? So many times I have recklessly and foolishly thought I had found her. No. I deceive myself, rush myself, delude myself into thinking she might care. I fall so quickly, so recklessly, so foolishly. I am impatient. My life drains away, time continues on, gather ye rosebuds while ye may, daylight's burning. For one who claims such a regard for love, I treat it so cavalierly. So much as a smile from a young lady, and I am smitten, I am slain. I would promise her the moon and the stars in a moment, fully and foolishly in earnest. Why am I so impatient? The love of a woman is indeed a great treasure, but with all good things, it takes time. A love so quickly grasped is as seed thrown on shallow soil. It springs up full of joy, but as soon as it meets a challenge, it withers away and dies. It has no root. It has not had time to dig deep in the soil of friendship, of companionship, of deep conversation and inside jokes, of the common experience of growing in respect and admiration for one another, of surprises, of disappointments, of hurts and bruises inflicted and then tenderly bound up, of conflict, of resolution and reconciliation, of time and distance, of good times and bad, of memories made together. Its source is not fire but its mere heat, which dissipates away in a few moments. My body, my hormones, my desperation, my fear, my impatience, my loneliness, my neediness, they shipwreck me. They deceive. I speak of love in such lofty terms but treat it with such shallowness.

Sex? Is that my problem? If only the biological urge were not so strong. I wonder, am I that starved for love, or is it just my manhood? Do I just want to hop in the sack? Is it just my glands? I am a man after all. I do have testosterone, and apparently quite a bit of it. The biological desire is not wrong, but getting too hung up on the physical can cause one to miss the forest for the trees.

Perhaps I have missed a wonderful love, perhaps I have overlooked "the one" because I was feeling with the wrong organ or giving my eyes too much authority over my affections. Attraction is vital, but I'm afraid I have given it too much emphasis. Maybe I deserve my loneliness. Maybe I've just got what's coming to me. There have been a few in the past that have liked me, but I overlooked them because they failed to strike me as attractive. How can I feel cheated or wronged or not given the consideration I have warranted when I have failed to give it to others? After all, beggars can’t be choosers. But I'm not so beggarly after all. It's not as if I'm hideous, and I really believe that I have much to offer beyond the physical. Besides, women don't get as hung up on how we look as we do about how they look. Ay, but that's the rub; if only I could see from the inside out. True beauty comes from within.

What I fear, though, is something far worse. Are people really so shallow as to write me off immediately as a possibility because I am disabled? Does it have something to do with a defect of personality, want of social skills, lack of confidence, the way I look, or is it that I am somehow viewed by women as less of a man because I'm in a wheelchair? Is it my disability? Am I doomed to be alone because I'm physically dependent. Women want a certain physical strength or power in a man that I do not possess. They want to be held, someone to protect them and to provide for them, someone to take the lead in making love to them. It is true that I belie the stereotype of what a man should truly be, but is this not something I can compensate for in a certain mental, spiritual, or emotional strength? I am strong though I am weak. No, I cannot hold her all through the night or lovingly lay her down, but I can be a solid rock for her to lean on.

The body, the material, the sensual is infused all through with a powerful potentiality. It is a glorious palette upon which the spirit can express its abundance, its passion, its very life. It is good. It is very good. It is very, very good. Physicality mediates the experience of the human. It is the place where the divine and the earth kiss in a passionate embrace. It is the conduit, the stage for the highest experience of the sublime, of the ecstatic, of the heavenly, of the glorious, of the gentle, of the soft, of the powerful, of the electricity of being. It is where flame's fire burns, the ice's cold bites; it's where sense finds its sensation and where passion finds its expression.

Physicality is also where we encounter the other. The other who says we are not alone. It tells us that there are others who share our reality, who trod the same earth in the same shoes. They share our passions, our fears, our sorrows, our pains, our joys, our pleasures. They share the same life that we do. It is in this knowledge that existence finds its savor and its purpose. A community of embodied spirits makes these dry bones live. We do for, with, to, and because of people-for their smiles, their touches, their looks, their favor, their benefit and ours, the blessing and fulfillment of all. Life is beautiful. It is grand and magnificent, a glorious shout of exultation at the sheer wonder of being. How glorious it is that I know, feel, comprehend, that I am! How much greater it is that he is and that she and she and he are! This is great knowledge. The possibility of all this! How glorious the Being that must exist to give us this incredible gift! Praise be to God for our lives! Praise be to God that he has placed us here between heaven and earth! Thank you God for the stuff we are made of. Oh thank you Lord for becoming one of us, taking our physicality, sanctifying it, exalting it, and ransoming it from the Fall. It is all your good creation and we, all of us, mind, soul, heart, body, are designed by your hand the most glorious of all this very good creation.

What would we do without a hug or a kind word? What would we do without shared laughter and shared food? Where would we be without jokes and stories and speech and words? For family, friends, lovers, strangers, animals, the soil, the sky, the snow, the thunder, the rain, the wind, God be praised! We see, we hear, we touch, we taste, we smell, and we declare that all you have created is good and very good. Thank you for coming to share this with us as the blessed Son of Man. Thank you for all the images of yourself that we see in the eyes of the human other. It is good that we are not alone.

Shuffling feet, lively voices, work week stories, "Good Morning!" "Good to see you today!" Cups of coffee, hale and hearty, creaking chairs, children running 'round, their smiles, their shrieks of delight, their games, hymn books and Bibles, "Let us prepare our hearts for worship." Vestments of purple, the altar covered in silver, the loaf, the wine, the smell of yeast, young and old, man and woman and child, the bored and the earnest, rich and poor, saint and sinner singing, piano clanging:

"All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!

O praise him! O praise him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!"

Reading the Scriptures:

"Lift up your heads, O gates!
and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
that the King of glory may come in.

Who is the King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O gates!
and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
he is the King of glory."

Gentle reader says, "This is the Word of the Lord." Many voices ring, crying, "Thanks be to God!" General and private confession and absolution, "In Christ we are forgiven!" The encouraging Word preached by kind and reverend sage, the Word speaking, fed flock declaring:

"I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth.

And I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried,
descended into hell,
and the third day rose from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen."

Ancient hymns, glorious ancient Church, creeds and liturgy, a mystery we are caught up in, God is here, deacons collecting widows mites in scarlet bags.

"Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. A-men. Amen."

The Feast of the Church, Supper blessed at the Table, body of Christ in silver dish, breaking loaf, "This is my body, broken for you. Take, eat it. Do this in remembrance of me." Munching, chewing in unison the bread from heaven, our manna in the desert.

The Cup consecrated, blood of Christ in tiny plastic cups, "This is my blood in the new covenant, drink all of it", slurping, sucking, clicking in unison, strangely warmed, Jesus like a jelly sandwich, "There is Power in the Blood!" United with Christ and one another, flock fully fed.

Smiling, bearded young man, raising hands, gives the benediction "The Lord bless you and keep you, and may God cause his face to shine upon you!" Processing out, singing, "Amen. Amen. Amen." Romantic orthodoxy. Embodied Living Presence made known through Word and Sacrament, a happy and blessed people of God.

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