Sunday, December 12, 2010
I stopped by Barnes and Noble on the way home from church to buy you a book for Christmas. I actually walked out with two. But they were both for me. So this year, your gift is a more interesting, diverse, well-read friend in Alaska. Does that work for you? Good!
I’m having an epiphany! I think God wants me to become a monk! Not a guy monk……a girl monk and that’s quite different from a nun. And not a complete monk….just monkish.
It all started with the books I’m reading. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell was always one of my favorites. When I first read it many years ago, I wanted to be Karana, the Indian girl who was stranded alone on the island and spent her days in survival mode (btw, I also wanted to be Tom Hanks in that movie where his UPS plane crashed and he survived alone). But in the last three years I have become very socially needy and I was rereading the book to try to discover what in it attracted me, and thus what part of myself I had lost. Does that make sense?
In some ways I feel like I’ve been changed forever by widowhood, but in other ways I want to get my old self back. I really liked the me that wanted to be stranded and never felt I could ever be lonely.
So I decided to delve into the book for answers, and I’m also reading The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen (one of my very favorite authors) alongside it. This is an interpretation of the Biblical parable based on Rembrandt’s famous painting and is about “coming home” to the unconditional love of God. In a very unpredictable way, these two books are complimenting each other and speaking volumes to my heart. In the bookstore, I got two more books by Nouwen that further elaborate on these themes.
This is getting deeper than I imagined it would, but I think I’ve put my finger on what draws me to Karana. Her life is devoid of details. There are one or two goals each day, i.e. gather shellfish for dinner or dig the canoe out of the sand. And each task can take days or even seasons. She’s so simplified. She can think her thoughts without interruption and just bask in the details of her surroundings (and I can vicariously journey home to God). I can see how this appealed to me when I was raising two children, being a wife, housekeeper, teacher, worship leader, band member, etc. Many of you can identify. I just loved hanging out with Karana. She lowered my blood pressure. She still appeals to me but, now as I read, I sense her loneliness and no longer envy her. I want her to be rescued in the end.
Nouwen talks a lot about solitude. He has been a comfort to me through my grief though he, himself, lived much of his life in confusion and anguish. He helps me distinguish between solitude and loneliness, something I’ve struggled with for a while. When I went hiking through the snow this week, I didn’t see another soul all afternoon, but I was anything but lonely. That is a really good sign for me. I’m learning to be monkish, to commune with God alone, on His terms, accepting what He offers in relationship, asking for no more and being satisfied. And, by golly, I’ve even been reclaiming a little joy!
Like I’ve said before (in earlier posts), the fruit of the Spirit can become an illusion when your wants are being met and you’re swept away by the current of activity and social busyness. You can probably find time to read and enjoy Island of the Blue Dolphins, but you might not realize why you like it so much until you become a monk (or at least, monkish).