Saturday, December 12, 2009

can't make this up, part 2

(remind me, please, if i ever doubt God's provision for me and His attention to the details of my life, of this series of "coincidences" in the past thirty-six hours.)

beginning at the beginning...

today was an intense day. there was no doubt it would be, though our plans for the day were somewhat fluid and not always clear. early this afternoon, everyone needed a break, and so we retired to our corners, as it were: luke to his room to read, sam to his grading and basketball-pick-up-game-planning, and i to my room to rest. but a nap wasn't in order, and i'm not in the middle of reading any book right now.

wait, wait. that's not the beginning.

earlier in the day, as we marked the hour (9:15) of eliza's death, sam asked me how i imagined eliza now. lots of people have asked that question this past year. as much as i appreciate the sentiment, images of eliza dancing or running or playing have never resonated with me. the only image of heaven that has ever gripped me, really, is that in c.s. lewis's great divorce. (have you read it? if not, please do. now. it'll only take you a couple of hours, and i promise it'll be so worth it. then come back and read the rest of this post!)

have you read it? okay, pressing on...

i read it almost ten years ago, so my memories of it are vague. in the book, the narrator has a vision of the afterlife and witnesses in it a series of conversations between those who have already gone to heaven and those who...hmmm...(if you've read it, you'll understand my hesitation here. and if you haven't read it, go do it! you promised you would)...those who haven't (for lack of a better way to describe them). but i didn't remember many details other than the beauty of lewis's vision of what could be. and i've latched onto that beauty from time to time over the past year.

so this afternoon, when i had an hour in which to rest and nothing in particular in mind to do with that hour, i pulled out the book. (there's something you should know about me: i never reread a book. there are way too many books to read in a lifetime to spend time rereading! i'm sure i can count on one hand the books i have reread. suffice it to say, it is entirely out of character for me to pull a book out to reread.) but i reread the first half of the book in that hour this afternoon, and i was struck afresh by its amazing images. amazing. i might even blog about a few of these things, i thought, as i marked a few pages.

and then we went on with our day. to the funeral home, to the cemetery, to friends' house for dinner. home for bedtime. exhausted, sam and i decided to forgo our box-sorting and let the day dwindle to its end. and i sat down to finish the book.

did i mention i remembered none of the details? had i remembered chapter eleven, i would no doubt have feared ever reading it again. certainly not today.

if i could retype the whole chapter here, i would, as summarizing it feels like a betrayal of its beauty. but i'll give it a try (trusting that you've already read it...right?). in this chapter, a woman on the brink, as it were, of choosing heaven or not-heaven, is talking with her brother who has gone before her to heaven. she is eager to see her son, who is also there, but whom she cannot see yet. her conversation with her brother reveals her deep love for her son and her eagerness to get to heaven to be with him.

wait, wait. back up a minute.

en route to the cemetery, after i had started the book but before i had gotten to this chapter, sam and i had a conversation about what we want to know and understand of eliza. while sam talked of wanting to know what she is now--what exactly is her spirit, and where is she, and what does she experience (that's a poor summary)--i stated unequivocally that i wanted her back. period. broken and sick and all. i just wanted her back.

back to the book.

so the woman wants to get to heaven to see her son, and her brother who has preceded her tells her why that won't work. she's going about it the wrong way. but you already know the argument (because you've read the book; you promised), so i won't even attempt to get into the details. her mother-love, which she describes as right and holy, can't supercede her love of God. in fact, her mother-love only is because of God. she can be with her son--and it's good and right that she loves her son--but that can't be her motivation. that can't be her starting point.

so as the narrator and his teacher (lewis and macdonald? the english major in me resists) listen in to this conversation, the narrator asks, "But am I to tell them at home that this man's sensuality [here referring to another conversation they have overheard] proved less of an obstacle than that poor woman's love for her son? For that was, at any rate, an excess of love."

"'Ye'll tell them no such thing,' he replied sternly. 'Excess of love, did ye say? There was no excess, there was defect. She loved her son too little, not too much. If she had loved him more there'd be no difficulty. I do not know how her affair will end. But it may well be that at this moment she's demanding to have him down with her in Hell. That kind is sometimes perfectly ready to plunge the soul they say they love in endless misery if only they can still in some fashion possess it. No, no. Ye must draw another lesson. Ye must ask, if the risen body even of an appetite is as grand a horse as ye saw [referring again to the other conversation], what would the risen body of maternal love or friendship be?'"

touché. and thank you, Lord.

really? i had no idea why i picked up this book today. what a gift. "what would the risen body of maternal love be?" what a gift.

(read the book. please.)


Cortney said...

wow! God is so good. I had just read Ch. 11 Friday and was into Chapter 12 but I went back and reread it yesterday after Matthew talked to Sam. Powerful. Perfect. So thankful that God gave you that.

Rebecca said...

Now I know which book is going in my bag of Christmas break. I'll be re-reading it, of course.