Tuesday, April 15, 2014

music from pump number ten

We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. 
― C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

There are some days you need to cry.
Even then, there are those some days we feel when we need to cry, but we just can't make the tears come out.
And then, sometimes, that little grace moment arrives that nudges open the saline floodgates and those strange heaving breath-y noises we call sobs can just flow out of you.
That moment for me arrived when my best friend put her arms around me, and told me everything was okay.
But it's not, I protested wobbily, and then cast myself against her and let all the sobs come out as I buried my face into her shoulder.
I was wearing an ambitiously tall pair of heels, and she stands a full five foot two when wearing flats (which she was), so I don't know what sort of magic it was that made her grow at that moment. At that moment I seemed to shrink, and she grew larger. 
Her small little frame became an enveloping presence of comfort, that held me close and assured me all would be well.

I had spent all of mass staring at Mary Magdalene (again. oops.) and listening to the story of Peter betraying Christ and Judas hanging himself.
And I thought: shoot. We're all just a bunch of f**k-ups, aren't we? I should have probably had more polite words in my head when I was in Holy Mass, but I couldn't help it.
What else are you supposed to think when you hear about how all these holy figures-- who we mostly imagine as animated Caravaggio paintings walking the earth and not real flesh and blood like your annoying next-door neighbors-- acting like every other human being, aka poorly.
'Tis rather discouraging. You realize that perhaps our faith is a bit more squalid and messy than previously thought. And full of more effort.
Being good seems like a raw deal. Because it's not like somehow you screw up less than everybody else on this planet. You screw up just as much, you just have the distinct displeasure of being aware of how much you do not want to be acting in the way you do. You have had your comfortable life shattered by the knowledge of goodness. And you yearn for it.
And the pain comes when you fall short of it.
You know the art of goodness, you think. I know what the art of holiness looks like. So why can I not perform it?
Why do I go and do the exact opposite of what I wish to do?
I'm sure Peter felt exactly the same.
To know that your spirit is willing and your flesh is weak is unpleasant knowledge.

After I ditched the three-inch heels, Best Friend and I walked to the car and drove to the gas station to fill up the thirsty tank. As we pulled up to pump #10, I heard music coming from the pumping station.
It was Andy Grammar's Gotta Keep Your Head Up.
I chirped with delight. As I fumbled with the credit card and the yes receipt/no receipt, swipe your rewards card now, unleaded or premium?, car wash for you? buttons, together we sang Mr. Grammar's comforting reminder that:
This is just a journey 
Drop your worries 
You are gonna turn out fine.

Love is sweet.
It is as surprising and refreshing as music coming from the gas pump.
It is as comforting and healing as a warm embrace.
It is as revitalizing and nourishing as good conversation and brunches with eggs and mimosas.
It is as surprising and delightful as mojitos and chocolate-covered oreos.
It is as heart-breaking as Gregorian chant.
It is as earth-shattering as watching the Magdalene cling to the Lord.
It is as mysterious as an empty stage, waiting for a play to be performed upon it.
But for all its complexities, it is truly quite simple:
love is as sweet as sunshine and the crocuses that reach upwards to kiss the sunlight's rays.

Surely those men were sinful and broken, but in their own ways they were good, holy, and inspiring as they strove to remain faithful to their part of the covenant. 
--John Herman, C.S.C.

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