the story room

Monday, June 26, 2006

the glimmers I've seen

In an essay entitled "Summons to Pilgrimage" Frederick Buechner writes this:

"Religions start, as Frost said poems do, with a lump in the throat to put it mildly, or with the bush going up in flames, the rain of flowers, the dove coming down out of the sky. . . . We are all of us more mystics than we believe or choose to believe - life is complicated enough as it is, after all. We have seen more than we let on, even to ourselves. Through some moment of beauty or pain, some sudden turning of our lives, we catch glimmers at least of what the saints are blinded by; only then, unlike the saints, we tend to go on as though nothing has happened. To go on as though something happened, even though we are not sure what it was or just where we are supposed to go with it, is to enter the dimension of life that religion is a word for."

I don't always know how to talk about it (and I often lack the courage to do so), but over the years I have seen and experienced things that have left me with a lump in my throat. In both waking moments and dreams, in both ordinary and extraordinary ways, I've sensed the hand of God and I'm left without words, unable to see the world in quite the same way.

I am especially struck by the times when I am startled awake in the middle of the night. My sleep is normally heavy and deep, so waking during the dark and early hours is rare. But there are times when, unexplainably, I wake with a longing for God that is acute and unquenchable, where the only prayer I can pray is, "Jesus." There are times when I wake to confess sins that escape even my overactive conscience during the day, though they were committed directly against God himself. I sometimes wake in the darkness to truths that are incredibly simple but that I somehow desperately need to hear. I wake sometimes to a sense of peace and comfort so deep that the presence of God is almost palpable.

They are moments I could try to explain away in the morning if I wanted to, when the sunlight streams through the window and the busyness and noise of life pick up again as soon as the alarm clock sounds. But I can't deny that in those sometimes-bewildering always astonishing moments, I experience something extraordinary.

I don't always know what to do with mysterious encounters like these or, to borrow Buechner's words, where exactly to go with them. But I know that I can't simply go on and pretend they never happened. So I've learned to be sensitive and still, to listen, to let myself be changed.

And when the time seems right and I have the courage, I talk about these miracles and mysteries, because I can't help but believe you've caught glimmers, too...

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Cleanliness and Godliness

This summer, I'm working full-time for the maintenance department at Trinity. It's a fun job, actually: cleaning and re-cleaning dorm rooms.

Since my first day at work, I've had a phrase that keeps running through my mind. It's a phrase that I'm not even fond of, but it echoes in my mind every day nonetheless: "Cleanliness is next to godliness."

I don't like the phrase because I think it implies that uncleanliness is equal to ungodliness...and I don't like to make such sweeping judgments anyway. I hope I never hear myself say that phrase and mean it, but since I've been working this job, I've actually become sympathetic to what it might mean.

Whether or not the phrase is actually true, though, I'm learning things at work that are seeping into my life and (hopefully!) making me more like Christ.

I've worked in rooms that have been abused throughout the year, and I've learned that taking care of and maintaining something is an expression of gratefulness. It's a way to remember that what we've been entrusted with is a gift, and it honors God to treat it as such.

I'm learning that when a task needs to be done, it doesn't help to think about how much I don't want to do it, or how much I dislike doing it. Doing challenging jobs ungrudgingly not only makes them more bearable...they even sometimes become fun. (It's freeing, in a way, to not think so often about myself and all my likes and dislikes. Life, after all, is not all about me.)

I'm learning to be more positive and to pass up opportunities to complain.

I've been seeing my work as a way to give to people. Even in challenging rooms, I make it a point to pray for the people who just moved out. And I do my best to prepare an environment that will be clean and welcoming to the people who will move in in the fall. Even though most people probably won't think of the work I did (or even know that I did it), I hope it will be a gift to them.

And I'm learning that all these things need to carry over into the rest of my life as well.

I'm grateful for this job and the opportunities I have to work hard and learn along the way.