Saturday, March 18, 2006

peaceful and lonely

It’s Sunday and we’ve just had a group of people at our house for lunch, prayer and some invigorating discussion.

In the past we’ve had Sundays when folks stick around for the whole day. Three o’clock turns into four, turns into five, six, seven, even ten. We talk and drink and laugh and play games and nibble some more.

But today everyone had left by three, leaving us at home alone, with nothing to do but enjoy the afternoon, waste time and take a snooze. And I am grateful for the unexpected gifts of solitude and silence.

Spring is knocking. The sun is shining gently, and there is a cool, calming breeze. The windows are open, welcoming in the fresh air for the first time since autumn. The world sighs.

I lay down on the cool, soft sheet. I close my eyes and fall asleep to the steady rhythm of my heartbeat.

I awake two hours later. And, somehow, the abiding, steady peace of the early afternoon has transformed into a brief cough of loneliness.

Even God seems absent and nature is passive. I reach over and Heather is gone. The kids are silent and there is a void in my gut.

I’m alone and five o’clock ambles into the room like a twelve-year old boy, awkward, skinny, pale, limp and gangly. Give me anything but this, please. Give me childhood again. Or give me old age. Either way, put this gasping to an end, please God.

I’m paralyzed now. I want to get up but can’t.

A voice from inside says: “You should be enjoying this, you know.”

I think: “That’s right. I should. What’s wrong with me?”

I give myself a half-hearted order to stop feeling this way. I should consider myself blessed.

My soul scoffs at the idea and then my brain stops working. I just lie there, staring at the yellow walls and the gray cobwebs in the corners.

I decide I’d best let myself feel this, take it in, chew on it awhile.

Just don’t swallow it.

The journey from peace to loneliness happens during sleep. When you lay down, surrendered, helpless, he comes in quietly, smothering dreams. If he doesn’t put you into a coma or kill you, he actually wakes you up--not with a violent shake but with a gentle nudge. That’s all it takes.

You open your eyes and think, “I shouldn’t have been sleeping.” Fear chuckles briefly. You realize: “Something’s not right.” The universe is quiet and the daylight yawns.

But then, from somewhere, help comes. Someone--you don’t know who--has a brief conversation with the devil. And, before you know it, peace fills the room again. What does this Someone say? I don’t know. And how long did it take? Two minutes? Maybe five?

I feel my hand begin to move again. I prop myself up. I turn over and look out the window. Nothing has changed, yet everything seems different. It’s the same world, yet there is now hope. My heart is even again, steady, strong. I can arise. I leave the room and find my wife. I am not alone.

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