Tuesday, November 09, 2004

"An oath is an oath precisely because it cannot be removed."

I ponder D'Artagnan's words from The Man in the Iron Mask. He spoke with pain (yay, Gabriel Byrne). He understood that his loyalty to the king cost him dearly. He believed the best about Louis, even when Louis gave him no cause to have faith. His faith was in something higher than Louis--in the loyalty this best of Musketeers had grown in his heart, in his blood shed for the king, in the prayers he had prayed incessantly to his God. He kept his oath even when it hurt every fiber of his being, isolating him from his friends. What does it mean to keep your oath even when it hurts, as I read in one version of Psalm 25? It means you realize that life isn't what you planned, when you are disappointed by the people in your life-your parents, your siblings, your spouse, your friends, your kids, yourself, your God, and you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they, too, are disappointed with you. You weren't what the package promised either. It means staying true when you look down the tunnel for the light at the end-of the keeping, of the hurting-and you can't see it. You know it's there. You've been told it is; you've even seen it yourself from time to time, and most of all because God said so. But you can't see it. Are you blind? Have you fallen away? Are there scales on your eyes? Or, to change metaphors midstream, are you just in the desert until it's time to leave? You're there until you're not. Nods to Gordie, who once said, “People are people.” And I laughed him to scorn and thought him a vapid ass. But experience has taught me he is right. All those sayings that seem trite --people are people, it's not over 'til it's over, it is what it is, you're there until you're not-they are actually the truths that run the universe. So simple they seem ridiculous, but so real they cannot be denied. So, I'm in the desert, and it is night and it is cold, and I'm alone. For now. Because this is the season of keeping the oath until it hurts. While it hurts, when it does nothing but hurt. But the verse doesn't say keep the oath even when it hurts others. It is not my license to inflict pain or injury. And yet I do. Like Mrs. Weasley ripping on her boys, “How dare you!” leaps from my lips more often than not. Yes, I can turn and say with syrupy sweetness, “And Ginny, dear, we're so proud of you for making Gryffindor,” or “Harry, I'm so glad you're here.” But the damage has been done. I must, I think, learn to sit quietly. Telling God my anger-at Him, at the unfairness of life. I was there, once, in the acceptance and the peace. But I'm not now. Maybe that's why I'm not out of the desert yet. I went to the actual desert on a vacation, a solitary pilgrimage. And I loved it. Its wild beauty captivated my heart. Why, in my spiritual life, can I not see the beauty of the desert? Is it the scales? Drop them from my eyes, Lord. Make me again like D'Artagnan, seeing an oath as non-negotiable. Holding true when all others fall away. Believing you are there and you are good "though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places." Habakkuk 3:17-19 Though to everyone else it looks like spitting into the wind, I must rejoice.

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