Turning Loose –
Last weekend Beth and I took a trip to see some family in another state. When we left the yard seemed green, the bushes and trees covered with leaves and even a few blossoms dotting the yard. However, when we returned after only a few days things looked very different. The yard had begun to turn brown, the blossoms were gone and the bushes and trees had brown leaves which had begun to fall. In the last week, most of the yard contains the leaves that until recently were holding on. The clocks were turned back last weekend and it seems fall has finally settled in and winter is not far behind.
I don’t like the end of summer. The bright days growing shorter, the green trees and bushes getting bare, the colors becoming a muted brown. However, I also know it is the cycle of life. What is alive and flourishing will diminish and die. The long winter nights remind us of the journey each of us will make at the end of our lives to the other side. There will come a time for all of us when must turn loose of the lives we have and accept the passing of time.
I have spoken this week with a young woman who is getting married next Saturday. She has two young children and loves these symbols of spring and new life. I also connected with someone who is faced with the reality of how quickly life passes.
The cycle of life is ever-moving. We don’t know where we are in the circle but we do know it’s movement, fast or slow, never stops.
“Then the lion said — but I don’t know if it spoke — You will have to let me undress you.
I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.
“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was jut the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know — if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”
“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – and there it was lying on the grass, only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking. And there was I smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been.”
-CS Lewis, “The Voyage of the DawnTreader”
The story above is one of my favorites from CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series. A spoiled, rotten, obnoxious boy named Eustace attempts to steal a dragon’s gold and is himself turned into a dragon. No matter how hard he tries he cannot free himself from the scaled skin which holds him captive. His monstrous greed, selfishness and arrogance has imprisoned him. Then he meets Aslan, the mystical and powerful lion, who sets him free.
This morning I connected with a friend who, along with her husband, have journeyed a path very similar to the one my wife and I have walked. They are good friends and mentors. We were discussing the hurt and pain that can be inflicted upon us by those who are members of the community of God.
I told my friend that this path has led me to strange and uncomfortable places. It has taken me away from the desire for the wrongs to be righted, the people who hurt me punished and instead to confront my own ego and misplaced trust. I have been forced to face the beasts inside of me and am being stripped of their hold on me.
“I’m reminded of Eustace in CS Lewis’ “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” I said. “When Aslan pierces the dragon hide with his claw and the pain is great but the freedom is greater.”
I took a walk with someone today, a person I’ve known for only a few weeks, who’s not very old but has experienced a lot in his relatively short life. He’s trying to stay on the right path, trying to do right by his wife and soon to be born children.
When I arrived at his house he had forgotten we had a session and had made other plans. Before he left, however, he was going to check his mail at the entrance to his neighborhood. It’s a good distance from his home so I asked if I might join him. He didn’t mind so we walked and talked about his life and the difficulties he’s experiencing. I encouraged him to keep making good choices, to remember what he does today determines who he’ll be tomorrow, that people are counting on him to be a good man and a good father. When we arrived back at his house we set up another appointment, I told him thanks for the chat and left.
Our time together wasn’t what I expected but was thankful for the opportunity to accompany another person on their path, to share their load as we journeyed together.
It was another long night for my incarcerated fathers group. This time a random drug test delayed the class for over half an hour. When you’re working with the jail, it’s their schedule and not yours. Finally the men arrived and we had a good session with honest, sometimes painful, questions, answers and discussion. Because we started late we ran over on our allotted time but when we buzzed the guard to open the door he let us know we’d have to wait. So the guys and I sat around and talked about what it’s like to be incarcerated, separated from family and friends and a host of other topics. After a long while the door buzzed and the men left. I sat alone waiting for my turn when another inmate, who’d returned from a work release program, came into the room.
It had been a long day and I was ready to go but took a deep breath and asked; “How’s your day?” We small talked a little and then I told him who I was, what I did. He began to open up about his life, poor choices he had made, a wife and seven month old child he missed greatly and said, “I’ve always been the black sheep of my family. My brothers and sisters are good people, not me.” The speaker behind me crackled; “Mr. Loging, you can leave anytime.” A few moments before I was ready to go, now I wanted to stay. I looked him in the eye and told him; “I don’t know you but I want you to know you’re not a black sheep. Bad choices can be overcome. You are worthy of a good life, being a good husband and a good father and if you let me, I’ll help you in anyway I can.” He looked down, shook his head yes and sighed. The door buzzed. I handed him my card, told him to consider what we talked about and left.
What we think about ourselves often determines the path we choose to our follow.
My old Timex watch has seen better days. The lens is chipped, scratched and scuffed. The band is cracking in several places and the strap holder fell off years ago. One days it’ll disintegrate and I’ll be forced to buy a new one.
I was looking at the watch this morning and reflected on how well it’s “taken a licking and kept on ticking!” At almost 10 years old I’ve never had to replace the battery, the watchband or clasp. I also thought about how many life events have transpired since I bought it. Moves, job changes, personal transitions, ups and downs, good and bad, heartaches and triumphs. This time piece has ticked every second of these away.
Time is a difficult concept to comprehend and stops for no one. There were difficult seasons when each day seemed to last forever. Others where time flew by; blinked and they were gone. Yet the watch never rushed, never slowed. To it every second, minute, hour was the exact same. Each progression of numbers, change of date, new day that arrived was marked.
Whatever our journey brings, time is our constant companion. It doesn’t pause, doesn’t judge, doesn’t care. It just keeps moving.
This morning I was thinking about change, transition and the unexpectedness of life. Our lives do not, will not, go as planned. This may seem good news or bad depending on our current situation and whether or not our outlook on the future is bright or bleak.
The path we each travel takes us to strange lands, amongst foreign peoples and into places not glimpsed in our wildest dreams. This is true even if we never venture far from home.
In the end our journey leads us back to where we started. The undiscovered country, the way less traveled is a circuitous trail spiraling down into the depths of our spirits. We understand it’s not the outward happenstances of life that make us who we are but how we allow these experiences to imprint themselves upon our souls.