I unabashedly admit that I am an avid reader of the Chronicle of Higher Education. Some might call me a higher ed junkie. Given my current focus of study and profession, I would take that as a good thing. One segment of the Chronicle’s website, Brainstorm, offers various individuals in the field the opportunity to blog about pretty much anything. I was struck by a specific post this week. Read it if you are so inclined…I’ll come back to it later.
Last night included some of my favorite things. Ice cream (and not just ice cream…but with reese’s peanut butter cups and hot fudge. mmm…perfection). The kindness and smile of a stranger. Starlight. A late-night stroll. Discussion and exploration of C.S. Lewis writings. Driving with the windows down and the music up. Conversations with two fantastic women. All in all, it was a good night.
It was a night of soul-searching, of great vulnerability and trust. Such things seem to come easily when digesting the writings of my dear Clive. While indulging in the delights of frozen dairy, a dear friend and I delved into conversation regarding community, relationships and the innate human desire to be loved and understood. A sense of understanding seemed to be present as we took turns sharing stories of our past and the impact these occurrences bear on our current state.
Reminded of the importance of openness and honesty, of communication and forthrightness, we both articulated feelings of longing and hope for authentic community and genuine relationships, realizing that the sacred value of these things is inherent to the rarity of their occurrence. Given the transient nature of our lives, such community and relationships existing in the geographic location we currently find ourselves roaming is difficult to achieve. With sojourning tendencies, the time and effort necessary for such involved understanding is often lacking, or simply fades with the passing of time. While relationships maintained across vast distances remain valuable and sacred, something is lost. The understanding and camaraderie that comes from continued engagement in the same environment and activities together is truly beautiful; living and sharing life together genuinely and deeply is truly beautiful.
I am an advocate of such beauty. Such lofty hopes can be met with frustration. My friend and I pondered what is required for this intimacy and understanding to occur. We both realized that in order for these things to come to reality, we need to allow people in to our lives. Walls need to come down. Facades of perfection and wholeness must be dispelled. In order to be loved how we desire to be loved, to be encouraged and supported, we must articulate what it is that we hope to receive to those from whom we hope to receive it. If we do not share our desires, it is unrealistic to expect another person to simply recognize and acknowledge them intuitively. As we were talking, a passage we had previously been discussing at our C.S. Lewis book study came to mind:
There is one thing, and only one, in the whole universe which we know more about than we could learn from external observation. That one thing is Man. We do not merely observe men, we are men. – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
We are men, but we are only one man. Our understanding of man is narrowly our own, yet we were not created to live on our own.
My evening’s end was bittersweet as I left this good conversation under the summer starlight for a late-night loop on College Hill which concluded with a comforting embrace and saddening goodbye. Continuing some elements of my earlier conversation, we spoke of the nomadic and fleeting nature of our twenty-somethings lives. As I listened to my friend reflect on her preparation for a solo-road trip to her new job, new town, new community and new life, I was reminded of my own transitional time this year…and all that comes along with it. Such overwhelming change can be just that – overwhelming. After two months, I’m still settling in and adjusting to my new job, new town and new chapter of life. Even though the changes have been good, it doesn’t mean that they have been easy. A verse which has provided me with great comfort, as well as a gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) reminder, throughout this past year is found in Romans 8 and reads:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
In all things God works for the good. In all things. That means the hard things, the seemingly impossible things, the things that leave you broken, bruised and battered. He works for the good. I am seeing the good. I am seeing His work.
As I drove home late in the night, I was reminded of an article I had read earlier that day (now that Chronicle plug at the beginning makes sense!). The closing thoughts are as follows:
Why would a woman be driving by herself after dark?
I wondered this for a long time.
Now I have a response.
When I get into my car late in the evening, driving back after an event or a talk, I want to tell the little girl I was not to worry. It’s okay to be the lady behind the wheel.
I want to tell her that not all stories are sad, that not all happiness is clandestine, and that not all women driving by themselves are bereft and lonely.
Some have their favorite song turned way up on the radio and are smiling in the darkness as they find their way home. – Gina Barrecca, “Driving Alone”
I was smiling in the darkness as I found my way home, driving alone. As I returned from my evening with these two women, I was encouraged. We are sharing our lives, our hopes and fears, our great joys, the scars which remain and remind us of our past, the everyday moments and the extraordinary. For now, we each drive home alone at night. But thankfully, we are not alone.
This turned into a book. Any of you who trudged through this entire entry deserve some sort of reward. I’ll cease my ramblings for now.