Today the city is gray. Still. A day the air feels heavy and close and somewhat hard to breath. It’s not truly silent, as this city never is; but today it feels that it almost wants to be, if not silent, perhaps just slightly softer than usual…slower than usual.
Amongst this urban mood change my mind wanders…wanders from grocery lists, to Christmas gifts, to thinking about if I will ever see another snowdrift. But for all the corners my cognition rounds, I can’t help thinking that life here is so good for so many of us that we’ve forgotten we are meant to long for something else.
Certainly, you can long much too much for something else, especially for somewhere else and some people go there, by choice. Some leave others behind, some don’t.
Others forget about what is other than what they have in front of them. Forget about things they can’t touch, can’t own, can’t travel to or can’t take a picture of.
I don’t want to be either one. But I honestly have to tell you that I’m struggling to orchestrate enough personal balance to exist somewhere in the middle.
Tomorrow, a young girl is going to remember someone who was very close to her. Someone who wanted to be where she couldn’t get her body to; so she took her soul there instead…and left her body behind; a body that will be the centerpiece of the remembrance, for a while at least.
I have a lot of questions that seem to have taken up residence in my estranged mind lately. Questions about the thoroughness (or lack of) ownership we have over our bodies and lives, the expiration of that ownership and certainly the existential unrest one must bear to make the same choice as this girl’s now lost “someone”.
The apostles write that for the saints, all things belong to them. Things like the world, the present and the future and yes, even life and death. I don’t think that I have ever looked death in the face, and I in no way know the first thing about what it means to, in essence, own it. Is that ownership truly command-like in nature, or more of a subtle envelopment? I don’t know. And while I haven’t been so close as to see the color of death’s eyes, I have looked into the eyes of someone who has.
He’s 14. And I met him in a hospital room a few days after the overdose of chemicals finally left with his body far less impacted that he had intended. His smile is what stands out the most, that and the tense nervousness of his mother who perhaps feels that her son knows much too much about the ownership of death. The hospital says he’s stable now, but the last words he spoke to me after the room was empty tell me that this, this existential clash of the deepest sense of existence and a crippling lack of purpose that led this child to the precipice of death will return.
Hardly seems like an appropriate topic to write about a few days before the infamous “most wonderful time of the year”. But as I lay almost knocked out after feeling accosted by the assaultive nature of these children’s realities, something else hit me just as hard; a slap in the face by the rough relevance of the cross of Christ.
This is Christmas. This living, breathing, bone and marrow reality of the raw, unwrapped, and utterly abrasive relevance of the cross of Christ. In that hospital room is where Christmas should happen. That funeral our little girl is going to, that too, is where Christmas should happen. It is, in the most basic form, the collision of my soul’s strongest disorientation and the Creator’s uncompromising truth.
So marry Christmas… and may your collision be strong and hard and may it leave you whirling, dizzy, and perhaps even unconscious. But regardless of the details of your own personal clash, may it lead you, unmistakably to the cross of Christ.