House of Cards
There is a part in the book “A grief observed”, by C.S. Lewis, where he talks about the way mankind creates a structural representation of God that is a house of cards. God, not being pleased by the misrepresentation of this house, blows a bit of breath on it and it collapses easily. We respond in horror that our representation is collapsed and are confronted with the knowledge that we have made some error, but then we start again. The interesting part comes when we realize that we do this with many aspects of our lives. That we build a structure of expectations for friends, relatives and business actions that conform to that internal sense of things being “right”. This is then divided into two parts. The first is the sense of violation when the expectation is not met or worse when it is trampled on purpose and we have been made the one that the joke was played upon. The second part is when we realize we made the assumptions ourselves and didn’t verify or later clarify the information. We then find out that we had made an error and need to reset the structure in our mind.
So, when the winds blow, as they always do, we need to be ready for the calamity of that which we hoped was real, to be rendered as of no value. Then we start again, with the dust and debris all about us. We don’t think it will be the same this time, but it is. I am old enough that I know that regardless of my intentions to not make an idol of things, I will. That I will not put God in a box, but I do. It is found in how tightly I hold onto the results of my prayers. I have the certainty of scripture that it will be different this time, but it isn’t. I have been on the wrong side of the answers long before I realized this is about my dreams and desires. It is a house of cards.
The interesting thing is that I desire the truth and that God would be glorified, so if I have a house of cards all the more that it would be blown down. Why then do I lament the thing so much? Because there is more of me in it that I had realized. I have ideas about my children and their companions and a long list of things I want for them and vicariously for me. Unspoken, mostly, but it is there. Yet as I reflect, I think about the turns and the hills and the reversals that brought people into my path that would otherwise not have been a part of that journey. I am ready to set aside much of that which I had previously held as “plans” and now I go with the moment better. Slowing to actually listen to the server at the restaurant or the friend that is with me. It is something I could have done a long time ago, just didn’t… because I had plans…
The plans didn’t work as I had expected, and as a result there is a limp that is also unexpected. It is similar to the 2-year-old with a grubby fist holding something dear to them and yet is unwise for them to have. We need them to let go, but they resist in equal amounts to our insistence. We get more animated and then exert the authority and power to open their grip by force and claim the moral high ground of adulthood. There is a trick to this that is a better way. Present a better “shiny thing” that shifts their attention and they will drop the current thing for the next “new” thing. Sometimes I wish I was ready for the next new thing, but alas, I retain my grip until overwhelming force is used to wrench it from my grubby paw. The pattern is clear when you review the history.
What then will it take for me to learn? I have not much hope of getting better soon. So, I have slowed the pace a bit. Looked deeper into the eyes of others. Listened longer. Heard more. Fixed less. I am capable of telling a more open story about my own journey, to those that will listen, and to pass for those that are not ready to hear. To talk about the house of cards and the number of times that it collapsed. To hear about their own path with ravaged dreams and dark nights with a silent God. I know these places and the silence of the night…. Perhaps you do as well.
Now then comes the day. Not the day you imagined, but the day you have been given. The day that unfolds in a new manner and with something called an “opportunity to learn”. We don’t use that phrase though; we call them problems. Too much month and not enough money. Angry people occupying our space and time. We are “mid-west nice” so we don’t tell them to piss-off and bother someone else, so we listen and touch their arm and give consolation… and wonder “where is mine” …. Well I do, at times. I know that they need someone to tell their story to, and I can probably learn something from the hearing of it. It does get a bit irksome at times. Then I think about the house of cards and then I let them talk. Their house has been blown down and their dreams have been ground into dust that blew away… and it is real.
Tomorrow is not yet, and yesterday is gone. All that I have is the present. A gift, if you will. Present. A state of current being, a gift given, the anticipation. The feeling that the one next to you is with you completely. They are “present”. It is what you can give, this gift. It is what you bring with you to that moment. It is of high value. When the cards are flat on the table and the dream is as smoke in the air, the act of the listener is like no other thing. You know when it happened for you. You know when they listened to your lament. You know when the gift was received. Your gift of being present. Your gift, of the active listener. So, I wonder about the timing of the collapse of the house of cards and you being near. That you came for no particular reason and was at the time I needed it most. I ponder on the notion that your path crossed my own, just now. In the midst of the turmoil and pain. For such a time as this…
And can it be that you simply were “there” or is there more? I have come to the place in my journey that there is no coincidence. You are part of a grand machine that knows such things that are beyond our knowledge. You come to a moment and that moment presents itself and you act. It is bigger than you know. I am to learn, and you are to teach. I am to accept, and you are to give. I am to give, and let you receive. Nothing is singular. All is a component of the whole. You are more than you knew, to people that you didn’t. The house of cards is but one part of the journey. It is the part that relieves you of the need to hold on to the thing that limits you. Your hands, now empty of the thing that is not best, can reach to lend aid to those you previously had not seen. This is your new day, and the silence is no more. You now can hear of the voices that need your talents. When the screaming in your own head is so loud as to block out all other voices, you cannot be of assistance. When you relax enough, you can then be of aid to the rest of humanity. Now you have purpose, now you embrace responsibility. Now you can live.
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