Sunday, December 9, 2012

Recycling and Bicycling

Shortly after we were married, Emmett and I were cleaning out the last remaining items we had left our parents' houses.  I was going through a box of school items under my bed when I came across a green notebook full of poetry that I wrote in seventh grade.  Seventh grade girl poetry.  In other words, epic.  It was entirely about dolphins and saving the planet and recycling, which by the way, only sort of (in a very unsatisfying, contrived sort of way) rhymes with bicycling.  Yep.  That's how good I was.

I cringed as I opened it, so of course Emmett immediately snatched it from me and began reading them aloud, much to his delight and my embarrassment.  After wrestling him for the notebook, I vowed to rid the world of my awful poetry, once and for all.  Although Emmett protested loudly, I finally managed to destroy its contents, and the world is a much better place.

I remember showing that notebook to my seventh grade english teacher, and I was so proud of it.  The response I got from her when she returned it was much less enthusiastic than I anticipated. I'm surprised she managed to say anything nice at all.  That is why middle school teachers are saints and I teach high school.

Lately though when I sit down to write, I end up closing my blog, putting away my story outlines, and writing poetry.  What?  Yeah.  Somebody shoot me now before I embarrass myself again.  That's how I feel about it.  After swearing I'd never attempt poetry again, I can't seem to stop (although I'm so dreadfully slow I feel pretty much like I'm not moving).  And no, there is no way I'd post a poem on the internet, so don't even suggest it.

But there is something about poetry that fits with my life right now.  Sometime this week I realized that today would mark 18 months since Emmett died.  Today I learned that a Team Emmett board member and new friend had passed away after his cancer returned a couple of months ago.  I've been watching friends have babies, get married, take new jobs, move, get promotions, grieve, and suffer while I feel forced to sit still, merely a spectator.  So when I have a chance to reflect on and engage with reality, the true reality of God and creation, I find myself being thrown up against this invisible wall that I can't seem to penetrate.  I sit down to read the Bible, and I know there is deep, life giving truth, but the words ping around my brain like meaningless hieroglyphs. And not for lack of knowledge.  It's like no matter how much I study or read or work, I keep hitting a wall and truth - real life-giving, soul-satisfying truth -  is always on the other side.  I picture myself beating desperately on this wall, asking to be let in, shouting meaningless words at the chaos just wanting confirmation that I've been heard, much like Habakkuk.

N.T. Wright, in Surprised By Hope says that:
When the Bible speaks of heaven and earth it is not talking about two localities related to each other within the same space time continuum or about a nonphysical world contrasted with physical one but about two different kinds of what we call space, two different kinds of what we call matter, and also, quite possibly (though this does not necessarily follow from the other two) two different kinds of what we call time.  
I never really had any perspective on heaven and earth because heaven being a place in the sky somewhere past Jupiter never really worked for me.  But the way Wright speaks of it here, I can't help but geek out over how much this resonates with my science nerd brain.  Now if you've read anything or seen any PBS specials on string theory, you're probably no better off actually understanding what it says, and I'm not even going to try to explain it because it doesn't really make any sense and there's no way of testing if it's true, which makes it a pretty useless scientific theory.  However it presents a very similar possibility of extra dimensions, present but undetectable (hence the uselessness of the theory).

Essentially, whole worlds could exist right in front of us and we might never know.  Doesn't this sound just like the veil Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians?  Like Lewis's Narnia?  Jesus could be standing right in front of me like those guys on the runway guiding airplanes waving giant sticks of light (I'm sure they have a fancy name but I don't care enough to google it), and I have no sense of his presence.  Yet in some mystery of faith I know he is there, even though I can't get past that veil.  And what's more embarrassing is to think of that great cloud of witnesses from Hebrews 12 standing just on the other side of that veil cheering and booing and whooping and hollering as I live out the success and failures of my daily life.

Hence the poetry.  How that veil can be frustratingly impenetrable and yet so tenuously thin makes my breath catch and my body tremble and my brain shut down.  It simultaneously makes me want to conquer the world and never get out of bed again.  So metaphors are the only things I have left to work with anymore.  Sometime in eternity when I can see clearly, I will cast off these words as a child's attempt to explain the dim shapes in the mirror.  But for now I'm still stuck trying to get recycling to rhyme with bicycling and it's still very unsatisfying.


  1. Wendy, You do not know me... I am from Tennessee and I found your blog via a friend posting it on Facebook shortly before your husband died (back when it was a blog called "emmetthascancer". I have read your posts, many of which have brought tears streaming down my face. You have helped bring such perspective to my own life. My husband and I have been struggling with infertility for a couple of years now, and it has shown me how weak my faith can be... often times when I've struggled with, "Why, God?" questions, I find your blog, and I am humbled by your strength despite such heartache. You are an inspiration, a giant in the faith - for walking your journey in trust. I admire you. And I honestly think you should make a book with your blogs. I would definitely buy it. :) - Jessica

  2. Wendy, this is beautiful and profound.