“Forget, men, everything
On this earth newborn,
Except that it is lovelier
Than any mysteries.”
~ EDWARD THOMAS, from The Trumpet, in Poems, 1917, written shortly before he was killed in action in France during WW1, by a final round of fire as he stood to light his pipe.
Sure, we all struggle with different things. But we all crave what’s worthless for getting us what we really want.
No matter what we think we’re looking for, deep down we crave being known, being seen, being loved.
But there is a problem: we are always afraid of the cost.
I’m no different. I know this fear personally. But I am the only one who can make it die.
Sheri is the one to hack up the Christmas tree because I think I’m too busy, and because I married well. I live with an amazing girl who doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty and who accepts my crazy schedule trying to meet so many hopeful authors’ needs. So I carry it out and she saws up the tree and and then she comes in and announces she’s off to buy socks.
My giving and hard-working wife, she likes socks. But she’s apparently got sharp little toenails because she’s got holes in most of them, though she’s darned several.
After 15 years, I know she’s thinking we don’t have money for socks. Though she loves them for some inexplicable, assuredly-female reason, she feels it’s a splurge. It’s not her birthday and she doesn’t feel deserving of even a little thing like new socks.
And what I wish I’d told her is to buy all the socks. Buy them all and tell them to blame your ridiculous husband because really, it’s not about socks. It’s about believing she’s worth it and far more than that and if she knew it, really knew it deep down, she’d feel that loved, that comforted, that known.
But I glance at the clock and say something like, “Oooh-kaay…” in a questioning sort of lilt, because a) I’m feeling like The Idiot Who Didn’t Take the Time to Buy His Adoring Wife Socks for Christmas, and b) I never think of what I should say until after I’ve missed my chance.
I do believe she’s worth all the socks. But how can I expect to convince her if I don’t make the effort to say it and to show it?
Tolstoy asked, “why do men stupefy themselves?” He was talking about drinking to excess, but his point goes to how we ignore our better selves. He says we’re acting out of a skewed perception. I often do wrong because like everyone I’ve struggled to be seen and heard. And that sin (which we remember literally means separation from God) makes me feel unlovable.
That’s what she feels too. That’s what everyone feels much of their lives. None of us feel worth all the socks and we think it’s more humble and we don’t know what our skewed perception is doing.
We can’t see it, even if we’ve been lucky to know real, unconditional love at some point—it means a hill of beans if we don’t feel worthy of it.
How will we learn what real love really means?
She’s facing a fear to even go and spend the money. And I know she’ll come back and ask if it was okay to buy 1 pair, even though they were on sale and she really needs like, eight.
But this is the crippling truth of my tiny little love. I’m too busy to love well.
And whether or not I said what I need to say, my inability to love her comes from my skewed perception about how unworthy I currently feel of love. How sad to realize that, despite knowing in theory that my full need was already answered and paid in full. Don’t I believe it?
That little song we used to sing in Sunday school could become a gushing torrent of truth if I let it:
“Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong, they are weak but HE is strong.”
Instead, I keep working, keep striving to make money, keep people happy, keep proving I’m worthy. I go online for a quick fix: any emails, likes, comments? I have this black hole, this hungry need to be liked, appreciated. But the longing is misplaced; it’s not what I really want. I want something else. God is seeking me and I don’t find him because I won’t turn around. I’m like anyone: I don’t see love in all I’m given so I try to find it myself, do what I can to pay my way, fix my own expensive problem with some borrowed time and lint from my own empty pockets.
Seek ye first the kingdom of God…
Instead, I’m seeking first this world, my own fix, continually forgetting the promise that all these other things will be added to me when I let God pay my way.
It’s the most audacious, ridiculously good deal that’s ever been. Who can believe it? It’s exactly what we all want plus more, and all for free.
But I won’t take it. Why am I so inconceivably ignorant?
Sheri returns and luckily, I’ve written all this down, so I’ve slowly caught up to the truth. She lays down the bag: not one, not two, but four pairs of new socks, on sale for $4 a pair. They have cashmere in there–they’re marshmallow rabbit-fur socks! She’s happy, and I’m happy because she’s happy, and just a touch of our shared hunger is sated.
Sure, they’re socks. But they’re far more than socks.
I cheer to battle the doubt and fear she feels, and I praise her thriftiness. How else do I make this sock-love speak to her deeper need of perfect provision? This is Providence filling her up, providing exactly what she needed through his perfect love.
She’ll know it yet.
I’ve known it as I’ve written. So I stand and offer what I want–a hug. Closeness. I squeeze and I think about what we truly long for. What God must long for from us. We all only long for what he wants. Beyond wisdom and insight, beyond all fears of the cost. Even beyond all our blinding needs and the illusion of time.
All of us just want to be known.
What we’re looking for in writing, somehow we know it’s to be known. And not merely known by others, which is terrifying and freeing both. But by Him.
He will finally have all the parts of me I’ve hidden away even from myself, the parts I haven’t yet accepted as me. That’s why this writing is always, always worth any cost.
When I’m awake to how all of this is connected, I’m more aware of the deeper hunger inside, this longing that’s in all of us—bodily, spiritually, emotionally. There’s no difference between them. In the process of writing is where I experience my most potent contentment. Bringing my experiences of pain and longing and love, this is where I feel truly satisfied in all this world.
And it was just a simple January morning and some cushy socks. How perfectly simple and beautiful the answer to life might really be…
When you beautify your mind, you beautify your world. You learn to see differently. In what seemed like dead situations, secret possibilities and invitations begin to open before you. In old suffering that held you long paralysed, you find new keys. When your mind awakens, your life comes alive and the creative adventure of your soul takes off. Passion and compassion become your new companions. As St. Iraneus said in the 2nd Century,“The glory of God is the human person fully alive.”
– John O’Donohue
For the higher purpose,