I know people have lots of opinions on “social media fasts,” but here’s what we know and are coming to know more: our souls are fragile things. Not the eternity kind, the kind that stays forever with Christ the King in the new heaven and new earth—those souls are eternally secure. But the earthly soul we carry around with us in our tent, the kind that is prone to wander, to weep, and to wonder. The soulish part of us that is so affected by things like the seasons or how much protein or sleep we’re getting or the poem we just read or the poem we wish we could write or person who won’t pay attention to us or the crowds we pay attention to—that part of us is the soul of which I write. Ours were wilting under elections news and Whole 30 recipes and CNN and theological how-tos and how-not-tos. We found it time for a break for our family.
This morning, after being off Facebook and Twitter for the better part of the week, I found myself delighting in a poem I read this morning and a book about maps and this quote from Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water:
It is interesting to note how many artists have had physical problems to overcome, deformities, lameness, terrible loneliness. Could Beethoven have written that glorious paean of praise in the Ninth Symphony if he had not had to endure the dark closing in of deafness? As I look through his work chronologically, there’s no denying that it depends and strengthens along with the deafness. Could Milton have seen all that he sees in Paradise Lost if he had not been blind? It is chastening to realize that those who have no physical flaw, who move through life in step with their peers, who are bright and beautiful, seldom become artists. The unending paradox is that we do learn through pain (pg. 67).
I have felt that deeply in this season. There is something in all the pain of this year that God wants to teach me if I will press myself into it and not away from it and that paradoxical way of life is, as I said a few days ago, antithetical to our nature. It is, in a sense, super-natural, above nature, and only empowered by the Spirit of God alive in us. For the atheist pressing himself into pain is masochistic, but for the Christian, it is following in the steps of their Savior. The world tells me to pull away from pain and sometimes the Church tells us to live our best self now, to also pull away from pain. But the Bible says, “He who will gain His life must lose it,” and if we believe the Bible, that is the phrase we cling to in the darkest time, seeing what art God may build of our shambles.
. . .
Here are a few things I read this week that I loved and hope you might too:
From Mary Oliver: But just as self-criticism is the most merciless kind of criticism and self-compassion the most elusive kind of compassion, self-distraction is the most hazardous kind of distraction, and the most difficult to protect creative work against. How to hedge against that hazard is what beloved poet Mary Oliver explores in a wonderful piece titled “Of Power and Time,” found in the altogether enchanting Upstream: Selected Essays.
From my friend Danica: You’re stuck at home. You’re not doing anything fun with your life. You can barely play through a Chopin waltz! You’re always saying No to people — don’t you think they have a low opinion of you? And so on and so on. But I am learning, and it is this: Every time I am haunted or taunted by all of the “NOs” in my life, I remember — those are simply the result of a huge, resounding Yes!
From a link I found while unfollowing 200 Instagram accounts this week: Then I grabbed another Pop-Tart (frosted strawberry this time), unfollowed all the food bloggers and world travelers and muscular princesses, and went on a hunt for regular moms with a beautiful eye. You guys? It’s been life-changing. It does what social media is supposed to do – bring us together. When I scroll through Instagram, I feel part of a community, even if they don’t know I’m there.
And here are two verses from a passage of scripture I’ve been thinking about this week, as I pray for myself and pray for my friends:
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low and he exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
and on them he has set the world.
I Samuel 2:7-8
I hope your weekend is rich, full, and emptied of the things that steal your eyes from Him. I will be spending my weekend enjoying being back in a place with beautiful autumn colors, like these we saw yesterday on our way to a hike in a nearby forest.