"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

27 April 2005


On chilly, humid winter mornings, dank gray fog blankets the campus, its tentacles clinging to clothes and hands and face, its sinister silence dragging me into a world of gloomy stillness. These earth-anchored clouds are the stuff of nightmare, distorting the landscape, the sounds of the world, the voices of friends into alien grotesques worthy of the dreams of Queen Mab.

Other mornings, in the blue dark before dawn, trees, shrubs, lampglow fade in and out of the thick, soft-white mist that caresses the air and mutes the train whistle, the highway traffic, the voice of the security guard greeting me. Flying, I have often thought of the clouds as a landscape of expansive snowdrifts one could sled over, tumble in, build whipped cream igloos and cotton candy families from . . . These mornings give me a taste of living in those clouds and I would like to stay here forever in the beauty of the muffled world.

25 April 2005

Eyes of Eve

My four-year-old granddaughter stands on the porch, eagerly awaiting my son-in-law and my husband as they return from the store. But the resemblance is so striking, I find myself suspended for a moment in time. Surely it is my daughter bouncing at the edge of the steps, awaiting my husband and my father . . . am I mother or grandmother to the child on the porch?

E.B. White, writing of such a suspension in “Once More to the Lake,” sees it as an intimation of his mortality. For me, it is a confirmation of immortality, of the continuity of life, generation following generation through the centuries . . . Later, we sit at the table counting cupcakes, and as I look into those deep brown eyes – inherited not only from her mother but from her other grandmother and both her great-grandmothers – I realize I am looking into the eyes of Eve, the mother of us all.

21 April 2005

Lookin’ to the Future

Springtime. My students keep asking to hold class outside. I keep telling them that just walking between buildings brings on tears and stops the breath – not from the overwhelming beauty of the season but from the overwhelming pollen in the air. Right now I’m frantic over itching eyes and I haven’t been outside in the past five hours . . .

I still recall the day I became a hayfever victim. We were walking the kids down a Springfield (MO) street, enjoying a balmy spring evening much like this one. Approaching a lilac bush – one of my life-time favorites – heavy with blooms and scent, I breathed in deeply. But before we had even passed by, I could hardly pull enough air through my severely congested lungs to sneeze. I almost cried.

I have always loved warm weather and the wild profusion of colors in spring-time trees and shrubs, flower-beds and meadows. Now I am reduced to increasingly vain attempts not to hate the particular beauty that is accompanied by pollen.

Life in a fallen world. Just one more reason to look forward to a new body and a new earth! Ah, to breathe in lilac once again with impunity and delight . . .

19 April 2005


To A., whom I will miss greatly but rejoice with her rejoicing

I’ve read the phrase “like a weight lifted from one’s shoulders” in numerous novels and essays. I had a vague picture in my mind of what it might look like, but I’d never seen it actually happen until this past week.

A student came to my office with a dilemma. Should she stay here for her junior year, with all the expense of a private school, and transfer back home for her senior year, with greater likelihood to lose more credits, after getting married? Or should she go back home now, missing out on friendships and opportunities she was excited about, but being with her fiancé and having fewer money and transfer problems?

As we talked, she sat leaning forward in the chair, shoulders tight even as they slumped, eyes clouded with doubt and frustration, hands nervously picking at each other and her clothes. Burdened she clearly was.

I made the time-honored suggestion of lists – they don’t make up your mind for you, but they can help clarify your thinking, help you realize just what it is you really want. She agreed that might help, but it seemed something deeper was troubling her.

So I asked her why she felt the need to finish a degree at all. It became clear that she felt no such need – only pressure from a culture that says you are worthless if you don’t have that piece of paper, fear that she might disappoint those who had invested in her life here at the college. While the knowledge and experience she had gained in these two years would be invaluable to her as a wife, mom, and writer, she had no further need for that formalized instruction. She wanted to go to L’Abri, learn more about homemaking skills, start paying off some of the debt she’d already accumulated, work on her writing, prepare for marriage.

At some point, I said, “So why don’t you just do what you really want to and forget about this school thing?”

As my words sank in, she sat up straight, said “Can I really do that?”, then suddenly sat back as all the tension fell away from her. She let her arms relax over the chair arms, crossed her legs, and looked at me with eyes clear, joyful, confident. “I could really do that.” She literally looked as though a weight had lifted from her shoulders, and she will always be my picture now when I read those words.

Sometimes we just need permission to do what we already know is the best thing. When the weight of others’ expectations is gone, we can see so much more clearly in the freedom of a relaxed mind and spirit.

18 April 2005

In Hope of Beauty

The boy is reading Lord of the Rings, perhaps for the dozenth or so time. At times, he asks me to read aloud, so I am revisiting occasional chapters with him, glad for the opportunity to indulge myself. As I do so, I am becoming more and more convinced that Tolkien ranks amongst the most brilliant of our writers in the English language both because of his craft and because of the richness and depth of his ideas.

After Frodo and Sam have escaped from the orcs in the Tower of Cirith Ungol, they struggle to find their way to Mount Doom, hope dying daily. Even the change of wind and clearing of the sky that show the tides of war have changed do not unburden Frodo; he can only see that they themselves are still in Mordor on an increasingly hopeless quest. Sam, trying to keep himself awake one night on watch, looks out at the sky:

“Far above the Ephel Duath in the West the night-sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. [. . .] Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master’s, ceased to trouble him. He crawled back into the brambles and laid himself by Frodo’s side, and putting away all fear he cast himself into a deep untroubled sleep.”

A professor of mine once mocked Tennyson’s poem “Two Voices” because the resolution was too simplistic: how could simply hearing the church bells and seeing a family on their way to church make the speaker choose life instead of death? But it is precisely in those simple things that we see hope. A star, a friend’s touch, a bell ringing us to rejoice.

Why do we keep struggling? Because we know -- by these signs that grace allows us -- that in the end is the beauty we have longed for all our lives.

14 April 2005


“So she sat on the porch and watched the moon rise. Soon its amber fluid was drenching the earth, and quenching the thirst of the day.” (Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God)

October in central Kansas, just before sunrise, the sky deep sapphire. Driving to work, I turn east towards town, then look in my rearview mirror. There, filling the sky between and far above the trees lining the gravel road, sits a harvest moon, just on the horizon’s edge. I could walk the mile to the end of the section and lose myself inside it, its coppery gold warming my chilled heart.

A Tennessee mid-winter morning, the ebony sky and a few luminous stars. Then, as I follow the first bend in the road, an alabaster silk moon, two nights on the wane, dazzles the bare branches of the waiting elms. An ache in the throat, a yearning for beauty I cannot name.

13 April 2005

Maintaining My Balance

As those who know me are aware, I often only notice immediate physical realities when they impinge, usually painfully, upon my life. Normally this deficiency is a source of amusement to others and only a mild annoyance to me. Paper cuts and bruised shins are simply an expected part of my day. Recently, however, I rammed my foot into a piece of furniture that I’d been successfully avoiding for several months. After hyper-ventilating for five or ten minutes, I decided I must have really broken my toe.

Since then, the bedroom has been rearranged, thanks to a sweetheart of a husband, and I have become painfully aware of just how valuable one’s little toe is. I am quite sure I’d never before paid attention to it other than to note its odd inherited shape while clipping my nails. Now, however, I realize that it governs my every movement.

I can count on one hand the number of days I’ve missed work in over twenty years. One of those was the day after breaking my toe; I tried, but by noon that Friday the pain so overwhelmed me that I had to go home and get my shoe off and my foot up. Throughout the weekend I limped about on the inside of my foot, causing my entire leg to tighten and ache. Sunday I had to stay home from church. Halfway into the week, finally wearing shoes again, I can’t walk down stairs and have to consider every step I take to avoid excruciating pain.

Because of all this, I’m constantly grabbing hold of things to maintain my balance. As I careen down the hallway or stagger up the stairs, fall into tables or grab the chalk tray to keep myself upright, I see the amusement in others' eyes. True, they try to hide it when they find out why I look like I'm half-drunk, but when I laugh about it they freely join in. It is, after all, pretty ridiculous.

The analogy is obvious, and perhaps old hat. But old hat often only means genuinely true, and the obvious often bears repeating. I, at least, tend to forget it all too readily.

How often we neglect to think of those who do their jobs out of sight and out of mind – until for some reason the jobs aren’t done. And when the restroom isn’t cleaned for a day or two, or boards aren’t erased in the classroom, or there’s no response to my aggravated call about the air conditioning freezing me out of my office again – how often do I whine and gripe instead of considering that the one who does such a job may be ill or overwhelmed with work or facing a family emergency, may need my prayer instead of my complaint, my friendship instead of my irritation? How often do I think to seek out these usually unnoticed workers and thank them for their sacrificial work on my behalf, instead of arrogantly accepting it as somehow my due?

And am I willing to be an unseen worker myself? Am I willing to just do my job without demanding and expecting recognition, to be unconcerned when I’m taken for granted and unnoticed? Do I work to be seen by men, or to the Lord to serve Him by serving His creation as He’s called me to do? And do I ever stop to realize how important my own spiritual health really is, that I can do harm to the entire body by neglecting His call on my life?

It’s not just about me. How hard that lesson is to learn, no matter how well I know it. Thank the Lord for His mercies, and His reminders of the obvious and often-taught. Even the ones that set me up as an object of amusement. A little laughter about oneself is, after all, rarely misdirected.

12 April 2005

Of Shoelaces and Square Pegs

I am bemused by the types of shoelaces I’ve encountered lately. What’s this stretchy stuff that elongates a bit more each time I draw it up until its ends finally slap the floor as I walk? And this slick material that slithers undone no matter how tightly I pull the knot, threatening me with bruising falls in the stairwell? Whatever happened to plain serviceable cotton? Stretchy is for hairbands, not shoelaces; slick is for silk blouses.

How many times have others tried to force me into a mold I wasn’t designed for? I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked to serve in various nurseries merely because I’m a mom. True, some women love to take care of children, any children, any number of children, any time, any place. I loved taking care of my own. That never meant, however, that I was eager to add others’ to their number. That’s stretching me way too thin.

Someone once told me that I should be writing about a certain political issue for our local papers. I asked why. “Well, you’re a writer, aren’t you?” Well, yes, I am. But it does not follow that I should write about every issue which happens to be of concern to anyone around me. My rhetorical knots will slither quickly loose in subjects not my strength.

We tend far too often to expect others to be of the same material we are – or perhaps of material that we are not and happen to need at the moment. I am always frustrated by demands for workers for various church programs: if not enough people desire to serve in a program, if not enough people have the gifts and the interest for it, would it not be better to drop the program than to guilt-trip people into squandering their energy in ministry they are not designed for?

Of course there are lazy people and people who lack confidence who need to be pushed or encouraged into using their gifts. But this is not, as a general rule, what I see. I do not see people trying to get to know others and their interests, their gifts, their abilities, and helping them find the right use for their particular cloth. Rather, they are told to do something, anything, and never mind if they become stretched too thin or fall apart in the process. Someone’s got to do it, so why not whoever hasn’t yet learned how to avoid spiritual manipulation?

This squandering of gifts and energies is shameful enough. But as others try to define me, force my cloth to fit their own desired needs, I resist. And if my focus becomes resistance, I may stop listening altogether. I may well miss the beauty of God’s design as, in my rebellion against man’s demands, I begin to claim the right to define myself in my own terms, to determine for myself what cut of cloth I am to be.

But just as others do not have the right to define us, we do not have the right to define ourselves. God defines us. He has done so from eternity past, and we must listen to Him. Sometimes, indeed, He will call us to do that which is uncomfortable and not to our liking; the called life is not always the pleasant life. But it is always satisfying, because He does not call us to that for which He has not designed us. He knows our cloth, and we must find our definition in His design.

And it would really help to get out of His way in the lives of others so they can hear Him. Those bruises from tripping in the stairwell cause an agonizing ache throughout the entire Body.

08 April 2005

On the Other Hand

There are, of course, those for whom fashionable angst is a pretension to some kind of prestige and "coolness."

These call into question the reality of depression, making it harder for the true sufferer to accept the reality of his or her problem, harder for others to feel compassion for the true sufferer.

Depression is real. It is dangerous. It is a horrifying darkness that no one could ever wish to suffer. Do not, I beg, pretend to depression to look "cool."

"Rejoice; again I say rejoice." We are commanded to rejoice. Why live in a pseudo-angst, mocking those who truly suffer, when you are both commanded and able to rejoice?

Minister joy to those who suffer, so they may see its reality and look towards the hope of knowing it again in more than mind alone. If I had not seen joy, I would not be here now.

Clinging to Hope

For J and others whom I specially love and pray for

{Please note that I am speaking here of day by day coping. Many people need medication to help with this, and it is always wise to seek counsel from those who can help an individual to understand particular needs. But even with such help, the sufferer of depression may still sometimes find himself in the darkness. My prayer is that what I say here may be an encouragement – not a prescription.}

“Spleen LXXXI”

When the low heavy sky weighs like a lid
Upon the spirit aching for the light
And all the wide horizon’s line is hid
By a black day sadder than any night;

When the changed earth is but a dungeon dank
Where batlike Hope goes blindly fluttering
And, striking wall and roof and mouldered plank,
Bruises his tender head and timid wing;

When like grim prison bars stretch down the thin,
Straight, rigid pillars of the endless rain,
And the dumb throngs of the infamous spiders spin
Their meshes in the caverns of the brain,

Suddenly, bells leap forth into the air,
Hurling a hideous uproar to the sky
As ‘twere a band of homeless spirits who fare
Through a strange heavens, wailing stubbornly.

And hearses, without drum or instrument,
File slowly through my soul; crushed, sorrowful,
Weeps Hope, and Grief, fierce and omnipotent,
Plants his black banner on my drooping skull.

– Charles Baudelaire

Anyone who has been struck with depression will recognize it here. Yet it cannot be understood without being experienced; and no one who has experienced it would wish it on others just for the sake of understanding. Those who read these words and wonder why anyone would write so darkly, wonder if it isn’t mere affectation, a pretentious show of fashionable angst – they are indeed blessed. As Hopkins says in “No worst, there is none,” the mind “has mountains; cliffs of fall / Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap / May who ne’er hung there.”

Yet this insidious fog must not be allowed to hold sway even as it enshrouds heart, mind, soul. It must be resisted, even if it seems impossible. “Do the next thing.” Then, “do the next thing.” The simple getting out of bed, putting on clean clothes and making oneself neat, making the bed, eating breakfast, speaking to a friend . . . These are the very things that seem impossible, yet hold within them hope. For by refusing to give in, to hide in sleep or slovenliness or isolation, we declare that hope, however dim or distant, is not dead.

Hopkins writes in “Carrion Comfort”:

Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist – slack they may be – these last strands of man
In me or, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something; hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.

Even as he questions God – why are You doing this to me, the middle stanza cries out in agony – he refuses to give in to despair. He sees that he can act, even if that acting is simply to hope that the light will come again, merely to hold onto life until his hope is justified. And when he emerges from the despair of many months, he is able to see a little of what his God, whom he questioned but never ceased to trust and love, had accomplished in his life:

Why? That my chaff might fly; my grain lie, sheer and clear.
Nay, in all that toil, that coil, since (seems) I kissed the rod,
Hand rather, my heart lo! lapped strength, stole joy, would laugh, cheer.
Cheer whom though? The hero whose heaven-handling flung me, foot trod
Me? or me that fought him? O which one? is it each one? That night, that year
Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God.

Even as God had, as it seemed, flung him to the ground and trod on him, even as he had fought Him throughout those darkest weeks and months, he was being threshed like wheat to rid him of the chaff, to better serve the God he loved despite the despair he felt, despite the sense that God was ignoring or even actively and deliberately hurting him. He emerges from the darkness rejoicing, and realizing with awe that he has indeed wrestled – like Jacob – with God Himself, and found a blessing.

In the darkness, do not be afraid to cling to Him. “I will not let You go until You bless me,” Jacob told his Adversary. And because he did not lose faith, did not give up, because he persisted like the woman before the unjust judge, he was indeed blessed – and, remember, marked as well. We do not emerge unscathed – only with a deeper trust of and joy in our Savior, who loves us enough to sift us like wheat until our grain lies “sheer and clear.”

And, too, with a deeper sense of compassion and desire to comfort others with the comfort with which He has comforted us. Even as Hopkins, from years long past, ministers to us through both his despair and his hope, we will be better able to help those whose lives He entrusts to us. Whether this depression is once and gone or a thorn in the flesh all our lives, if we cling to hope, we glorify Him and serve our neighbor.

So hold to hope. Do the next thing. Seek, demand His blessing as you cling to Him. And know that He is with you, however you may feel, and will make you able to show Him to others.

06 April 2005

Home Thoughts

Between Goessel and Newton, we would pass a field of sunflowers on our way to church. They never failed to startle. Lifted to the rising sun, their faces reflected its brilliance, acre after acre of bold yellow stretching to the horizon under an intense azure sky, glossy red-winged blackbirds singing praise from their fencepost pews.

I miss Kansas.

05 April 2005


In an Os Guinness book I've been reading this semester for a discussion group I'm leading, he quotes George Santayana: "In accomplishing anything definite a man renounces everything else." And Auden: "To achieve anything today, an artist has to develop a conscious strictness in respect of time which in former ages might have seemed neurotic and selfish, for he must never forget he is living in a state of seige." And Solzhenitsyn: an artist "has no other recourse if he does not want to overheat himself with ephemeral concerns and boil dry."

We find our center in Christ. That's a given. But it's easy to become a Martha, serving Him and desiring to serve Him, but bustling about doing all too much that is not necessary because He doesn't call us to do it.

Easy to say that means that we should be sure to do our morning devotions and dedicate our day to Him. But I think that's only a small, small part of what is needed. Every moment needs to be lived in reliance on Him and knowing we are doing what He has called us to do. But how to do that, really, when life itself is so fragmented and demanding?

Last night -- prepping for a literature class, a worldview class, and a writing class; helping the boy with his algebra; discussing family communication issues; trying to help research legal questions arising from a decision to sell some property; then trying to focus on a writing idea and finding it impossible. Too much that's too varied and saps my energy, but even more frustratingly scatters my thoughts, making me unable to concentrate on anything for any length of time. All of it was necessary, yes, and even good, but does God mean us to live such scattered lives? And how can one live otherwise and meet one's obligations?

Guinness notes in the same chapter that the idea that "the need is the call" is a dangerous one, "a sure recipe for overload and confusion." No kidding. But how does one choose? How does one be "single-minded"? Too easy, too easy to say "do everything in service to Him." Because one cannot do everything.

04 April 2005

Via Dolorosa

Easter morning some very talented young ladies performed an interpretive dance to the song "Via Dolorosa." At that time, of course, Terri Schiavo lay dying and we knew that Pope John Paul II was also in his last days. Suffering was very much on our minds.

"The Way of Suffering." Christ took that way for us. And He calls us to take that way in this fallen world also, to suffer for His sake and for the sake of others.

A friend and I were once sharing some burdens which seemed almost too heavy to bear. At one point she remarked, "I think He gives us each some burden that seems impossible so that we will be witnesses. If He took our burdens away and gave us easy, perfect lives, no one would believe we have anything to offer. Or they would want to follow Him for the bread [like the crowds in Galilee] instead of His love. Everyone has burdens. The fact that we can face these burdens with joy, that we can bear them at all, is what draws people to Him."

That was 15 years ago. I'm not sure I've gotten it yet.

I still want the suffering to end. Sometimes, for some people, it does, some of it at least. That's what I want. And my acceptance has been conditional on that relief. But I know that I will have to accept it as a gift from Him and to Him -- and that in that acceptance I will be saying I am willing for it not to end.

He does what for us is impossible. But we have to want it to be done.

03 April 2005

The Inscape of Suffering

I am not Catholic, but I have often appreciated Pope John Paul’s articulate and eloquent stand for righteousness in a world gone amok, and I mourn his passing with the rest of the world.

In these last days before his death, I have mostly been drawn to consider the nature of suffering. As a Christian, I understand that suffering entered the world with sin, and that there will be no dearth of it till Christ’s return. Scripture tells us that suffering benefits us: we learn to trust and rely on our God; we learn perseverance; we learn humility; we learn compassion. But in our humanness, we do not really want these benefits at the cost we must pay.

I have read that Pope John Paul would often refuse painkillers because he said it was his call to suffer for the world. I didn’t understand that at first, but I think I am beginning to grasp a little of what it means.

Pope John Paul accepted his suffering. He didn’t resist it, complain of it, try to avoid it at all costs and at all times. He accepted it. He demonstrated to us the life of the suffering servant; he shone forth Christ to us. Christ suffered to save us. Pope John Paul suffered to show us how to accept suffering and allow God to turn it to our good.

Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote of the essence of all beings in his sonnet “As kingfishers catch fire.” Kingfishers’ and dragonflies’ wings flash in the sun, stones ring on the well’s rim, bells peal their notes . . . They cannot help but do what they were created to do, to play out the “inscape” of their being. And we were created for a purpose, too:

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is —
Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.

What if we learned to accept suffering as Pope John Paul did? How much more deeply might we touch the lives of those around us to show forth Christ and draw men to Him?

01 April 2005

A Prayer for Terri

for my students, who joined me in the many prayers and petitions of the past weeks, who cared to tears and fasting for the life of a disabled woman they had never met.

Creator and Sustainer of Life, we have prayed without avail for Terri to live, but we trust Your perfect love and we trust that she is now free and joyous in Your very presence. You defeated Death through death, the death of Your Son, and we know that Your purposes can also be fulfilled in the physical death of Your loved ones. We pray that Terri's death will draw seekers to You, that out of injustice and horrific suffering, You will bring good. And we thank You for the commitment to Life seen in Terri's loving parents and siblings, who never believed hers was a life unworthy of life.

God of mercy, we remember too that Your mercy is for sinners, and that we are all sinners. We pray for the souls of those who have, beyond all reason, sought Terri's death, and at the same time acknowledge before You our own continued frailities and sins, the murders we have committed in our hearts through anger and selfish desire. Teach us to speak the truth in love but to eschew hateful, bitterly spoken condemnation that wins no one and repels many. Remind us that if such as we are can learn to love and serve You, so may anyone.

God of justice, we pray for our country, our culture. We have indeed become a culture of death. For far too long the unborn have been considered expendable in the name of convenience; and already many others quietly suffer the same agony Terri so publicly suffered these past two weeks; already medical professionals help the suffering and even the merely disenchanted to take their own lives; already they deem imperfect newborns to be worthy of neglect so they will die; already some suggest routinely starving Alzheimer's victims who have become demented or incognizant of their surroundings. May those who know You awake to the desperate need to be salt and light, to stand for Life, that Terri's death will not be in vain.

And, God of all comfort, be the supreme Comforter to Terri's family today and in the days and years to come as they face life without a beloved daughter and sister. Give them faith and courage to follow whatever path You lay out for them -- to be comforters themselves, to be voices for others like Terri who depend on the good will of others for life itself. Spare them from any bitterness that would drive them from You and mar their witness to Your love and grace.

In the Name of Jesus who died and rose again to give us life and mercy, justice and comfort, we pray these things.


Seeking the Vision

I love language, and especially the written word. Annie Dillard, in The Writing Life, says of reading: "Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? [. . .] Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power?"

Habbakuk received this commission from the Lord: "Write the vision on tables, that he who reads it may run." Reading should give us wings, give us courage to use them. I wrote my tenure paper on the power of the artist, especially the writer, to do this for us. The conclusion reads as follows:

It’s summer, time for some reading I just want to do, and I’ve finally found Charles Williams’ novel The Greater Trumps, one I’ve been wanting to revisit since I became a Christian in college. It rivets me, draws me in, and I lose myself to the story and especially to the character of Sybil, the calm center of difficult and even chaotic circumstances. Suddenly, however, I am pulled out of the imaginative world to intellectual awareness when I read the narrator’s definition of responsibility: “that burden which is only given in order to be relinquished, that task put into the hands of man in order that his own choice may render it back to its creator, that yoke which, once wholly lifted and put on, is immediately no longer to be worn.”

I’ve already decided I want to be Sybil – and here is the reason she is as she is: she has “lifted and relinquished” the yoke of responsibility and thus lives in “the freedom of a love” that is single-minded – focused on only One being, who Himself loves those around her through her,
rather than she trying to love them through her own human efforts.

I know it; it’s in the Scriptures and I’ve read and heard it how many times. But Williams makes it real to me through Sybil, and I know in a way I’ve never known before that it’s possible to live this way. Once again through literature I am given a vision, and a challenge to discover how to
live it out; once again I long to be what I was created to be.

“Write the vision and make it plain upon tables, that he who reads it may run.” May I learn to run, and to write the vision so that others may even outpace me.