Home on a Saturday night, with all the lights on. I do not mind being home alone, (I love it, actually), as long as there are plenty of lights. The minute the shadows begin to fall far across the front yard and the golden sunset stops glowing on the leaves, I walk into the house and go through all the rooms, turning on every light. I suppose I am wasting energy, I am willing to be extravagant. It is good to be in lit up home, but I also do it for our neighbors, and for the people who will drive by tonight. It's much more beautiful to see a home lit up, than to see dark, lifeless windows. I am always encouraged when I drive at night and watch all the friendly windows and speculate over what activity is going on behind those windows...and so for the nights when I am not the one out driving, but the one home, I want to return the favor.
What a lovely Saturday full of sleeping, reading, babies, books, and bike rides...not to mention pizza and chips and salsa. It is so beautiful here. Yes, right here. In La Mirada, in our little neighborhood. I never want to fall under the delusion that I have to go elsewhere to find Beauty. I am always surrounded by it...and when I actually open up my eyes, it floods me, it overwhelms me. I walk around in breathless disbelief over the Beauty in the trees, in the neighborhood, in our front yard, the beauty of Gabriel's smile, and Bambi's one purple bow.
I don't know what to say. I've been searching for days, for weeks to find the right words to write about the beauty of a home. I love it all. I find my heart swelling over the wonderfulness of each seemingly insignificant detail. My heartbeat quickens at the sound of clothes flopping in the dryer. I am in love. Dirty dishes in the sink, I love you!
Things have become startlingly clear these past few weeks. I am passionate about family. It is the most important thing on this earth because it is the design God created for people to live in...whether it be the body of Christ on a large scale, or the nuclear family on a small scale. But my concept of family is changing...I have a vision for the family being a tool to minister to a hurting world--simply by accepting people into itself. Whatever my home looks like one day, I want the doors flung open. I want all the neighborhood kids in the front yard, and I want lonely neighbors over for dinner at night, above all there must be safety, laughter, and God's presence.
I am twenty years old. It has come time for me to take a hard, and honest look at myself. Who am I? Where am I going? What is important? What needs to be changed? I wince when I see myself for who I really am...more of the pain and damage from my girlhood is present in my life than I had hitherto thought. I look at myself in the mirror, "I am needy." I am hungry for love. I am still hurting. I am still wondering why I wasn't enough. I want to be treated correctly. I want to be healthy myself, and live in healthiness with others, and I want to be an instrument that God uses to bring light, and healing, and hope to our dark, broken world. I want all of this. I know it is possible. And yet I contend with the knowledge that I am broken, the people I love are broken. I will always be broken as long as the sun and the moon shall endure..."Even at our swiftest speed we couldn't break from the concrete..." But God brings healing on this earth, and our ultimate and perfect healing will happen on that joyous day of Christ's return. Personally, I cannot wait. "I want Jesus to come back right now!" I long for the perfection that I have never and will never experience on this earth. I long for the satisfaction I was made for, yet have never tasted. "Infinite longing...the desire of the moth for the star..." So even as I drove along the sweeping, lighted Californian coast with the homes of Laguna Hills shining "like broken glass" and the mighty Pacific pounding the shore, I find myself thinking, "If earth is this beautiful...this heart wrenchingly beautiful, then what will the New Heaven and the New Earth be like?" I used to be afraid that Jesus would return before I had lived my life. Now I don't care. Whatever comes in this life it is nothing compared to the perfect perfection, the flawless solace, the deepest satisfaction of God's presence.
I live in longing. "But let not our longing slay the appetite of our living," Jim Eliot wrote in a letter to Elisabeth. I am called to be a realist. I look about me and I am on earth. I love being a Christian because that means my life has purpose. I am here for a reason. Life is a long, painful, but quite beautiful journey home. I must embrace my purpose. ("I am a Sywulka, I must embrace my destiny!") But seriously. I echo the prayer of Warren Meyers who said, "Lord I put you in total control of my future--any place, any time, with or without anyone or anything." "He will be our guide even to the end."
I have been thinking so much lately of how I should live. What should my life look like? What does it mean to hate my own life? To be a living sacrifice? A drink offering? Alive in Christ?
One of my greatest fears is that God will call me to live in the suburbs or that God might dare to ask me to be "well-off", heaven forbid, rich. "Not suburbia, Lord!" But God is tempering my radicalness with His love. For where am I at this moment? In the suburbs of America. And there is pain, and darkness all around me. After all my headstrong and impassioned arguments last year about what living a life sold out for Jesus looks like...God is now teaching me, taming me, gently showing me the way. I am not saying where God is calling me for the future, but it is just as right to be in suburbia as to be in the inner-city, or overseas, as long as I am where He has placed me. Because it's not an extremity of geography that Jesus necessarily calls us to (although for some it is!), but at the root of it, it's an entirely different lifestyle, it's a different way of thinking, it's a new vision, a new way of walking, literally "a new way to be human" that makes us aliens, and strangers in a foreign land. It just dawned on me that as a Christian, I am a missionary on earth, no matter where I am...for I am not home here, and no city where I live will ever be my city. We are looking for a Heavenly City. This brings me no end of joy! Why? Because my somewhat easily pleased heart would be perfectly content living in San Francisco for the rest of eternity, and our Heavenly City will put San Francisco to shame. We are called to a living hope, a hope that does not disappoint us.
"Something brighter than money moves in our blood..." --Mary Oliver
What does all this talk of eternity have to do with the here and now? All I know is that it makes me happy to be alive. It enables me to love everything that my eyes see...because if the shadows are so beautiful, then I cannot wait to see the real things. And I throw my arms open to all of it, knowing that now is not the time for perfection, but for brokenness, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. And so I love...I love broken people, and I have compassion on their weaknesses and I enter into their pain with all the strength of the Lord, and I love the beauty of the sun setting over our neighborhood, and the joys of listening to Jared play during his bath, and of holding a chubby, squirming, smiling baby, the joy of hugs, and driving with the windows down, and hands joined in prayer, and holidays, and beach trips, and cleaning the bathroom. God has made all things beautiful in their time. I love having friends over and talking for hours as only girls can do, and I love driving at night by the ocean, listening to music, growing sleepy, Scott gently playing the piano on my knee...
"But even at our swiftest speed, we couldn't break from the concrete in the city where we still reside..."
I know this truth all too well. To know it, means to be human. To be human is to be always bittersweet. Always longing, but always hopeful. It is to drive during the sunset, but to drive in tears, sobbing, everyone in the car sobbing. I am not just saying all this, it actually happens.
"Love is watching someone die."
I am trying to make sense of it all...the beauty and the brokenness, the comfort and the pain, the love and the longing...I try to make sense of arguing on the side of the road, and yelling, and crying...but also the pool at the front of the Laguna Riviera Resort, the painted murals in the hallways, the cool shadowy balconies, the brick walkway down to the ocean, the stars, the bubbling surf, the light that reminds me of camping, the feeling of being on a tropical island, the cars sailing down the highway, the lights in the hills, the planes, the land brushing against the sky, reading poetry on the beach with your favorite smell. How do these two things meet? Where do they meet? We live in the land of paradoxes, and sometimes I find myself confused. I think I am content, but I realize I am not content to live with these juxtapositions. I want one thing or the other, I fluctuate from depression to Idealism and never allow myself to see what I am supposed to see: Reality.
God wants us to look at Reality because when we do, we see our need for Him. It is that simple. But I am so glad that it is alright to be human. I am delighted, over-joyed, thankful, happy beyond belief to be human because to be human is to be loved by God. Or, as William Carlos Williams put it, "To be hungry is to be to great."