It is very, very quiet at my house this afternoon. Puss Puss just went outside. Nicky has a sunny spot on the couch in our upstairs den, while Baby sleeps in the darkness of my bedroom. Sam sleepily holds down the rug here in the living room, and Molly lies just out of sight on the old, dirty couch in Pure Luck’s office.
I am tucked up on the couch with my laptop and a Diet Coke, TV muted and phone nearby if needed. From the basement I can hear the agitation of the washing machine, and I picture the red madras bedspread and pillow sham that belong in The Princess’ room. Other than my tapping of the keys, it is the only sound in the house.
No one else is home. That may sound like a funny thing to say when I have five pets, but I am missing my people today, my husband and my children.
After a week that included two deaths related to the church family and a visit with a recent widow, I am keenly aware of loss and loneliness. I miss having Pure Luck around, and unlike past departures, where I began counting the days the moment he left, I have been resisting the urge to be specific. That’s partly because in his line of work the end of a job is sometimes uncertain, but it’s also because I’m trying not to be quite so neurotically attached to a particular reunion date. Let’s just say it’s pretty much a Lenten season in length.
This is timely, since I’m preaching about Jesus and the aftermath of his forty days in the wilderness, as reported by Luke. I kind of love how Luke blips over the forty days themselves, except to say Jesus was tempted by the devil. The big showdown takes place when the forty days are complete. But what were those forty days like? I feel famished by lunchtime, or so I think most days. How must Jesus have felt?
This brings me to Christology, that great word that asks what we believe about Jesus. Most of the time my Christology is pretty low, which is to say I primarily relate to Jesus as human, as a wise teacher with a dry sense of humor and the occasional flash of temper who must have had some personality to make people go along with him, even if he did show off by healing people and casting out demons. It’s one thing to admire someone’s concert tour. It’s another to join up as a roadie.
But if you ask me, do I think the guy could have really done the things the devil asked him to do, without the devil’s help, I would have to answer yes. Yes, I think he could have turned the stones to bread. Yes, I think he could have overpowered governments and ruled the world. Yes, I think he could have turned things truly upside down at the Temple and set himself up as the reigning God/Priest, had he wanted to do so. It wouldn’t have been the devil’s power that made it possible. It would have been his own worst nature, exhibited by turning away from his purpose.
I like to think of Jesus as a person who had flashes of awareness of his Godness.
Can you think of anything more lonely?
My sense of my own humanity, and yours, is all about relationships. That’s why I miss my husband when he goes away, not because I’m cross that I have to walk the dogs myself, but because a piece of my humanity is out of reach, part of what makes me who I am is inaccessible on the physical plane. And even if his absence does not cause the systems breakdowns and technical difficulties that seem to be part of our lives every time he is gone, I cope with them more poorly because I feel incomplete.
And that’s despite having a daily phone call and the occasional e-mail or comment from him on the blog.
I’m in the wilderness here, and I face various temptations: stay up too late, or fall asleep on the couch and don’t bother to go to bed; eat cereal for dinner when no one else is home, or kettle corn or whatever is at hand; play computer solitaire when I could be writing my sermon… (Okay, that could happen when he’s home, but it’s much less likely.)
My temptations may sound pretty benign, and in the greater scheme of things they are. But they are a sign that I am wallowing in the loneliness and forgetting that this is temporary. Our parting is not final; really, in my way of thinking it never will be.
If only I could have this kind of a quiet day when I really want it instead of in the middle of this wilderness–but I find life is seldom like that. At the times we really want to be alone, we aren’t; at the times we really desire company, it’s wanting. It’s tempting to feel sorry for ourselves, isn’t it? I know it is for me. I wish I were the sort of person who always had all her feelings perfectly sorted out and the intellectual attitudes to match instead of being the sort who reaches all sorts of conclusions about how I "should" feel and then makes herself a little miserable for feeling the "wrong" things.
I would like to think that being conscious of the disconnect is a positive step toward wholeness.
Now the furnace has kicked on, and Nicky the Old Man Cat has appeared on the scene, and Sam is lifting his head off the rug to see what’s happening. The time of silence is over. It’s hard to be lonely when an old cat wants petting.