Not a happy Valentine’s Day?

Facebook is filled with snapshots of happy Valentine’s breakfasts, dozens of roses, sweet cards and smiling faces. And everywhere, hearts. What if your valentine has passed away, leaving a huge heart-shaped hole in your chest? Or have you recently discovered your significant other has been cheating on you? Or the one who should be kind and caring wounds you with looks or words, or worse? Or your physical condition, or of one you love, through disease, injury or pain, prohibits fully entering into any celebration? Or are you are simply alone?duct tape rose
What if you feel you have more in common with the original Valentine, whose ending was pretty gruesome, than the pink-red-chocolate day so celebrated now?

A pity party seems more in order than a Valentine’s Party.

The truth is, even people who are doing their best cannot love us enough to live out the language of all those cards

Can’t fill the love-need we all experience, and on holidays like these, in greater intensity.

hearts and love drawing

At a low point during my college years I discovered T.S. Elliot, and sobbed over these lines at the beginning of his poem “Ash Wednesday”

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

In junior high I wrote a poem full of young angst, concluding with:
“Teach me how to love, and yet not care.
Teach me how to love, and yet beware.”

When I reached the final page of “Ash Wednesday,” I came unglued (causing quite a disturbance in the library).

Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks.

(Emphasis mine)

T.S. Eliot’s poetry began my journey to peace. It started with learning contentment among the rocks.

That’s pretty bleak, I’ll admit, but that is where I was.

Maui rocks

It took many years of whisperings of Love for the Spirit to heal me to the point where I dared leave the rocks. Launch into the water. Swim with gusto.

Jane body surfing in Bahamas, JHT
Jane body surfing in Bahamas

There are still days when my desires don’t sync with my life, and I ask for peace to sit among the rocks.

I have it on good word that request is not useless.

I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you.’
Don’t panic. I’m with you.
There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.

Isaiah 41:9-10 MSG

The good news about our circumstances causing pain is we find out what our hearts are trusting.

When we are left chasing the wind, empty-handed, we’ve found an idol we are best rid of. Not necessarily rid of that person, but we recognize we have made an idol, one we’d hoped to be the source of our heart needs.

There really is no greater blessing than knowing the only true Source of deep, complete love.

after glow

I’ve never quit loving you and never will.
Expect love, love, and more love!

Jeremiah 31:3 MSG

And that love never fails.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—
the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:
God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.

How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
He’s all I’ve got left.
God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope,
quietly hope for help from God.

It’s a good thing when you’re young
to stick it out through the hard times.
When life is heavy and hard to take,
go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions:
Wait for hope to appear.
Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face.
The “worst” is never the worst.
Why? Because the Master won’t ever
walk out and fail to return.
If he works severely, he also works tenderly.
His stockpiles of loyal love are immense.

(Emphasis mine)

Lamentations 3:20-32 MSG

Maui waves, JHT
Maui waves

How do you feel about Valentine’s Day?

Got hope?

What do you do with despair? When the wounds of childhood make trusting hard? When the pain of living steals hope?

When I was in the ninth grade, I wrote this poem.

Poem by Jane F Thompson
Poem by Jane F Thompson

Though I wasn’t aware of it, that ambivalence followed me through life. Until I finally embraced myself (see Fine Wine), my own pain in childhood, I was caught like a starfish on the Oregon coast, clinging to a rock, waiting for the tide to come in.

When I was a sophomore in college, floundering, wondering how to continue to live, I opened a book of T.S. Eliot poems to work on a paper for an English class. Going beyond my assignment, I discovered a division in the book (like between the Old and New Testaments in the Bible), beginning with “Ash Wednesday.” Eliot expressed my thoughts, doubts, hopes, fears and attempts at faith.

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign? . . .
Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still. …

Line after line, Eliot transcribed the agony I experienced in just living. When I reached the last section, I wanted to holler, to cry, to run out under the sky.

Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn
Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying

Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated
And let my cry come unto Thee.

Somehow, Eliot’s finding peace in spite of identical ambiguity comforted me, gave me hope to go on. I was not alone.

That began my true faith walk, and what a long road it has been!

But then, life is a journey, isn’t it? In spite of the switchbacks and setbacks, push-backs and throwbacks, we drive onward.

Even the Israelites, led by God in the desert escaping Egypt, had to make the trek.

At this point on the way, I no longer pray to love with detachment.  I have no need to be alone to protect my heart. My cries are heard. I’d rather spend my life caring, than freeze alone on the rocks.

I can reach out to the one who experienced my pain, who walked the trail, who knows what it means to love and be hurt, to reach out, yet be be shunned, to cry alone.

We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us, in the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:19-20 The Message (MSG)

And I have hope because my journey is into His arms.

They hit me when I was down,
but God stuck by me.
He stood me up on a wide-open field;
I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!

God made my life complete
when I placed all the pieces before him.
When I got my act together,
he gave me a fresh start.
Now I’m alert to God’s ways;
I don’t take God for granted.
Every day I review the ways he works;
I try not to miss a trick.
I feel put back together,
and I’m watching my step.
God rewrote the text of my life
when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.
Psalm 18:18-24 The Message  (bold mine)

Where are you on your journey?