Close to Home:
After years of digging up the plastic, cardboard, and priceless paper treasures buried in dusty corners only to be forgotten moments later, I have lost my spirit of adventure and now treat all such whimsical acquisitions as trash to be cleared and disposed of. I was on autopilot this week, my Hoover of a right arm sucking up junk from off the floors with unsentimental diligence, when I walked into my daughters’ room and found two leaves looking lost and out of place on the twin size bed. After quickly discarding the first one, my eye caught site of another, and then another, not only on her princess comforter but also tucked into lacy curtains, in the buttonhole of an emerald green dress on a red headed china doll in the corner, in the white gauzy netting flowing from her ceiling, and carefully arranged on the silvery aluminum box hiding hair bows and sparkly barrettes.
Searching for her sandals, Priscilla, my six-year-old, skipped through the door and stood with pride beside me. “Don’t you love it, mom?” she asked, “I brought nature in to look at whenever I want.” And I had to concede that it was charming, ethereal, and quite unexpected to find evidence of life co-mingling with the toys and furniture, heartbeats of rain, sun, and soil echoing off the hollowness of material possessions. Priscilla, with shoes now on her feet, was gone in a flash - off to be young while she can. Alone again, I uncharacteristically reached into the abyss of the white, tie handled, Glad bag to find the leaf I had tossed just minutes before. With carefulness I placed it back with the others and tiptoed out into the hallway, letting nature, all wild and nonconformist, take its course.
At risk of it becoming cliché, I have posted, e-mailed, and quoted my favorite Orthodox saying ad nauseam, but with its limitless ability to inspire I will dust it off again in honor of Priscilla, my woodland fairy. “Acquire the Spirit of Peace,” said St. Seraphim of Sarov, “and thousands of souls around you will be saved.” For one like me, having to break through barriers of traditional Western thought in order to capture the mystery that is Eastern Christianity, such an unconventional approach to evangelism is nothing short of revolutionary. With ears so stopped up nowadays, and words as cheap as penny candy, confrontational soapbox preaching rarely woos a wayward soul into a lifetime of submission to God. Belief in hell, a fear of hell, is painfully outdated.
But the surprising refreshment of stumbling across something so extraordinary as a life unfettered by earthly cares, amidst topsy-turvy morality, ruffled feathers, and pie-in-the-sky ambitions, is like discovering a pile of long stemmed roses lying atop a sewer grate. Without shouting, without protesting, without imitating the grit and metal beneath them, the fragrance and incomparable beauty of those flowers would quite naturally draw in a crowd of tired eyes and stuffy noses, steadily losing their sensitivity to all things fresh and light. And then here is the kicker, those same lovely roses would be offered free of charge, brightening up days and soothing sadness without demanding, without manipulating, without taking pride in their selfless acts of mercy – like a man, woman, or child fully contented with the pleasing of Christ, alone.
What about me stands out, like leaves in the folds of a curtain? How different is my demeanor because of Jesus becoming man and conquering death through the transforming power of His Resurrection? Would anyone have reason, amongst the hustle and bustle of sprinting aimlessly through the years, to pause and breathe in the comforting smells of Home - on my hair, in my mouth, and on my hands open wide for embracing, supporting, and for spelling out clearly why hope is still very much alive? Or has my faith become dull and dingy, blending in with the littered and lonely streets, passed by unnoticed like run-of-the-mill stones in a gutter?
There are nations and there are neighbors, equally in need of salvation. There are millions and there are a few, as close as my own backyard, who could sure use a dose of divine goodness. There are spiritual sights that are set too high, ignoring the opportunities in mundane interactions to spread joy like sunlight on the shadows. There are doubts too pervasive for acquiring the peace that will save first one and then another. And there are seconds, ticking away our existence, echoing off the hollowness of all that is temporal, reminding us with urgency there is work to be done. In a flash I’ll be gone, this lifetime is mine only once, only one fleeting shot to let Christ’s love, all wild and nonconformist, take its course miraculously through me.
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