“…this morning I was so rash as to read some of the public newspapers; suddenly an indolence of the weight of twenty atmospheres fell upon me, and I was stopped, faced by the appalling uselessness of explaining anything whatever to anyone whatever. Those who know can divine me, and for those who can not or will not understand, it would be fruitless to pile up explanations.”
from the preface to Fleurs du Mal (Flowers of Evil)
The dynamic current of humanity moves with the dull force of hugeness. Discoveries, however, are made along the fringes, where secrets are revealed to those who dare to soar.
The Boundary Waters are so-named because they are part of a country with a prescribed perimeter. What if it were not so? Might we more aptly call them the Boundless Waters, a place to discover limitlessness and connectedness?
Walking toward the cemetery, during a rehab walk, after my knee surgery, it finally dawned on me that the tree that had blown down during the July derecho had been the tree. In February, it had defined one half of the “V” that had given me direction during the blizzard. That lone tree had stood for decades on the edge of the cemetery hill. It had suffered numerous bruises and battles with the weather, as evidenced by its gnarled limbs, and awkward branches. It had been broken before. But, it had withstood. Until now.
I was stunned. All of the stories and blessings, and relationships that had made my life immeasurably richer this year, would have still gone on whether I was here or not. Stumbling blocks can lead to triumphs or to tragedies, and often the only difference is in our perception of what matters. As I gazed at the broken remains of that landmark tree, it occurred to me that I had been blessed with a great gift—an opportunity to matter. Is there anything more significant than that? Sometimes we miss what is being accomplished in our absence, while we are off accomplishing.
As I stood there in the cemetery, surrounded by the “Larkrise” beauty of the fields turning into the golds of harvest, I had no words of explanation. The same God that had planted my tree, and then watered it, nurtured it, and given it the strength to overcome, had taken it away once it had led me home—a personal glimpse into the divine, my own Jonah’s gourd.
I had been so stubborn. I would have missed it all. I would have walked away in blindness, years earlier when times were rough, trapped in my own addictions, but I could not shake His presence. I had tried. I know, now, what trials would have been avoided, but not what snares would have ensued. There is a nakedness before God that we try to hide with leaves. And yet, there are these moments of divine communion that reveal his power and capacity to care.
There is a fear, of course, that goes along with cooperating with God. Perhaps, I will accomplish my purpose then, and he will take me away? I don’t want to go. I want to say I’ve learned my lesson and things will be different this time. This time I will put people first, I promise! This time I will treasure relationships over accomplishments. I will. I promise I will.
Welcome, Conner Talon Schultz. Perhaps we will play together. Bob, the Builder? Thomas, the Train? Barney (nope, nope, nope, nope)? I’m sure I will read to you. Or, we’ll make up our own stories. What do you want to be, a private-eye, or a super-hero? How about, C.T. Schultz: Conner by Day, Talon by Night! You could be the “Caped Crusader”, or the “Winged Warrior”! (I’m laughing now, because, in my days, there was a radio program where the hero used those very monikers. It was a tour-de-farce called, Chickenman!) I’d like to tell you about that.
Perhaps you will be a rugged outdoorsman, and a sensitive lover, without being fettered by the expectations and definitions of either. May your “talons” be liberating.
I’ve had a rich life, watching your parents grow. And I will watch you, too. And I will tell you about me. And I hope you’ll like that. And the God that protected me, and gave me the opportunity to tell you anything, I want to tell you about Him too. And if you don’t believe in him the same way I do, that’s okay. But I believe you will. Even if it takes a blizzard.
“Wherever you are, be all there.” —Jim Elliot