When I was a child, my family's rural phone was on a party line with three other families. Ours was the end of the line, with four rings. One ring--it could be for us! Two rings--it could still be for us. Three! And finally four! A long time to anticipate possibilities. I was but a child, though, it was never for me. And I don't know if my mother hoped for it to be for us, or hoped it would stop ringing before it got to four. In any case--unlike the families with one ring or two, who knew quickly it wasn't for them and could go on about their business--it's a long time to hold your breath, hoping or dreading.
My sister heard a call, too. It led her to seminary as a, what-you-say, mature student. She did spectacularly well, and had the time of her life--A-cing Greek and Hebrew at the same time and falling in love with the idea of pastoring a church. And she has continued to say yes to pulpit supply and retreat leadership to further prepare. She ceaselessly educates herself and engages in spiritual direction. But the work that she hears calling her has not found her.
For my friend and my sister, perhaps it is not important to unlock the mystery of why they haven't been chosen when the call is clearly for them. They aren't who the search committees are looking for; and though they have controlled all they can control, they cannot be what they are not.
I go to the movies this weekend to see Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. In the movie, nine-year-old Oskar's father dies in the Tower on 9-11. Oskar finds a key in his father's belongings and sets out on a search through the Burroughs of New York City for the lock it opens; sure that he will find something his father must have left for him that will make his death make sense. But instead his dad left him something to make Oskar’s life make sense. You will have to see the movie to discover what that is. The movie is wonderful. It should win the Oscar. (Oskar should win the Oscar, but he wasn't even nominated.) The movie won't win the award. It has everything a good movie needs. And it won't win. It's not what the voting members of the Academy are looking for. It cannot be what it is not.
It is another spring day in the garden yesterday, and I get out. I rake out some of the leaves that have been mulching the beds against the cold that didn't come. I find emerging growth buried under the leaves. And the banana tree has a new, tightly furled leaf amongst the dead leaves that whisper in the breeze. The Lenten rose that I thought was dying this year has more blooms than ever. I can't stop taking pictures of the centers of the rose; I think they are incredible in their complexity. The Carolina jasmine on the porch rail that doesn't get enough sun, is bud-filled. The early spring, before the trees leaf, has given it more light than usual. I splurge on three pots at Logan's that match my doors (well, they didn't have a purple one, I substitute red).
I head out in search of the sunrise Saturday morning. It is good to get back out at dawn after a month-long hiatus. But the sunrise is unspectacular. No clouds. It is a recurring reminder that beauty of the breath-taking variety requires clouds; perfectly clear does not
Oskar's father tells him that he has always loved science. Oskar asks his dad if he would have liked to have been a scientist. His dad replies,"I don't know. I became a jeweler." At first blush, it sounds like a call not taken, a disappointment, a passion not followed. But he finds other ways to be a scientist. He is a scientist. Oskar and his father have been on a treasure hunt to discover NYC's sixth Burrough; the invisible, not-obvious, have-to-dig-deeper treasure. When it becomes perfectly clear that the lock that fits the key Oskar found will not reveal anything for him, Oskar says, "I’m not sorry to have disappointment. It’s better than having nothing." In his disappointment he is freed to look at what his father really left for him: the key that unlocks the secret of the sixth Burrough.
"How do geese know when to fly to the sun? Who tells them the seasons? How do we humans know when it is time to move on? As with the migrant birds, so surely with us, there is a voice within if only we would listen to it, that tells us certainly when to go forth into the unknown." -Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
*Inspired by Call Me, by Blondie, which I hear on an NPR interview after thinking about this post all day on Saturday. I love that. "Call me (call me) on the line/ Call me, call me any, anytime..."
5 years ago