dusty gems

packagesAAAAugh! I am fighting desperately to dig myself out of the heaps of responsibility and dread and guilt which I feel. Too much, too much and no relief. All the burdens I pushed away yesterday, to make it through that journey, come tumbling down around me, today.

I am trapped in an aisle of the warehouse, buried on all sides by parcel, books and papers. There is no order to my life and, more than that, no hope. I juggle tasks like people juggle their checkbook when they don’t have enough to pay all the bills, selecting in turn which project to neglect, so that all are behind, dragged along with strings of apologies and regret.

In fact, as I extract myself from the pile and make way down the aisle, they follow me, tied to me with ropes and strings, thumping and bumping along. I pick up one or two to carry as they get stuck in crevices and up against the shelves, but I cannot carry them all. I am haunted by their presence, oppressed by their weight. I use all my effort and it is not nearly enough.

I have tried resolve. I have tried list making and inventory taking, but I cannot find relief. My deep and hidden fear is that in the midst of my confusion I will neglect those things that really do matter and fill my arms with the bundles of irrelevant effort that someone else has decided would be good.

My eyes fill with tears and my chest aches with grief and disappointment in myself. I am only a whisper of what I need to be. I am only fading ink upon a page, a thread and not a cable. I have no strength to do what I must do. I am leaning against the tall metal shelving of the warehouse, crying listless tears, with not even enough energy to cry aloud. I feel no desperate rush of strength and fury, for that, too, has been spent.

I crumble to the floor into a heap of dust, no substance left.

A wise Narnian dwarf comes down the aisle. He has a broom and dustpan in his hand and begins to sweep my rubble into a pile. He scoops it up, and singing to himself takes it off to the trash. “Wait!” I cry, “Don’t you see me here? Don’t you know that this is all that is left of what am trying to do, what I am trying to be? Don’t throw away the ashes of my effort so lightly.”

“They are trash,” He says. “You have declared them so.”

“But they are all I have.”

“And so you have nothing.”

“Don’t confirm my fears in this way,” I beg. “Don’t relegate me to nothingness.”

“It is not my doing, but yours. You created the heap of ashes, you pronounced yourself worthless. I am only responding to our words.”

“But is it true?” I whisper “Is it true, what I feel? Is there no hope? I do not wish to be useless.”

“Much of what you feel is true,” He says. He has set the pile of ashes and rubble back on the floor and sits crosslegged before it, speaking to it, to me, in earnestness. “But you have not seen all the truth. You must look beyond your narrow vision. All you have used to judge yourself are measures which you cannot meet. You, yourself, have set the measuring sticks and you have marked them far beyond what you can do. There is no way to win when you have set the goals at such a distance.”

“What can I do?” I grieve. “What now for me?”

“You must look to other truths. The measure of yourself is not the vessel, but its contents. You have stretched your wineskin so tight that it has torn, trying to gather up all you see into yourself. Now you spill yourself upon the floor. Let go, let go, the whole world is not your charge.”

“Help me to let go. Help me to find the wisdom to release what is not mine to hold.”

“If anyone needs wisdom, let them ask. He promises to answer. But you must be willing to listen. He has not promised to rescue all your little projects. Yet you are still looking to them, hoping to find ways to create time — that is beyond you. Give it up.”

I shift within my pile of dust and sigh. “Okay, I let go my tight grip upon this rubble. I ask for wisdom.”

The Dwarf jumps to his feet, grabs the dustpan, scoops me up and strides away. I stifle a protest, swallow down my fearful grief and prepare to meet humiliation.

But he stops on the way to the trash heap beside a large drum with a wire mesh cover. He pours the ashes of myself upon that cover. Then he shakes the drum and flakes of me fall through the wire to the refuse heap below. The charred remains of good ideas and grand schemes tumble through the grid. Secret plans of my own glory, ones that I have even refused to acknowledge, fall through as well. Noble aspirations, they go too. But when he is finished shaking, there is something of me remaining on the top of the sieve. A handful of gems, dusty, but true. He reaches out and gathers them up and wraps them in a velvet cloth that he has pulled from inside his waistcoat.

“What is there?” I ask. “Can you name the gems?”

“Oh yes,” he says, “I can name them all.” The voice is no longer that of the dwarf, but the voice of the Holy One. “I know these gems, for I have been mining them, crafting them within you. They include your love for me and, greater still, my love for you. You can see the red drop of my own blood with this diamond, here. Your relationship with Tim is here, and with your children. Your family and your friends are among your gems, the treasures of your soul. And they will remain regardless of the outcomes of your projects, large or small. They have true and lasting value.”

“I know and love those gems. I have been richly blessed.” But I cannot keep the next question from rising to my lips. “What of my work? Is it all to be trashed? Is it all dust and rubble?”

“It is not meant to stand on its own. Without other supports it crumbles into useless refuse. Built upon relationships, it can provide expression for the truth. Seek not the form, but the substance.”

“Your sayings are hard,” I reply. “I do not know how to live them. I do not know, when I turn from my meditation, how to pick up my day with discernment. I cannot see the difference between rubbish and treasure. Help me to pull your reality into my working day today, so that I can see, with your wisdom, the choices I should make.”

Suddenly we are beside the well of joy. He reaches to the well and brushes it surface with his hand, he dips out a palm-full of its water. With his other hand, he touches a finger into his palm and a single drop of water, he places on each of my eyes. “May the light of your body bring light to our soul. May My very Spirit, which grows within you, answer that light with light of its own, until you truly see.”

This blessing he pronounces over me and then is gone.

I’m not sure that my vision is fully altered yet. But today I vow to look at what I do with eyes that are being renewed. “Help me, Lord to see.”

He whispers, “You shall see.”

1/31/95

[photo by Tim Ellis per cc 2.0]

 

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