Things I Did Not Say or Do

IV  My fiftieth year had come and gone,
I sat, a solitary man,
In a crowded London shop,
An open book and empty cup
On the marble table-top.

While on the shop and street I gazed
My body of a sudden blazed;
And twenty minutes more or less
It seemed, so great my happiness,
That I was blessed and could bless.


V  Although the summer Sunlight gild
Cloudy leafage of the sky,
Or wintry moonlight sink the field
In storm-scattered intricacy,
I cannot look thereon,
Responsibility so weighs me down.

Things said or done long years ago,
Or things I did not do or say
But thought that I might say or do,
Weigh me down, and not a day
But something is recalled,
My conscience or my vanity appalled.
~William Butler Yeats,Vacillation Parts IV and V


In this, the last trimester of my life, I find myself dwelling on how I continue to grow and change, as if I was gestating all over again, 68 years later. It is a time or preparation for what comes next, while not wanting to miss a moment of what is – right now.

I have plenty of opportunity to replay the many moments I’ve regretted what I said or did, or what I could have said or did….and didn’t. Recalling remorse is far easier and stickier than replaying joy that seems so fleeting in my memory.

There are times when I feel both weighed down by memories and freed at the same time. It almost always happens while sitting in worship in church, while silently confessing how I have wronged those around me or turned my face from God, yet in the next moment, I feel the embrace of a Creator who never forgets but still forgives. It is an overwhelming knowledge that brings me to tears every time.

It is in that moment that my joy no longer is fleeting; it lives deeply in my cells since I, like all around me, am created in His image.

And God saw what He had made, and it was, and still is, good.
He made us for joy, not out of regret.

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Hiding Nothing

changedpriorities
You can hide nothing from God.
The mask you wear before men will do you no good before Him.
He wants to see you as you are,
He wants to be gracious to you.
You do not have to go on lying to yourself and your brothers,
as if you were without sin;
you can dare to be a sinner.

~Dietrich Bonhoeffer from Life Together

One of my Monday morning jobs in our college health clinic is to meet with any student who got so intoxicated they had to spend part of the weekend in the emergency room.  Alcohol poisonings are distressingly common on all college campuses, and ours is no exception.   What I do during our morning-after visit is review the records with the student so they have some idea what took place before they woke up hours later on a gurney in a noisy smelly emergency room– alcohol is an effective amnesia-producing anesthetic when it doesn’t manage to outright kill its consumer.   It is a humbling experience to read about what one said and did while one was under the influence of intoxicants and yet have no memory of any of it.   That is why my time is well spent with the recovering and remorseful.   Not only does their stomach lining still burn from all the vomiting, but their head hurts from acknowledging the risks they took in the name of having a good time.  It is rare that I ever need to meet again with the same student about similar behavior.

This, in reality,  is a very effective kind of hurting, one that is crucial to future decision-making: dangerous behavior is far less appealing when one still carries the scars.  Priorities change for the better.

Today I won’t be able to work in several hundred now-sober students into this morning’s clinic schedule after the unfortunate and widely publicized events that happened just a couple blocks off our college campus a little over 24 hours ago.  I suspect most of the students involved remember more than they wish to about their participation in a big-block-party-gone-terribly-wrong.  They were part of an aggressive mob mentality threatening law enforcement personnel trying to disperse an increasingly rowdy and obnoxious crowd.  Some are finding themselves in video and Instagram/Facebook documentation of their profane words and gestures, throwing potentially lethal objects, vandalizing private and city property as well as causing thousands of dollars of city resources to confront out of control drunk rioters.   These students can try to lay low but there is no place to hide from their inner knowledge of what they have done, the part they played and the irreparable damage they caused to individuals, relationships, property and as well as the reputations of the city and the university.  There is no comforting alcohol amnesia to hide within this time.

The only possible healing from an event like this is to come clean about what one has done, admit the mistakes made and work to make it right no matter the cost — to dare to acknowledge the sins committed and accept the consequences of one’s actions.

Hiding is cheap — guilt and shame remain behind the mask.
Grace and forgiveness is costly but there is no longer need to hide and be eaten away by a continually hurting soul.

My prescription for this day and in the days to come:  changed priorities ahead.  College is about obtaining a valuable and precious education, not about finding the biggest and best party of intoxicants.

Take with food and a large dose of humility.