“...and you won’t give up the search
for the ghosts in the halls
you wear sandals in the snow
and a smile that won’t wash away
can you look out the window
without your shadow getting in the way?
you’re so beautiful, with an ancient charm,
and so careful when I’m in your arms.”
“Building A Mystery” by Sarah McLachlan
I fell in love again. It happened November 12-14 on a church choir retreat.
But this time, it felt different, life-changing, earth-shattering, momentous in that quiet way meaning business... the same way meeting Eddie meant I’d found my husband, the father of our children, knowing James would arrive almost 13 years later, as if he’d already always existed and known me through a million lifetimes...
As these evolutions usually do, I remembered with my soul that I’d been loved in return before I ever began, the most romantic, star-crossed connection this world could possibly imagine, that He had come down to this feral earth to rescue me, succumbed to the most tortuous, brutally humiliating obstacles just to reach me, because of that love.
I also remembered for most of my current lifetime searching for that same kind of unconditional, heroic love in those of my kind, the boy up the hill named Brannon who, unfortunately had a secret crush on prim, proper Rebecca, Gregory across the way, who mooned me one summer night before dumping me for another girl, William was such an anomaly, he spoke like a young girl, but acted like an alien in the trees communing with nature, his people, and maybe with me, David Jenkins, the most beautiful boy on earth, on the outside, the star forward on my daddy’s basketball team, Bobby, he’d become the template for the Michael Moriartys and the Damian Lewis, Mark, another Mark, Russell, my first orgasm, no, not that Russell, who would later deflower me on his bloody bed, Scott for one brief hour in my mother’s car, just sitting there heavy breathing and sharing two long kisses which tasted of plastic, Jon, my best friend now, the two Toms, a final David after Eddie, sometimes Robb online...
We all have. It’s reflected back in the arts, paintings, poems, film, on stage, music, fairy tales. I grew up wanting to be Cinderella to my Prince Charming, gravitating toward a certain type, a “Beauty And The Beast,” “Gone With The Wind,” “Wuthering Heights,” and the soulful rendition of a WWII war hero, Capt. Winters in HBO’s “Band Of Brothers.”
Talk of soul mates, destiny, a love that defies understanding, description, Bonnie Raitt’s “let’s give ‘em somethin’ to talk about,” ... made common.
Because we’re all earthbound, however, we’re all relegated to reaching what comes closest to our earthbound understanding: a relationship based on biology, the lust, the sexual intercourse, the procreating of future generations – just as Adam and Eve, after their fall, were instructed to go forth and do.
So the concept of falling in love with Christ as He has fallen in love with us seems blasphemous, perverted. “You want to get the Almighty naked and go down on Him?! Sinner, be damned!” Uh... no, not quite.
Christ’s – or God, or a Higher Being – love and our meager glimpse of it with our even more meager grasp of our own reciprocity – is far above such petty, mortal things as desire, marriage and children. As anyone who’s perused First Corinthians with any substantive amount of concentration knows, His love surpasses our meager, worldly understanding. It’s like comparing the eternal with next week on Thursday at 7 p.m., I have to attend church choir rehearsal, then at approximately 9 p.m., drive home to watch my soaps on replay in time to wake up at a reasonable hour so I can finish writing my soap columns, etc.
That kind of love bears no resemblance to ours. Ours is the best we can come up with. And because it’s God-speak, we always risk falling down the wrong end of the extremes, the ultimate consequence of free will, choices, the arrogant assumptions ingrained within each of us to be as a god.
Besides patient, kind, delight in other people’s joy, His kind of love isn’t jealous, doesn’t harbor animosity of any sort, has nothing to do with jerking off and is available to us all—the seeming opposite of the pair-bond instinct we’ve raised to mythical heights. Our love seeks to exclude, close off, be on that beach somewhere in private, laying around naked, indulging in the flesh, thumbing our noses at the lonely masses who will never know such bliss. His love expands, forces us to think about relationships, community in a higher level, where we are all connected, attached, and related to each other deeper than flesh.
I sat off to the side in the grand room of a large cabin at the Deception Pass retreat watching His love unfold before me, slip into my unconscious and leave me almost achingly... whole.
I fell in love with my brothers and sisters in Christ in that room, in the attached kitchen, as they chatted about the upcoming day’s events, read the Bible quietly amongst themselves, played a rousing game of cards, stirred a pan of spaghetti sauce, a married couple pausing in between the stoves and the sink to slowly waltz, gazing into each other’s eyes, smiling deeply, laughter about to erupt, closer to me, a short woman with graying military-cut hair – far from Hollywood’s notice as to be derisively tossed aside – sat in her chair, waving her arms in the air, to conduct her private Philharmonic orchestra, while listening to a foreign student playing Chopin on my husband’s electric keyboard, this woman who came from an alcoholic family and through art therapy learned to calm herself... I fell so in love with her, I didn’t need to speak or approach or do any of the million and one things people do in social situations. I knew we belonged to one another, to Him, everybody there, it was enough to just bask in that realization.
For the first time since high school, I cracked open my Bible, as I’d always done, haphazardly, with nothing to guide me but instinct and yearning, and found His words of love, as if He’d died (he did) and left me love notes bound for eternity. He told me that I was the most beautiful woman He’d ever seen:
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Matthew 6: 28-30
I’m just now getting into interpretation, another risky proposition. Through the filter, historic relevance and earthbound understanding of mankind, I must read through feeling, from my core... through the often harsh language, the chastising tone, into what He’s trying to tell me, a parable within a parable between the lines.
Nothing is as it seems with the spiritually true. I can’t help but recall and harken the third Indiana Jones movie, where he must choose the chalice Jesus, the carpenter, made, in order to escape with his life. An enemy before him, pushing and shoving to be first to choose, assumed the great Jesus of Nazareth, the inspiration for the multitudes of religions we see today, must have created the most beautiful chalice to behold, something that would astound the average man. So the enemy took the fanciest cup, bejeweled beyond belief, the equivalent of a tall, buxom blonde model walking into a hotel bar, every eye in the room whipping her way – and promptly fell down dead. Indiana Jones took his time, searched endlessly, between those lines, to the cup most everyday people would ignore, a plain wooden one, and chose that. And that, was Jesus.
Jesus saw me in the crowd, really saw me, when others walked away.
Therefore, spiritual truth must be found in those overlooked places, as we have elevated soul-mate love, that which defies human understanding and societal limits, but remains sacrosanct, righteous and good nonetheless at its core.
Who says only Christians know the way to spiritual truth? On the CBS primetime drama, “Joan of Arcadia,” God comes to Joan in many faces, a gay hospital employee, a rich socialite, a punk rocker, a little girl in glasses. Just the same, God – or what have you – comes in many beliefs. I am averse to picking just one and standing by my human assertion, because unlike Eve, I don’t want to be another god and I know I don’t have the qualifications.
Recently, I spoke with EYE ON SOAPS’ resident wiccan, Katrina Rasbold, about spirituality. We agree on so many points, me a lapsed Catholic-turned-Christian-of-no-denomination, she a practicing witch. That heaven is whatever one believes in. That a Being has thought of everything, with layers and layers upon layers of various options in viewing life itself, through physiology, Darwinian evolution, the higher planes of mysticism, and on and on until humankind has achieved a species maturation process... but that this doesn’t conflict with the basic theology of Christianity itself in that God Himself is a mystery wrapped up in a parable, through the interpretations of man.
Another misconception about Christianity in particular, thanks to the televangelists and the conservative right wing extremists, is the reputation we have, that we must adhere to, of being pious, never cursing, smiling a lot, watching only PBS, a regular ole Donny and Marie (without the post-traumatic syndrome breakdowns).
This misconception quickly went stale with my introduction of Northshore last year and a nasty incident with a known, beloved “Christian” several months ago.
Some of the finest people, Christian or not, have been those who lived their witness, who used their individuality for the greater good, who, when push came to shove, did what was right, often at their own personal expense. They’d surprise you, if indeed, you actually believed Christians only came in one holier-than-thou (hypocritical) form, the kind of followers the apostles and Paul condemned to hell toward the latter-half of the New Testament.
These people curse. They don’t always smile. Sometimes, they downright have a full-blown temper tantrum to scare the average Samsonite. They can hate with venom, but forgive equally. They’re far from uptight. One of ‘em actually gave a gift of an adult toy at another one’s birthday party. They struggle with grudges, addictions, weaknesses, as they’ve done since Jesus preached His sermon on the Mount, insisting he preach to those kind of people, the people the holy men refused to consort with, the hookers, the lepers, the crippled, the bottom of the barrel of sinners. They’re real people like you and me. The difference being, they noticed that which most of the world overlooks, and they try, with help from above, to be better for themselves and for others.
Most of the world, too, assumes that God, Jesus is high up there, far removed from the important excesses of daily existence, the porn, the drugs, the petty, sickening after-effects of too much want, not enough need.
I highly doubt that. In my novitiate’s search, I’m almost thoroughly convinced that God, Jesus has a thorough knowledge of the dark side, HAS to, in order to arm us with whatever we need to survive. This is no clueless supreme being with an incomplete idea of what we human beings have to go through.
Which brings me back to my first love, the template, that archetype it seems I’d been searching for in vain, a compelling, good man of integrity who withstands temptation, on the line of the Captain & Tennille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together.”
For example. I’m always going on about British actor Damian Lewis, like he’s my god. In a way, he is. The role he first captured my heart in was “Band Of Brothers,” playing a noble, enigmatic leader who didn’t smoke, drink, curse or engage in any of the usual ‘40s male hijinx. He stayed apart, doing what needed to be done for the benefit of his squad and for the betterment of the world in general.
While Lewis is perhaps one of the most beautiful human beings to grace this planet and while I’d drop everything to spend one night of carnal bliss with him, it is really his roles that attracted me to him, his ability to go inside these singularly distinct men above men and provide for me glimpses of the God through His only son Jesus Christ in his characters’ various guises.
Captain Richard Winters, through Lewis, is, it turns out, my ideal man, husband, father of our children, someone who doesn’t notice the sexy femme fatale, who has absolutely no interest in following the crowd, giving in to peer pressure, picking up a cancer stick or needle. Yet he seems to possess an innate, intrinsic understanding of the sins that drive men, almost beatific in his understanding, remaining still one of them, as he remains their leader.
Even as the decidedly un-Christian-like antagonist Soames in Masterpiece Theatre’s “The Forsyte Saga,” there’s an incredibly seductive intensity, a yearning for understanding just waiting outside the elegantly prejudiced visage of Victorian proper. In scenes where he breaks down without his precious Irene, gripping the jewels he’d bought her, yet unable to buy her soul, in a passion so deep and so unattainable as to be painfully read... shades of an enlightened Christ, turned around and uplifted by loftier goals, gripped me.
It is why a little of my crush sank like a stone when reports of a naked Damian Lewis cavorting in a pool at some L.A. chi-chi hotel with fellow co-stars and female onlookers – leaked out online following “Dreamcatcher’s” cinematic release in the States. And why a part of me checked him off the list realistically when he, in character as Soames, allowed a glowing, stinking cancer stick to enter his lips.
Early on in my boy-crazy existence, I feared I’d never find “the one,” simply because my standards were too high, too on par with a Jesus Christ than a mere man (one of my first aspirations was to join a nunnery, after all). The second one of those mere men exhibited any flaw dirtying up the pure fantasy, I dried up and blew away.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I met and married a man who resembles the boy who first fell in love with me in Garden Terrace that spring of ’77, Bobby, and who, today, resembles Damian Lewis in the flesh... that the man I love on this earthly plane can achieve soulful ecstasy with just a placement of his fingers on piano keys, the perfect pitch of rhythm and groove in a perfectly rendered piece of jazz, the man who cries on cue to “The Sound Of Music’s” opening, middle and end, every time, the mere mention of Aretha Franklin, the Blues Brothers, the mere sight of a baptism of a fallen, forgiven angel, whose eyes I could live in for the rest of my life, ever-changing as the skies set to midnight and back on dawn, and in whose reflection I feel most at home...
He chose me, out of all those women out there. He lives clean, physically and emotionally incapable of cheating, even on such a minor thing as smoking.
He could have left, started over, many many times, almost seven years into our marriage, in fact. But by his very example – hardly the stuff of arm waving and speaking in tongues on a busy street corner calling attention to conversion – he taught me ultimate forgiveness, strength and as close a glimpse to the love of Christ as a mere mortal man could.
Well, what do you know. I wrote my 14th wedding anniversary tribute after all, a week belated.
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