Monday, January 15, 2007

Without This, We Die (A Letter)

Note: I thought at first it was simply a dream. But when I awoke yesterday morning, I found this letter resting on my coffee table. I have been thinking about it ever since...

A letter from an Old Man.

To all who have ever struggled upon the sadness of life.

Dear Friends,

I hope this letter finds you well. Sadly, I know that for many of you it does not. Despite all of our advances in technology and science and education, pain and despair have made steady their increase on this world. And upon you. Even those of you who will not admit it.

Believe me, I know about pain. My joints ache constantly, and my family, oh how I miss them. A man should not have to bury his children. I-Well, they're all gone now. And yet, despite their loss, more than anytime in my life I feel alive, even as I look to my 91st year upon this earth. Alive! And before I leave, I'd like to share with you my story...

It was to be like any other day. The endless nights and weeks of a life endured was about to end, and I was glad for it. Something happened however, and that day I finally discovered that which had been missing for so many years, the day my life changed. Yes, I know it sounds dramatic, unreal even, but though I now sit here as an old man with little more than wisps of white to cover my head, I have breath for the first time. And life! Oh, wondrous, joyful, heart breaking life! I am writing you today because though I am not one of you anymore, I remember well my time with you, and wish to give you the answer you seek.

For many years, I was part of your group, a group that I joined unwillingly as a young man. I had heard of your numbers, yet I did not know that I belonged with you until slowly it dawned on me that I did. Most of us joined the same way. But by that time, it was too late.

We were a search party that did not know what it searched for. A rescue group without anyone to rescue but ourselves. We were lost, without understanding why. The one thing we shared, our bond, was the one thing we all lacked, an unknown vacuum in the places of our soul. And yet, we could not define what "it" was or how we knew something was missing. All we knew was that it was, and the graying skies seemed a shallow echo of the void in our hearts.

Even in those days when the pantry was filled with food, when the promise of work was secure, and when those around us brimmed with glad tidings of merriment, we could still feel its absence. We could feel it stalking us in the night, before we slept, and in the mornings when we awoke, arising before us, before we had time to set our daily escape. We were not willing for this, and we worked hard to keep even the merest thought of its lack from our lives, drowning ourselves in the shallow happiness of temporal criticism and daily successes. We pledged to all of the culture's ideals, and traveled in the newest sensations of all we had accomplished, but in the end it caught us.

And so we died.

Oh, we lived many years, and of our friends and acquaintances, there were but one or two that knew about our early demise. We ran, but never surrendered. We heard, but did not listen. We held to long occasions that stirred our emotions and our senses, but ignored our hearts.

I am writing this letter to you today because my time here is coming to an end. I remember what it is like to die and yet remain in my body. Only this past year I was rejuvenated, and for the first time since I was a young boy, I have known joy! And I have discovered the One Thing missing from my life, the unifying absence that defined our group and has killed so many.

And that one thing... is hope.

I chuckle even now as I read the sad smile on many of your faces. You thought my answer to be much longer, for old men are usually long winded, aren't we? You expected a verse of such great languor and artistry that you would stare at it for hours like an unknown jewel, a verse such as you could plumb its depths without ever finding its source.

I have no such words.

But I can tell you this, if there is one thing that our world is starved in, it is hope. This lack affects all of us. Every creed. Every race. Every class. Every continent. It knows no boundaries of time and space, of culture or language. It is universal in its necessity, and universal in its absence.

My hand fails me, even now, trembling like the old fool I am. I must cut this short, but before I do, please allow me to give you some words of advice.

Of this life without living, some of you know better than others what I am talking about. You hide your pain from the world around you. At night, before you sleep, you wish that you would not wake, and then feel guilty for your thoughts. For others, you have given up long ago, "melodrama" does not feed the family, nor does breath wasted on the fruitless pursuit of something greater. For some of you, you feel guilty about asking for more from this life. To all of you I say this. Be still! The years pass swiftly, and soon you will awake to find yourself even as I am, old and weathered by a life marked by its longing for escape.

But, you ask, what is hope? Where do I find it?

Hope is a vision of the future that allows us to live within the Present. A vision that gives us courage to stand when we wish to lie down, that gives us strength when our energy fails, that gives us will when today refuses to pass into tomorrow. But hope is not secured in wealth or power or security. It is not secured in anything that ties us to this world, for by definition, eternal longings can never be tied to temporal solutions.

This past year I have watched many more join your ranks, and the list grows. For some, they join because they must, because they do not know nor have even heard of what lies beyond your group. For others, they have chosen to ignore hope's voice in favour of the day that is today. And there are others who have been so broken by yesterday that they can no longer hear about tomorrow.

Of all in your group, I pity them the most.

However, and I my heart begs for you to hear this, there is an answer!

Stop running and be still! Embrace your life. Embrace your family and friends and the people who cross your path! Look to all that is good in this world, for though our world is broken, it yet holds the imprint of nobility.

Most importantly, remember that God loves you. Oh, how He loves us! His kingdom here is the reason you live. In the corner of your heart, It is His voice you hear. The whisper of His reassurances fills us in a way that only they can, even as the temporal things of our daily life fall apart. And, oh people, they will fall apart. It is our destiny that life is imperfect and unfair. Do not be surprised by it, but expect it, and in those moments, ask God to speak loudly so that you will hear His voice even in the midst of your pain, and so discover the well of joy. And in so doing, discover that which you have missed for so many years.

Well, I must go. My hip aches, and my hand cramps. I have so much to say, but it is for you to find. Be still, my friends, for hope lives! It lives, and you are closer than you realize to its majestic imprints on your life!

I love you all, even as God loves you and so desperately longs for your company. May you find that which I have found, and may your days be celebrated within the braced assurances of all that God has for you...


Your Old Acquaintance