boston commoner.
welcome home



Filed under: — jen d @ 11:06 am

It’s here again. I haven’t had it in a while. Spurts of desire to hop on a plane and go visit people and places, maybe, but not this deeper, blacker drive to fly away and disappear for a while.

I’ve always had a thing for the idea of traveling. Traveling, as a reality, however, has sometimes proved disappointing. There is so much tourism. Everywhere you go, you run into packs of American high-schoolers on Senior trips. In Rome, they lined all of the sight-worthy fountains. They were throwing stuff in, laughing at their amazing wit in contriving such an original diversion from the ancient city. In the Alps, it was said that you could always pick out the Americans on the slopes; they were the ones in the blue jeans (ha ha ha! ho ho ho!). I asked my boss if people could tell so easily that I was American. They said, “Not so much.” Must be the perpetually chubby face. Someone told me I have the face of a Dutch milkmaid. In Salzburg I was sick for three weeks and couldn’t eat, and when I finally came to and could receive visitors, the women stared at my cheeks and said, “You’ve lost weight… You’re pretty!” They were surprised. Astonished, actually. As if I’d been pulling a fast ugly one on them all that time. Women are always blaming men for their eating disorders, but I think we do it to each other. I was afraid to ingest anything beyond clear soup and tea for another week and a half after those well-meant comments.

But now I’m rambling. Paul Kelly, this incoherent post is for you. (Just the incoherent parts.)

I don’t know what’s wrong with me now, though. Why do I suddenly want to vanish and ride trains? Trains through flat countryside, past brick and white stucco farmsteads. Or out over watery flats to the Island of Sylt, with its russet dunes, long grasses, and thatched rooftops. Or up through the mountains, with their tall, black pines. I wouldn’t mind a stroll through the arcades along the canals in Hamburg, where I could get a bowl of coffee, shrink into a corner, and just absorb the German around me. Maybe that’s what I miss: not so much being physically removed, but wholly culturally so. To be immersed in language that is not my own, yet possessing the secret of understanding it. To be outside, but inside at the same time. To be foreign and at home.

Deep down, though, I sense what is really going on. This desire to go where I can be the invisible stranger, but not risk utter obliteration, is the desire, at least in part, for the illusion of total independence – independence from conscience, from time constraints, from physical limitations and hectic schedules, from the flesh and, God forgive me, from the Spirit. I feel busy, so I want to escape to a place where I have no responsibility. I feel guilty, and I want to run and hide. But I don’t want to die. I want to be surrounded by people…provided they have no expectations of me. Pseudo-solitude. Because I’m a gigantic failure, and there are only two people who really know it: myself, and the God who is saving me from that failure. If I could escape His beckoning arms and quiet calling for a moment, I might be able to fool myself into thinking I am something, after all, that I’m indispensable, and good. But I keep tripping on my own laces as I run and seek a hiding space; I can’t get away. I’m bloody-kneed and dirt-smeared from yesterday’s stumbling, but it’s He who picked me up and is waiting there to wash me. Waiting. For me, who would abandon Him, or nail His Son to a cross. Because He promised He would, and when He said He loves me, He actually meant it.

To think I might find peace in another city, in another tongue is self-deception. Wherever I could go, I must take myself with me and, since it’s me He seeks, I cannot lose Him. He’s always there, at once on my heels and calling out from the path ahead. Get up. We’ve got a long road ahead of us yet.

The voice is sweet, the words mild, the hands strong and extended and so very much within my reach. He’ll help me up today, tomorrow, perhaps for years to come. Maybe what I really long for today is not the invisibility of a wandering stranger, but the final calling of a displaced citizen: Get up. We’re going home.

That call might come sooner than any of us think. As for today, there’s much still to be done. Lord, give us strength.

Powered by WordPress