The Couple in the Park
by Louise Glück
A man walks alone in the park and beside him a woman walks, also alone.
How does one know? It is as though a line exists between them, like a line on
a playing field. And yet, in a photograph they might appear a married cou-
ple, weary of each other and of the many winters they have endured togeth-
er. At another time, they might be strangers about to meet by accident. She
drops her book; stooping to pick it up, she touches, by accident, his hand and
her heart springs open like a child’s music box. And out of the box comes
a little ballerina made of wood. I have created this, the man thinks; though
she can only whirl in place, still she is a dancer of some kind, not simply a
block of wood. This must explain the puzzling music coming from the trees.
“The Couple in the Park” by Louise Glück from Faithful and Virtuous Night. © Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014.
I am fickle and arbitrary and seemingly bipolar in my tendencies and reactions and desires. Sometimes I know the thing and just don’t know how to describe or explain, and other times I have no idea what I’m blabbering about but blabber on anyways cause I’m foolish and prideful and extra-human like that (super-human? or super-human?). At best, this comes off as “interesting,” and at worst, frustrating and confusing and manipulative and ugh. Oh yeah, and “pretty jacked up,” if we’re parallel-structuring that quote for that ‘interesting’ up there.
Sometimes, though, people who care about me anyways, despite these ughs, think of me and send along helpful things like this article here.
About mattering and not mattering; simultaneous opposites. The paradox of it speaks to the English major in my soul, and the truth of it tingles those God-feelers. You know, like an insect. Ooh maybe…a…bookworm 😉 which, maybe, should be my spirit insect. [Okay, recover from the tangent.]
Anyways (oh these tangent-recovery anywayses), I dunno much but what I know forsure is that
God sees me in all my smallness and all my bigness, all the same. Same love, same grace, same saving from myself.
And all I gotta say to that is aaaaaaaaaaamen hallelujahhhhhh amen.
to read the inspiration for the babbling above:
Sometimes I feel very, very small.
I feel small when the tasks of the day – even simple tasks – seem to dwarf me when I consider the amount of patience, intelligence, or perseverance they will require. Or when I am able to pry my eyes off myself for a bit and gaze at the world around me only to be confronted with disease. War. Hatred. Slavery. All things that are impossibly big, and all things that make me shrink inside myself even more. Or when I come home and find that my children are growing, and with each day there is a new challenge that I am unequipped to handle. Who am I to guide them through these years? Not small me.
When I feel small, there is the gospel that reminds me that my size and worth is determined by that which was sacrificed for me. And there is no greater sacrifice than that which has been given. Thanks to that sacrifice – His sacrifice – I am not small. I matter. I matter in the kingdom, and I matter in the world. And when you matter these challenges are not to be shrunk away from out of fear but are to be counted with courageous hope.
And oh the glorious freedom of mattering.
But then again, sometimes I feel very, very big.
I feel big when someone notices the hard work or laughs at the witty retort. When the retweets flow like water and the acclaim starts to come. When I look into the eyes of those kids and know that, at least for a while, I am invincible and infallible in their eyes. When there is money in the bank and food on the table and nothing at all seems to be threatening this insulated life we have built for ourselves. Nothing can touch me then. Not big, big me.
When I feel big, there is the gospel that reminds me that I was dead in my sin and transgression, too lost to even know that I was lost. That every supposed righteous thing I might do, say, or think is tainted with my own selfish ambition and vain conceit. That although I might be the instrument that offers the word of peace or comfort to another, I am far from necessary when I consider the hand of the One holding me. That it could just as easily be another who was speaking or writing or talking at a given moment, for God will have His way with or without me.
And then oh, the glorious freedom of not mattering.
If we ask God for greater, deeper love for him, what should we expect to receive? Answers that give us a greater awareness of our deep and pervasive sinful depravity, because those who are forgiven much, love much, but those who are forgiven little, love little (Luke 7:47).
If we ask God to help us love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31), what should we expect to receive? Answers that force us to give unexpected attention to a neighbor (who we might not put in that category (Luke 10:29)), which are inconvenient and irritating.
If we ask for God’s nearness because we believe that it is good for us to be near God (Psalm 73:28), what should we expect to receive? Answers that break our hearts, for God is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).
If we ask God to make us living sacrifices (Romans 12:2), what should we expect to receive? Answers that break and humble our hearts because the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit (Psalm 51:17).
If we ask God for a deeper experience of his grace, what should we expect to receive? Answers that oppose our pride and humble our hearts (James 4:6).
If we ask God for his kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10) in our own lives and in the world around us, what should we expect to receive? Answers that reveal our deep spiritual poverty, because the kingdom is given to the poor in spirit (Matthew 6:3).
If we ask God to satisfy us with himself so that we aren’t so easily satisfied by the world’s mud puddles, what should we expect to receive? Answers that cause us to be increasingly aware of the evil and suffering and injustices of the world because those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied (Matthew 5:6).
If we ask God for greater wisdom and discernment, what should we expect to receive? A steady stream of mind-bending, confusing answers that are difficult to understand and work through because our powers of discernment are trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil (Hebrews 5:14).
If we ask God to “increase our faith” (Luke 17:5), what should we expect to receive? To repeatedly be put into situations where we discover that our perceptions are not trustworthy so that we are forced to trust Christ’s promises, “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
If we ask God to help us “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Colossians 1:10), what should we expect to receive? Answers that require more humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2) than we thought possible and might result in destitution, affliction, and mistreatment, like many saints throughout history, “of whom the world was not worthy” (Hebrews 11:38).
If we ask God to help us stop serving money so that we can serve him more wholeheartedly, what should we expect to receive? An uncomfortable amount of opportunities to give money away, expenses that deplete reserves we’ve been stashing away, maybe even a job loss — answers that push us to us despise (ignore, turn away from, release) money and cling to God (Luke 16:13).
If we ask for our joy to be made more full (John 16:24), to experience more happiness in God, what should we expect to receive? Answers that cause us to find earthly joys we once thought gain to become empty, hollow, and loss and push us to search for the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus and find him gain above all else (Philippians 3:8).
cause apparently, real questions prompt real answers.
…praise God for this!