Half-full of Heaven

An Essay By Aisling // 3/27/2006

I’m sitting outside in our driveway on an old beach chair while my four-year-old brother plays in his turtle sandbox. The sun is warm, but the air is decidedly March-like—crisp and cold; the chilly kind, that gets inside you—and I’m sitting here with a hood over my head wondering what on earth I’m doing out here and how Joseph can bear having nothing on his feet. Maybe the sand is warm. Maybe he’s warmer, somehow. Maybe there’s something in us when we’re young that’s still half-full of Heaven. Something that makes the sun’s warmth more real than the benumbing breeze; something that makes the sandbox more relevant, more important than all the thawing world; something that makes the little bird’s teerdee-teerdee gladdening enough to do away with our biggest irritations. Something we lose as we grow up. Something like simplicity.

I’m overwhelmed because, although I did get algebra done rather quickly today, I have to practice hard on my piano songs so I’m ready when the teacher comes back from vacation . . . I have to memorize my Biology terms and definitions before the end of the week . . . I have to decide what I’m changing in my book, and do it, so I can get it sent out to another publisher already . . . I have to take the written test over again because my temporary drivers permit is expiring, and I won’t get my in-car instruction time soon enough to take the final test for my official license before my temps run out (ARG!) . . . I have to get a job . . . and now that lady from Boyert’s nursery called me back, and she wants me to come in for an interview on Wednesday! A job interview! I think I’m going to pass out right on her office floor, and she’ll have me taken away and call, “next!” *laugh* OK, so I’m dramatizing. But I am not looking forward to that interview.

As if all that weren’t enough, I owe a piece to apricotpie! Which reminds me of something else I have to do: make Turkish Delight. I found gelatin. Yep, the real thing this time. We had it all along, Mom says. *sigh* Sure wish I’d have known that. It’s like one of those books, where you have a multiple choice page, and you move on to a different part depending on what you choose . . . I used to hate those. But that’s life. Two roads diverged . . . and you’ll never know where the one not taken would’ve taken you. Simplicity? It’s history. A memory. Lost. -Or is it? Is it a page, a road, a phase, left behind? Or is it like a fire that, having burned out, can be lit again by coaxing the warmth out of the coals? From the ashes a fire shall be woken (J.R.R. Tolkien).

I’m numb sitting in my own shadow—so I turn my chair to face the sun. It’s falling, falling steadily; pulling closed another day, another page. My feet have that unnerving, icy, tingling feeling of having been against cold gravel for too long. Oh, for a bit of hot pavement! Or, better, for a wide open stretch of warm beach, which I could run along—with the summer wind in my loose hair, the salt air in my lungs, and in my eyes the dazzle of sunshine on waves—a part of the sand, a part of the openness, a part of the water, a part of the light. A part of freedom. A part of simplicity. And I could be carefree, unencumbered, innocent.

Just now, that image seems as far away as it is beautiful. I’ve gone so far from my home. I’ve seen the world, and I have known many secrets I wish now I did not know (Rich Mullins). Every day, it seems, I hear something else to discredit the state, shame the church, or condemn mankind in general. I wish I could close my ears and not have to listen to it. But I’ve heard it once, I’ve crossed the line—and to turn back and try to close my eyes and stop my ears, now, would be traitorous. Slowly, we come into our stewardship, and we accumulate knowledge—and with every new thing we learn, comes a new duty, a higher degree of responsibility. We got out seeking—seeking a satisfaction for our curiosity, answers to our questions—and those who seek shall find. But with the answers to the questions come the challenges. For much will be expected of those who’ve been given much. And, really faced with the decision, I wouldn’t give up the gift for anything, because the gift is Truth. But people who think the Truth is a comfortable thing have a lot to learn—either about Truth, or about comfort. And there is it again: the learning. I can’t help thinking that, over all this time, we get rather caught up in the learning, and we can’t forget. We get caught up in the acquiring and we can’t let go; we get caught up in receiving and we forget how to give; we get caught up in the growing and we don’t know how to be small anymore. But it’s the small who’re going to fit through that narrow gate. The simple. -Remember? Remember what it was like when your biggest concern in the world was how much time you had until bed? Remember when you slipped your little hand into your Dad’s big warm one, and his smile seeped into you and filled you with a great, simple, overwhelming, secure happiness?

But we grow. And somewhere along the way we get so entangled by complicated emotions and impressions and convictions and fears that we can’t remember the last time we held Daddy’s hand. We can’t remember the last time we did something without worrying what people would think or do or say. We can’t remember what it was like to be ourselves—detached from the outcome, regardless of outside opinion, despite every dismaying obstacle, just because. Just because that’s who we are. It’s a confounding drama, of wins and losses, smiles and tears, the good and the bad. Sometimes we had to lose, we had to cry, we had to fight and learn something about failing with grace. Sometimes it has to hurt if we’re going to heal . . . and live. And my chief comfort is this: God draws straight with crooked lines. Nothing, nothing is irrevocably lost—because with God all things are possible. So He can take our lives and make a masterpiece out of the rubble. There’s a plan that He’s not going to let fail.

So we push on; we stumble, we strain, we try to make sense of the whirlwind we find ourselves in. The world is cold and numb, waiting for a breath, trying to thaw, trying to get up and walk again. There are songs to practice, tests to take, interviews to make it through. Life rolls on, churning at her steady relentless pace.

Something inside me stirs. Spring is around the corner. We know it will come, because God cannot fail us. And maybe I know one too many things and am unconcerned over a couple too few, but there’s hope—yes, hope! even for us entangled, busy, preoccupied young people. God will never stop making all things new. So jump on board. Be half-full of Heaven again. Run the length of a beach. Sing back to a wild bird. Have a tea party with cream cheese and jelly sandwiches. Grab a handful of pebbles, and listen to the rain-like noise they make falling through your fingers. Have a glass of ice water. Read a poem aloud. Make something fun for dinner. Break a pine needle and smell it. And bless the God who has revealed these things to the innocent, who has come as a light in the darkness, and who makes all things new.

Comments

Seven years later...

This is one of the best essays I have read in a long time. Half-full of heaven...just the sound of those words and the wonderful picture it brings to my mind are exquisite but I know heaven is infinitely more beautiful than those words.

Lucy Anne | Wed, 12/05/2012

"It is not the length of life, but the depth of life." Ralph Waldo Emerson

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