Friday, August 24, 2007

1975

One Thanksgiving when I was nineteen I volunteered to stay home and take care of the cattle, the chickens, the pets, and the house for my parents and sister as they were joining out-of-state family for the holiday. Greedily I looked ahead to solitude, the absence of people, the removal of noise, human conversation, and eyes watching my every move. Space. Sweet, relaxed space.

As I regularly fed the woodstove, life took on a sweet, easy routine. Dad’s cattle behaved, staying in the boundaries of their fences. The chickens rewarded me with eggs for breakfast each morning. The dogs and cats were tail-waggingly, purr-liciously grateful for the food, water, and treats I gave them. I kept the television off because the sound of silence was enchanting, delightful. My mind was energized by the environment around me, I was encouraged to pinch at life’s tangled tapestry of strings in order to begin unraveling a few more mysteries.

Obviously my folks live out in the country where plentiful stars shine, generous evergreens scent the air, nocturnal creatures dominant the darkness, and silence fills in the gaps. Nature dictates the rhythm when one lives in the country. I find it easy to join the steps of nature’s march through time. For me it is difficult to march to the staccato rhythm of city life, a rhythm that seems to be determined by no one and nothing at all, just a hypnotized stampeding towards an unknown destiny fueled by expectations, greed, peer pressure, and denial.

My Thanksgiving was bliss that nineteenth year of my life. I love my family, and traditions are dear to my heart, but that last teenage year I needed time and space to reflect, though I wasn’t sure what it was which coaxed my attention. The days passed, each one settling me more, calming my restless spirit, teaching me through daily chores and fending for myself that I had grown up a bit, I had become competent enough to care for other living things, for property, and for myself.

The lesson I remember most vividly was taught on the Saturday of that four-day weekend when a strange nighttime noise prickled the hairs on my neck, froze my breathing, and mercilessly squeezed my stomach. In the fear generated from that sound whose cause I could not discern I realized that I had nothing to be afraid of from the animal kingdom, for the house was quite secure. I had nothing to dread from nature, Oregon doesn’t have horrific storms and this November was particularly kind, though chilly. The machinery of the house was well-known to me so that, should something misbehave, I felt confident I could deal with it.

No, no, what I feared in that wide-eyed, all-senses-alert moment was Man; other humans outside of their boundaries and into mine. THEY could hurt me. They could kill me.

It was then that I realized that sin, man’s disobedience to the ways of God, is the most dangerous thing in the world. I realized this intellectually and viscerally in that moment of trepidation. It wasn’t human beings living in the light of God’s goodness who scared me, it was those who may be rebelling against it at the time, about to do unspeakable things to me, or just rob my parents’ house and encounter ME in the process. That scared me. And why, I wondered did that scare me more than a tree falling, or a roof-snatching storm? Perhaps, I pondered, it was because nature is impersonal, it’s not out to get ME, it has no malice or agenda, it is not evil.

Sin is.

The idea of being harmed or killed by nature didn’t upset me so much as the idea of another human being selecting me for harm or death. I guess it’s that the violence of nature has no mind. The violence of mankind, though, is fueled by evil.

Another thought followed this realization. I have evil in me, too. And that scared me most of all.

It was in that moment of clarity that I firmly understood the gift of love which God offers, his way out which Christians call salvation from sin, the cleansing provided for anyone who is aware of the resident evil within and desperately desires to be rid of it.

I live with the knowledge that the terror of sin remains in our world right alongside goodness and will remain until all objective reality is replaced with an unbroken world. The hope that does not disappoint is that, for those who realize their brokenness and come to understand what God is about, there is a day where sin will fall away like chains from a freed prisoner, and the pure goodness that we crave will be ours at last when we exist with the one who is True Goodness.

In the meantime, I think we should refuse to give in to evil, even when we ourselves are the cause. To slump down and let it steamroll over us and out of us, would be a tragedy. To fight it within and without, to give goodness its rightful honor, to nurture what is right and pure in the world and in ourselves is to state clearly that we have hope, that we believe in and follow One who is Good.

It's a worthy battle.

The noise that Thanksgiving? I never DID figure out what it was.

15 comments:

tshsmom said...

This is just TOO weird!
I had the same revelation in '75 and, as you already know, I was 19 too. The circumstances of my revelation were slightly different, but the knowledge I gained was the same.

"For me it is difficult to march with the staccato rhythm of city life.."
Me too! Your description is incredible!

Cherie said...

Tshs, we are cut from the same cloth, methinks. I'd love to sit down with you one day and talk about all of this that we learned in 1975. Wouldn't that just be awesome!

Deanna said...

Beautiful writing, Cherie, and such wisdom! That it found you then was a great gift. Me? At nineteen, newly married and huddling alone the nights Tim worked. I got the fear and dread of Man part but had a long way to go to begin seeing how all that fit with reality. Shoulda been reading your blog.

Cherie said...

Thanks, Deanna. Yes, it was one of many gifts from above found along the path of my life. So excited at the prospect of finding more!

Nights alone with husband at work take a LOT of getting used to, I know. I wasn't 19 when it first began to be a part of my reality but was mid 30's with 3 kids. I remembered my lesson from 1975 - and slept with one eye open!

Thanks for the comment. Finished swimming yet?

Cecily said...

I forgot about what the noise might be I was so into your post and thoughts. Thanks Cherie. (1975. Hmmm I was born that year ;)

In answer to your question, the school year in Australia runs from February (or late January depending where you live) to December... usually we knock off a couple of days before Christmas. Most states run with 4 terms, Tasmania still has 3 terms (I personally prefer 4 terms but because February is the nicest weather month here when lots of people are still away I think they are reluctant to change it). Between each term is a two week holiday. Tassie gets an extra week at Easter, but in the other states, Easter falls in the term break. Makes it simpler having it all at the same time as the beginning and end of the calendar year don't you think? But our tax year is July to June. No idea why.

tshsmom said...

That would be truly AWESOME!! We gotta work on that!

We're either twins separated at birth, or all 19 yr olds discover the evils of humanity at that age.

Ann said...

Beautiful-- tenderly recalled, yet powerfully worded. I especially love one of the final paragraphs, beginning with "In the meantime..."

elixir said...

Thanks for sharing. I love the pictures into your life and thoughts. Such wisdom, humor, and eloquence.
I, at nineteen, somewhat too accustomed to the city rhythms, would have had a similar process about evil men, but been TERRIFIED of evil aliens, as I didn't really overcome my phobia of that until after I had Soren, even though I knew I didn't really believe in them, somehow I would forget that whenever I was alone in a dark isolated place.

Cherie said...

Tshs: You may be onto something there, that 19 is one of those 'milestone' ages where wisdom is gathered and evil is seriously contemplated.

Ann, thank you very much for writing out your response here and in such clear terms. You encourage me.

Elixer, I must confess that aliens were pretty, well, alien to my thought processes back in 1975. Hadn't seen many 'other worldly' type movies at that point and besides, my family and I lived so far off the beaten path that even an alien spaceship looking for a crop to circle would not have found us! :-D I'm glad Soren's arrival helped assuage your fear.........still, beware the dark isolated place! ; )

Thanks to all of you kind ladies for your thoughts on my thoughts! Appreciate it.

Cherie said...

Cecily - you are a GEM for answering my Ask A Tassie Tour Guide questions! Yes, it does seem simpler to have the school year coincide with the calendar year. So, as we face the beginning of our school year, you are about 2/3 of the way through yours. Very very interesting is life outside of these United States! Thanks for the thorough explanation.

(Born in 1975, huh. It was a very good year.)

Mike S said...

Cherie, I only visit blogs I LOVE, unless it's my daily check of one unfamiliar blog. Read yours now and added you to the daily 'blog reading' list. Glad you visited, otherwise I'd have been longer finding this gem:)

Cherie said...

An honor and a privilege, Mike, to be added to your list. Thanks a bunch!

Yours is now on my list of regular reads as well.

Leiselb said...

Wow. Just wow.

Beautiful writing. Profound thoughts. Tender reflection.....

Thank you for sharing.

A Life Uncommon said...

Deep post. I loved this line "I live with the knowledge that the terror of sin remains in our world right alongside goodness and will remain until all objective reality is replaced with an unbroken world". So true.

Cherie said...

Thanks, Leisel and Desiree, for your perspectives on this post, and for sharing them with me.