Thursday, May 27, 2010

Why Margery? Why Me?

“Those who do not remember the past
are condemned to repeat it.”
George Santayana, The Life of Reason

I have always been fascinated by the past. As a child, I loved reading books set in other centuries. I was intrigued by how different yet the same everything was. I went on archaeological digs with my father, searching for Indian arrowheads and Civil War relics in the woods near my north Georgia home. I was mesmerized by old objects. Someone held this bottle in his hands 200 years ago. I wondered what stories the bottle…the bullet…the belt buckle…could tell.

Eventually, I became a History major at Emory. (For those from outside the region, Emory bills itself as the “Harvard of the South.” Duke and Vanderbilt are supposed to be the “Yale” and “Princeton.”) Actually, I majored in Frat Party 101, but I faked my way through a BA, and went on to earn an MRS. (I can give you my sister-in-law’s cell phone number so she can explain to you how I managed to accomplish both of these achievements. Call me. ) On the rare occasions that I made it to class, I was drawn particularly to European, specifically English, history. (I wrote my thesis on events beginning in the Medieval period: “The Percys of Northumberland.” Say it in a pompous English accent.) I’d actually get up for those classes most of the time, unlike, say, my “Science for the Non-Science major” course on “Environmental Science.” (Everything would have been okay there, except for the fact that I thought I heard the professor say that the exam was optional.) Oh well, it all worked out in the end. Kind of.

Unfortunately, that sort of thing was typical. It appears that I have never in my life (until recently, anyway) been able to learn anything the easy way. A strong-willed child, I always tested the limits and had to learn things for myself. This is a most unfortunate trait. (Evidently, it is familial. I’ve had to live through it with one of my children, and now I see it in my delectably adorable, but feisty, grandson.)

How wonderful it would have been to learn from the experience of others, rather than only through firsthand failings, foibles, and faux pas.

How sweet it would have been to profit from the lessons of the past.

Sadly, I have learned the vast majority of Life Lessons the hard way.

But I believe that those are the lessons that should not be wasted. Suffering…in any form…should not be wasted. It doesn’t have to be.

It is possible for some… a minority, obviously…but some…to learn from the mistakes of others. To profit from their life experiences. To heed their sage advice and counsel.

…As I have finally been able to learn and profit from people like Margery Kempe. And her more stereotypically ‘saintly’ contemporary, Dame Julian of Norwich (Or her more worldly contemporary, Chaucer.) And from St. Theresa and Augustine and Francois Fenelon and Brother Lawrence and Amy Carmichael. And Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky and Dickens and C.S. Lewis and Tolkien.

And my friend Gwen.

I’ve learned life-lessons from people like Hannah Whitall Smith and Hannah Hurnard. From Oswald Chambers and Simone Weil and Brennan Manning. And from….

Well, don’t worry about it if you’ve never heard of any of these people. Stick with Margery long enough, and you will.

Because I feel like I’ve been given a divine directive.

I’ve heard a call.

It’s something like, “Kim. Come on. Seriously. Don’t let it all go to waste. It means something. Share what you’ve learned during your +half century on earth.”

Even if your kids won’t listen to you.

Maybe their friends will.

When I was first beginning to listen, a beautiful older friend used to say to me, “Honey, I’ve got a PhD in experience.” A dramatic underachiever for most of my years, I can echo that self-accolade at long last.

Finally…the hard way…I feel as if I have received a diploma from the School of Productive Suffering.

I’ve lived a lot. I’ve learned a lot.

I’ve been hurt a lot in the process.

Fortunately, I’ve also received a great deal of healing and quite extraordinary supernatural comforting for whatever pain I’ve experienced. Whether external or internal…of outside origin, or self-inflicted.

And I feel a compelling to obey the injunction in II Corinthians 1:4 to “Comfort with the comfort I have received.”

It’s really not optional.

I’ve received comfort. I must dispense it.

No choice. No constipated Christianity.

Flows in, gotta flow out…

No hogging the good stuff all for yourself.

Also, there’s this:

“Tell the older women to behave as those who love the Lord should. They must not gossip about others or be slaves of wine. They must teach what is proper, so the younger women will be loving wives and mothers.” (Titus 2: 3-4 CEV)

Gotta confess….I’m still working on the wine part.

(I hear you, Kathie Lee.)

Well, I guess the “behaving” part, too.

We’re all “works in progress,” right?

But old ladies have earned the right to misbehave every now and then. Wear purple dresses with red hats and act silly in public and all that.

Still, I am told to “teach what is proper” to the younger women.

(Quess we’ll eventually have to arrive at a definitive definition of “proper.”)

Finally, I must close by telling you that this is actually a long-held dream, fulfilled, at last, as a backdoor blessing.

Several years ago, I felt that I was at a crossroad in life. Coming out of a lengthy period of bad health, I was feeling useless and under-utilized. I was trying to figure out what my next step should be. I was burdened by trends I saw developing in my children’s generation. I shared my heart, vision, and concerns with our former youth pastor. He said, “Kim, you need to write a blog.” “What’s a blog?” I asked. He tried to explain.

I forgot all about it.

Until recently, when I realized that even when we are slow or reluctant or immobilized, God’s purposes have a way of fulfilling themselves in us, nevertheless.

A “web-log” was born in spite of me, in circumstances I would not have chosen. Like a ship’s log, it charted our family's passage through stormy waters.

But now we are in somewhat calmer seas, and it is time to return to the original calling.

Like the Delaney sisters, it’s finally time for me “to have my say.”

Back in the eighties, I gave my grandmother one of those quipy little decorative pillows that were popular then. It said, “Avenge yourself. Live long enough to be a problem to your children.”

Watch out, Middle Child.

Mama’s getting ready to let it rip.


Oh, one more thing: My husband recently gave a talk at church where he told a sanctuary full of people that he was married to a combination of Billy Graham and Lady Gaga. If you hang around long enough, maybe you can help me figure out what he means by that.


Laurel said...

HA! We have the strong-willed thing in spades. A close relative of mine was in some very intensive therapy and the counselor called a meeting with the family members. Her succinct description of troubled family member was as follows:

"I know y'all are dog people so you will understand what I mean when I say this. She's like a really good, really smart bird dog who won't settle down. Sometimes there's nothing left to do but shoot 'em so they'll learn."

Allison said...

I am so glad that you are following the Lord's leading and desiring to shepherd the younger women(although you could totally pass as my age;)) I will be following you, because you are such an encouragement to me. I look forward to your writings and after every sentence I am like, "Amen, sister. Amen."

Jesus loves losers. I am a total loser, but Jesus loves me and that is enough. I love that Jesus didn't heal and save all the people that had it together. It was the people who didn't have it together. Who knew they didn't have it together.

Thank you for your willingness to be real and open. Thank you:)

Trish said...

with EVERYTHING going on in your life . . .thank you for taking the time to bless my life.

Rebecca said...

Having known you from Jr. High through, roughly, our earlier married lives, it was nostalgic to read about your college years. I, of course, went to UGA and had different experiences, but was often the most headstrong of my family, too. I do remember all those school years how eloquent and intelligent you were.
As to the dog people reference...I am a bit disturbed by that (not Kim's comment) I volunteer at a no-kill shelter - we pluck dogs off death row, so our view is rehabilitation and teaching people to honor dogs. Volunteered at Best Friends last summer. So, I would say, let the bird dog run until she drops and is ready to listen.

Anonymous said...

"Crying is all right in its own way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later and then you still have to do something."
C.S. Lewis

I'm sure the tears are still there...but thanks for taking the spoils from the enemy...asking God to bring good out of the bloody battle...thank you so very much for "doing something!"

By the way, that grand-boy is adorable!!

Anonymous said...

A combination of Billy Graham and Lady Gaga sounds awesome. You would be a flamboyant, free thinking, evangelical. Your husband sounds like he has a great sense of humor.
I am at that place you were talking about with the youth minister. What do I do with myself now? Hmmmm I am about to have an empty nest. I feel like I am on the edge of something.
God gave you a gift of expressing yourself with your beautiful words. I LOVE LOVE LOVE to read your blog.

Cecilia said...

Hi Kim
I'm turning into a regular! Thanks for writing and keep it up! (Always was a regular, but now at least you know it... :/ )

Cheri said...

Frederick Buechner said, "The place God has for you is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."

There is a need for the world to hear of God's faithfulness, his character and his sense of humor. And, it's obvious you know Him well enough to have much to share about Him and that you love doing it. We all sense your "gladness."

So, this must be the place God has for you.

For a long time, the fear of being misunderstood kept me from that "place." Because our experiences are personal, and very intimate, not everyone will get it. God has reminded me over and over again that it isn't my responsibility to make people understand. It's His.

Another quote, this one from Soren Kierkegard, "We must venture to act in accordance with the truth, venture right into the middle of actuality. Risk and then God will truly come. . . God sits and watches to see if there is one single person who will venture."

Our world needs Margery. So, rave on! And, God will truly come!