“All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, ‘Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!’ This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end” (2).
I recently hurt a dear friend of mine — rather unintentionally, though that’s commonly how it happens, especially with people we care about — truly, I’ve hurt my dearest friends and they me, it’s almost what makes us so close, the grace we’ve given one another. Yet, when I hurt those I care about, I resent myself, I ruminate over my wrong and cannot drive myself from feeling worse and worse about it (and if I don’t know exactly what it is I did, it’s even worse, far worse), and this makes me evermore lonely. Loneliness makes me nauseous; it makes me anxious, afraid of driving others away, and clingy. I become depressed when I go much longer than a day without people around, and I fear loneliness finding me again as it passes from my side. There is nothing quite as dreadful as loneliness. The peak of Christ’s human experience, the most clear and precise example of His human nature, was a cry of two words, “lama sabachthani” (why have you forsaken me?) (3). Not only was He forsaken by His Father to death, but He was forsaken by those He held dearest.
A few years ago I changed my last name; I needed a fresh start and a distance from my past. I suppose you could say, I turned two, for I knew I had to grow up, had to move into what I am to be, rather than what I was. I chose my late grandmother’s madden name, which few others in my family share, and which also means I do not share the same name as either my mother or father (or brother even), both of whom are divorced and therefore unmatched in names as well. So, apart from a few cousins and distant relatives, I am unique in name — at least among my family. That is, of course, to say, that I have little family left — my grandparents all gone, most my uncles gone, most my aunts distanced away, to only leave my immediate family, who, besides my mom, are a bit distant from me.
I am of the lost boys,
The wandering souls,
The forgotten travelers
Of our weary earth.
Yet though we wander
Through this vacant way,
We are not always found alone,
Wherever we go, to and fro,
Across our weary earth.
We find the ones we love,
Wandering about, to and fro,
Amongst our weary earth.
The wandering, I suppose, are much like the mad. They seem to find themselves lost from time to time, quite unaware of whence they came and to whom they’ve met, yet every once and a while, they find the odd folk sitting across their way, whom they love quite dearly. This is, of course, where all those quotes on tea being the best of gifts and the best of anything, besides books of course, come from. For tea, you see, is a gift of love, a gift which is quite the joy when you’ve been wandering about for so very long, and then, you happenstance, come upon your dearest all sipping away at some odd table of sorts. I quite love giving gifts, putting effort and thought into something for someone I care about, yet feel so ever odd receiving gifts for the most part. This is mostly because the best thing anyone can give me is themselves, their time and effort to be in my company; my best of friends are generous in that, while my worst are not. To say it simply, I suppose, my best of friends sooth my loneliness, rather than attempt to buy my love. It does of course help that I simply love their company, love them, for my loneliness would not change if I didn’t. It wouldn’t also be far fetched to say, I suppose, that my best of friends sit while sipping a cup of tea or two with me from time to time, but that is rather silly to mention — I digress.
I have three friends in particular to whom I love dearly and would do quite nearly anything for; I consider them, in as true a sense as any biological bond, my family, my brother and two sisters. Among those three, with my mom, are the closest people in my life. I have found that family is not necessarily who you are related to, but merely who you love and hold dear through familial care, binding one another together. Through love, not by blood, I have sisters for the first time. Through love, not by blood, I have another brother. Through love, though still by blood, His blood, I have a Father ever caring and providing for me as His son. By the law of love, family is made of lost boys and girls.
“He replied to the man, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ‘Here is my mother and here are my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’” (6).
It is a shame we so often misuse, overuse this as a Church; claiming all to be our brothers and sisters in Christ, yet ignoring their cries, their lives, and forgetting they even exist outside a momentary exchange of words and a cliché claim of false family.
Genuinity is a rare thing, especially in relationships. We seem to get this idea that everything must always be well and pretty, that friends of anything but pleasure are to be shoved to the side and forgotten. Genuinely holding onto each other, genuinely loving one another for who they are, and not lashing out at them with every fault, to which they are well aware of, is rare. Rather, instead, we judge, we hate, we criticize, we do not forgive, and we hate each other more and more and more. Genuinely loving each other, biting our tongues and loving one another in a deep and true form is far too often given up for the sake of ease and effortless peace. We have created a pax-amori in how we go about loving one another, given up at any moment that strenuous circumstances arise.
Friendship requires effort, requires intentionality — so does family. Any relationship requires this, for without, it withers and dies, decaying into nothing. My primary love language is quality time, which means I become lonely rather easily, yet what this drives of me is an effort to be intentional with my relationships. While I am not perfect in it, and still have much to learn, it keeps a certain effort flowing through me. Love requires effort, requires one to be intentional in what they do, in their communication, their gifts, their time with one another. If love did not require effort, then love would be worth nothing; we would simply live life, carelessly stumbling into one another on occasion. Family, friends, relationships of all sorts, love of all sorts, require our intentions, efforts, and care, and this gives us hope to live.
Family and all love gives us a stream of hope. Christ looked down to the disciple whom he loved, standing nearby, and he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” and to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” (7) because He was offering love to bind the ones He left behind, to join together the family He had built. He was giving, as a thoughtful gift of care, hope to people who, for three days, would be utterly hopeless — who would feel abandoned, forgotten, and even forsaken, by the one they came to call Lord. Missing is miserable, yet not being missed is absolutely awful, feeling forsaken by the one you assured, “you know that I love you” (9). To hold people ever so dear, and yet your absence mean nothing to them, even to believe this, whether true or not, is far more miserable than anything. It is the thing of suicides, the misery of orphaned loneliness. Christ joined the twelve as family, in love, to provide an enduring hope for three hopeless days; Christ joined the Church, in love, to provide an enduring hope until He comes again.
Hope is fundamentally the most important feature of life, for without it, nothing else quite matters. It would be like walking into a room without any actual purpose — might as well turn back out if there’s no reason to remain. Of course you may find a distraction or two, perhaps a reason to be there for a time, but at the end of the day you’ll simply be in a room without any purpose to it. Hopelessness is rather boring in that matter, as there’s not much of anything to do, besides standing about waiting for it to rain, complaining that our feet are dry, just so we may have the rain to talk of, until it wears off. The hopeless are much like a bratty child in that regard I suppose, always looking about to find a distraction to keep them entertained for a moment, until they become bored and run off to their mother, begging for a new toy of some sort. Ruminating over our pain is about the same kind of distraction; for tears can only flow for so long until they start drying about our cheeks. Hope keeps us sane in the silence, in the waiting and uncertain wandering. Hope is what makes us truly “adult,” gives us the patience we need in life: to travel a million miles of the same trees and hills in order that we might come upon that western horizon of what we hope for and await, to slay the dragon enthroned about our home. Hope maintains the imaginative child while shedding the frivolous anxieties of our unsatisfied desires, of our hurt hearts. Hope is the only thing worth truly living for and holding onto, for hope gives us a reason to enter into that room and make it our home for a time being, for awhile while we wait.
There is a spot beside my door, in my room, where I keep a mirror hanging; while there is nothing particularly special about the mirror, I keep pictures of a few of my family (so to speak), the ones I’m bound to in love, pinned about it: my sisters, my brother. The pictures make me feel human, they make me feel alive, remind me that there is a world bound with love outside my door, which removes all loneliness from my bones. For, you see, that is what family does — family reminds us of Christ, reminds us that we are worth dying for, worth loving, worth caring about, that we are God’s lost boys and girls, given a new name and adopted into a home, a family for eternity. No matter the shape the family takes, that is what they do for us all together, as bearers of Christ.
“As you look at Wendy, you may see her hair becoming white, and her figure little again, for all this happened long ago. Jane is now a common grown-up, with a daughter called Margaret; and every spring cleaning time, except when he forgets, Peter comes for Margaret and takes her to the Neverland, where she tells him stories about himself, to which he listens eagerly. When Margaret grows up she will have a daughter, who is to be Peter’s mother in turn; and thus it will go on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless” (2).
Peter Pan on a Branch, Arthur Rackham, 1906-1912
Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, J. M. Barrie, 1906
To Bethlehem – A Christmas Masque, Arthur Rackham, 1931
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Arthur Rackham, 1907
Matthew 12:48-50, ESV
John 19:27, ESV
Rain Rain Go Away, Arthur Rackham, 1913
John 21:15-17, ESV
The Meeting of Oberon and Titania, Arthur Rackham, 1905
I’m not one to share music, but I’m going to in this case; enjoy: https://open.spotify.com/track/65ddOjGzH9RRarit04CjTy