It’s like Shanghai was this oasis, and now I’m in the desert, but God wants me to learn to thrive in the desert. – William le Bleu
I’m very bad about holding onto things. At certain points we’re supposed to head out, hit the water, and move on. I tend to connect very deeply to people and to the places where they are. It is the best way to do life, I think, but it makes it difficult to leave. I wouldn’t have it any other way, don’t get me wrong; I don’t want easy goodbyes. I don’t want there to be little to miss, because that means nothing noteworthy transpired. One of my favorite things about Paul is how deeply he connected to people, how intimate he was in his friendships. Note the many times he writes longingly to the people in the communities he addresses, talking about how badly he wants to see them and catch up with them. In one instance he even sends someone over the river and through the woods just for an update from the people he is missing, how they are doing! And it’s not like it was easy to get to grandma’s house back then. (The guy he sent was probably super irked when Facebook came along!)
But there is a shadow to many good things. When the proper time comes, for a while, I live with one foot on the dock and the other on the ship. Then, even once I board, I find that, curiously, I am still tied to the dock. While the rest were sleeping, and perhaps even while I myself was in slumber, I’ve tied ropes to the shore. As we move farther out into the water, each time one is cut, or frays, or I have to cut one myself, I find another, and another, letting me out only so far each time. I clutch them, my hand hidden behind my back so that no one can tell. Often I hide it even from myself. We must embark, we must proceed, I know this; but, still, I hold on. It’s difficult to say if I have ever truly let go of the shore and trusted myself to God’s breath which guides the ships to and fro upon the waters while Leviathan plays underneath. Even now, I’ve found that I’m still connected to the last stop, and I’ll never make it to the next one as long as these ropes remain.
Treasure is best kept stored safely in the heart rather than bound to the end of a fraying rope, grasped white-knuckled. It settles inside, more true to itself, and in being left behind becomes more beautiful. My way would watch each rope fray until I am left to drift, the rudder and wheel and sails long ignored, the destination further than it should have been. (Think also – when the proper time comes, we must leave that there may be room in the harbor for the new guests to dock, and that our sails might not block out the sun which is due to shine on the others in the bay!) There are a couple of very dear ropes which I am hesitant to let go of, sad to watch float away as they meld slowly into the line at the blurring of the waters and the skies. There, the lights of the old town still flicker. I can still smell the flowers, sweet as the spring rolled in, lighthearted and merry, caught in the romance of the air. (Smells are the first and last pages of memories.)
If my heart is heavy, it is because the treasures soaking it are rich, and dense. I’ve heard rumors of the lands which lay ahead. There are wonders of which I cannot speak, lands so beautiful that upon seeing them the air itself breaks into song, and the music is so true and beautiful that it can only be heard as echoes in the dreams of deepest slumber. It was a wonderful harbor; in fact, these last few have been magnificent. But it is the proper time, and across the sea, a beautiful sunrise is on its way.
“So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed…”
“and all were baptized… in the cloud and the sea…”
“There the ships go to and fro, and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.”
“For the coastlands shall hope for me, the ships of Tarshish first, to bring your children from afar, their silver and gold with them, for the name of the Lord your God, for the Holy One of Israel, because he has made you beautiful.”