Monday, December 26, 2011

Bound and Freed

I read recently some interesting article about faith that reminded me of my Latin language skills, recalling the base for the term religion: religio-- to retie, to bind. This idea of re-tying, binding yourself to something--like the climber who adjusts carabiners while scuffling over the sheer face of rock--struck me as especially appropriate an image during Advent (or at any time the practice of faith and contemplation leads us to look inside ourselves). Of course there's the meaning of binding oneself, of being bound, which connotes negatively, of course. I don't see this so much as the deeply personal experience of free will in the climbing that is human life. I tie myself back to God again and again, even as I fall or slip in the climb. In fact, I am utterly grateful for each carabiner, the length of rope--moments of grace, depth of mercy--which the relationship I cherish with God affords me.

In the quiet stillness I find the spirit enters, creates realization in my heart and mind, and opens me up for the climb. Instead of worrying about the heights to which I can go, I take in the view. I listen. I grow, both secure and challenged, in awe of the possibilities which this binding of my soul frees me to experience.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


The other night my husband asked me what my favorite Christmas movie was, and I had to answer the George C. Scott rendition of A Christmas Carol. His Scrooge is the Scroogiest, and the whole atmosphere of the filming accentuates the Dickensian: the ghostliness, the spiritual, the festive.

The story itself is filled with the idea of mercy and compassion as the true spirit of Christmas. The curmudgeon's conversion reminds us that even the most lost soul has a home to come to. In my umpteenth time watching the movie, I saw in a new way how Scrooge chooses to move forward during the conversion process, even when he is afraid and resistant.

Isn't it that fear which often keeps us from confessing, as Scrooge does on his grave at the end of the story, faults and misgivings? When he says "Why show me this if I am past all hope?" In this hopeful statement is that bit of grace, a moment of clarity--he becomes self-aware that the horror of what he sees he might change by changing his ways. Even the smallest possibility for change becomes a balm, a move toward an altered life. In a way, this reads as a spiritual mandate as much as the social one Dickens intended. Our own personal conversions should compel us toward one another in this same way.

Here at the end of the year and in the midst of my favorite spiritual season, Advent, I'm drawn to the way I have now experienced significant life passages with each season of the calendar. These passages have lead to huge conversion moments for me: Spring was when Tra and I fell in love; Winter was when I miscarried the precious little one we'd hoped for; Summer was when Isabella Sophia became the fulfillment of our love and hope; and now Fall has become the season I will associate with finding our first house. In truth, we have already created a home in our hearts. Now we have a bigger space to fill with the love we've been so generously given.