but Noah found grace

Monday’s are generally difficult, but lately it seems they’ve been thick and heavy; heavier.  Actually, a lot of Thursdays and Wednesdays have also felt like Mondays.

Today, in particular, has been laden with all sorts of things a Monday is generally incapable of containing.  It’s not a good recipe.  Waking up with the distinct, disturbing phantom of a sneaking suspicion that you’re overdrawn from relationship bank accounts, and being certain that the “life” savings account is near zero, is no way to start a new week of responsibilities.

Noah must have woken up on the same side of the bed I did.  Noah is only 12.  That’s not right; a kid shouldn’t wake up feeling the world is demanding more of him than he has.

Renee called me a little after 9 this morning.  I like it when her number shows up in my office caller ID.  It’s nice to know somebody cares, especially on Monday.  As I recognize the phone number, in that second, I debate in my head whether I can talk to her about my day and how the world is turning the wrong direction for some reason.

“Hi, how are you?” I ask.

“Okay, but I’m having trouble with Noah,” she replies.

Hmmm.  I guess I won’t divulge my internal seismic pressure.  If she thinks Noah’s trouble . . .

She explains how Noah has a lot to do, and he’s struggling already.  She asks if I can help move him along.

Over the next 20 minutes, Noah and I talk through the stuff.  I am completely empathetic and understanding on this day, unusually so, and Noah responds, and it’s cathartic for me.

Noah has 12 things on his list today:

Clean the rat’s cage.  Science.  Colorado History.  Logic.  Language.  Math.  Word Study.  Literature.  Spelling.  Bible Study.  Planner update.  Read a library book.

How is it right that a 12-year-old has so much?

We talk about the rats, and how they stink and how cleaning their cage is a pain and maybe we should get rid of them and get a hermit crab instead.

We talk about how he likes Colorado History and how the homework is easiest.  His voice breaks when he talks about Science because it’s so hard and he doesn’t really understand it right now.

We talk about the things we’d rather be doing.  We talk about how much Monday’s suck.

We prioritize Noah’s list for the day.  We plan a break after he gets past number 6.

As we talked, I looked around my desk and set a few priorities for myself.  Noah unwittingly talked me back from the edge of a totally wasted day in the malaise of self-loathing, confusion and despondency.  He didn’t even know what he had done.

Still though, waves of something wash over me in some moments, and my internal voice breaks.  What is it that can make a middle-aged man choke back emotion without identifying itself?

The quote from my day-plannner notes page today says:  “Never hurry; take plenty of exercise; always be cheerful, and take all the sleep you need, and you may expect to be well.”  Apparently, a fellow named James Freeman Clarke said or wrote those words.  I don’t know what world he lived in, but he would have been a foreigner in mine.  It’s a nice sentiment, but I want to ask James, “So, what should I expect in the absence of that prescription?  Unwell?  That’s what I’ve got, James.  Unwell.”

I guess James was right.  I need to slow down, exercise, smile, sleep more.  Got it.

So, during a nonsense meeting, in which I had no valid input and nothing of substance to take away, I made a list surrounding James’s quote about the things that are disturbing me today – the things that are playing a violent game of king of the hill in my head.  None of them are work things, really, but at work is where I’m thinking about them.

34 things and people.  I don’t think it’s exhaustive, but it’s current.  Jesus is on the list.

After the meeting, I called home to check on Noah.  Renee says he’s doing great, moving right along, and he even helped prepare lunch.  He told me that he’s on number 5 – the rat’s cage cleaning – and he feels good.

I got another cup of coffee and ate some peanut butter from a spoon, and searched my iPhone for music that would respond to turmoil.  It’s difficult to find the right song for the moment sometimes.  I’m not sure the song exists.  There are glimmers of that song in other songs, like an aroma left behind when it sneaked through the melody for a moment.  It soothes a bit, like the pain of a massage on sore muscles – inflicting a painful pleasure of its own and never lasting long enough.

Who are we?  What are we?  Where are we going?  What, if any of this, matters?  Am I doing what I should be doing?  How do I know?  How do I stop doing the things I shouldn’t be doing?  How do I know?  Why does it matter?

Jesus, how is it between us?

The only lyric that keeps coming to mind is from U2, a band I hardly know:  “I want to run.  I want to hide.  I want to tear down these walls that hold me inside.”  What the heck does that mean?

Somewhere, something just beyond the naming, something elusive to my vision, but present, ever-present, stirs an ache in shadowy places inside me.  It would be best if it could be ignored, I think.  Can I kill it?  What is that?  Go away.  Stop disturbing me.  I have these things, and you’re a distraction.  You’re the wind blowing through the leaves of a tree visible only when I have the strength to pull myself up and peer through the bars of my cell window.  You’re a nag.  You taunt me.  I can’t have you.  I can’t come out and play.  I don’t know how.  You hide.  If I can’t have you, why are you here?  Go away!  Then the nagging, unidentified reply, “I’m not only outside your cell, I’m in you, in the cell walls, in the tray slid under the bars.”

Does everyone hear/see/think this garbage?

What does that mean, anyway?  Is it good?  Is it evil?  Is it just my imagination?  Am I making stuff up?  Why can’t I just be normal?

Far too dramatic.  Nonsensical romantic notions. This is silly.  Stop.  Work.  Ignore.

Then, another song-aroma, a pang in my gut.  A longing.  A loathing.

Dang Mondays.

Thank God there’s Noah.  At least there’s Noah.  He should be on his break by now.  He’s making progress today.  Tomorrow’s Tuesday.  Maybe this will make more sense on Tuesday.

8 thoughts on “but Noah found grace”

  1. I’d love to get disturbed more often–especially on a day as mundane as a Monday. “A longing. A loathing.” That is sweet. That can encapsulate many of my feelings here in Bangladesh–a place where we actually do have bars on all the windows because poor people are expected to steal a lot… Peace, my bro. Love you much… Thanks for the moving words.

  2. This totally touched my heart……I relate & I wish I didn’t! You are normal….we are all normal & broken….thankfully Jesus knows how to fix us….

  3. Minutes before reading this, I wrote the word ‘subterfuge’ and it’s definition on my homeschooling whiteboard. Not for my kids’ instruction either. Interesting. Guess I can relate a little. =)

    1. Jessica – I had to look up the word subterfuge to be sure I understood, but yes, you are certainly relating. Reminds of David Crowder lyrics from You’re Everything:

      Why do You shine so?
      Can a blind man see?
      Why do you call?
      Why do You beckon me?
      Can the deaf hear
      The voice of love?
      Would You have me come?
      Can the cripple run?
      Are You the one?

      Yes, interesting.

  4. i always sigh when i read your posts, dale. your words often help the whispers of my own evasive longings stir up and begin to take on vague shapes before settling down into restless voids again. i experience something like a cultural re-entry when i leave here and go back to my daily concerns, and i often feel like mondays contain an element of that same rude shock. even when i remember to bring jesus out of my sabbath and into my workweek, i still feel the loss of the freeing space the weekend creates in friendships.

    i don’t know what kind of music would have connected to you, but the struggle – as if from a cell – puts me in mind of lyrics from shane & shane’s “wounded”:

    why don’t you carry away my heart?
    you have stolen, and left here broken.
    why don’t you carry away my heart?
    already taken, awaken, my heart.

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