Friday, August 06, 2004

It's time for another edition of Things I've Learned.

Twilight and I were speculating the other day that everybody (or at least every roleplayer) at some point in his or her life encounters a character that things just click with. You see a movie, or you read a book, or maybe you're just daydreaming, and all of a sudden you encounter a person and say, That's it. That's who I want to be. And for the rest of your life, all of your characters are in some way a reflection of that character. I suppose it must be something like love at first sight.

I have been fortunate enough to encounter four such characters in my life, and I happen to be revisiting Honor Harrington at the moment. Specifically, over the last few nights I have been reading the scenes in which she begins to fall in love with the Earl of White Haven, and I find myself much more sympathetic to her plight the second time around. Specifically, I was struck with this passage:

Her nostrils flared as she inhaled deeply, and when she opened her eyes once more, they were calm. She reached out, mentally and emotionally, to her new command, and something deep inside her sighed in relief as she felt responsibility's familiar weight settle upon her shoulders ... and push her maddening preoccupation with other matters out of the front of her brain. It didn't cause her distractions to magically disappear, but at least it gave her a respite which might - if she was lucky - last long enough for those competing elements to subside into their proper places.

For me, that is another one of those click moments that epitomizes what I want to - what I must - be. I believe deeply in love, and in romance, and in the proper interplay of those two things - above all things, you might say, I believe in love. I find those thoughts a constant companion these days, and more and more I find myself confronting a deep-down longing for a family of my own. Not kids, not right away - a husband and wife are a complete family in my book. A family. A house to make a home. A legacy to construct which will stand as a bastion through the centuries for all the abused little girls and downtrodden little boys of the world. As Belle sings, I want adventure in the great wide somewhere ... Or in Honor's words:

It shocked and confused her, but she could no more have denied that desire than she could have stopped breathing, for she sensed the enormous potential singing unseen but inescapable between them. It wasn't sexual. Or rather, it was sexual, but only as a part of the whole, for it went far, far beyond any sensual attraction. It was a hunger that went so deep and subsumed so much of her that sexuality had to be a part of it. No one had ever before evoked such an intense sense of shared capability within her, and she sensed the way they complemented one another, the unbeatable team they could become.

That is the kind of longing that has been with me these past weeks, the need to find that kind of love and seize it, come hell or high water, and take it farther. And yet there is much to be done first, and I have a new command that settles down upon me and calms me.

As C.S. Lewis cogently observed, the Lord never repeats himself. I have, at last, the core-deep, foundation-of-the-universe knowledge that I must go to Stanford Law School, but that assurance did not come in the same way that it did when I discovered that I must attend Stanford undergrad. And it means something different, too. Unlike the last time the Lord called me forward to a distinct season of my life, I have stuff left over from the last season. I hesitate to call it baggage, because it's not a bad thing. I suspect, personally, it is a necessary thing. I am leaving behind me so many questions unanswered, so many things unknown that I might have been able to figure out if I had just a little more time.

And I think that is one of the big points I am supposed to take away from this. I do not plan my life. It is not up to me to figure things out to my heart's content. My life, if I know what's good for me, will not be directed under my sovereign authority. And besides leaving behind questions which may never be answered, I am moving forward into territory which I thought was going to be reasonably predictable and am discovering is not. Somewhere, deep down inside, I had assumed that most of my major character traits would be formed by now. They're not. I'm starting to care about systems, about societies and institutions and how everything fits together to impact the experience of the individual. I have always believed in the moral imperative to transcend your circumstances or die trying, but I am now starting to really care, deep down, about the fact that circumstance is not some monolith that must crush or be crushed.

If that can change in me, who knows what else may change in these next three years? And who knows where I will be when I pass the bar - for with this new thing the Lord is growing in me comes the first realistic, truly imaginable scenario in which I am not a well-paid attorney. Perhaps I will be, perhaps I will not - but I don't know.

Uncertainty behind, uncertainty before, and a longing beside me which does not look like it will be filled in the near future. And what does it all come down to? Holy. When I stop to pray about my life, all my worries and hopes and confusions stop dead in my mouth and all I can really utter is that: holy. The worries, the hopes, the confusions, the outright requests are all still there, but they really don't seem to matter compared to the holiness of God. I stand in the presence of holiness, in the presence of sovereignty, and nothing is really frightening any more. In a way I stand in the presence of the most frightening thing in existence, and that makes everything else seem petty by comparison. He is not safe, but in his presence I am safe. I know who it is who gives me the new command, and I trust him implicitly. I can tell that my law school experience is not going to be at all what I expected. But I can also tell that everything is settling into its proper place, because he is holy.

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