Thursday, April 5, 2007

On Faith and "East of Eden"

Liza Hamilton: immigrated with her husband to the Salinas Valley of California from Ireland, bore a huge family, the epitome of the “no nonsense” woman. She pursues her life with militant regularity: cooking, cleaning, reading her Bible.

Samuel Hamilton: a thinker. Cheerful. An animated storyteller with a listening ear. Samuel laughs loudly and feels the life in his bones deeply. The only regularity in Samuel is that neither his land or his brilliant, patented ideas are fruitful.

When one of their daughters dies, each one reacts in a completely different way. To Liza, death is a part of life. She feels no true attachment to anything on earth. Though naturally sad, she continues her life the way she always had: people still must eat, and they still make messes. Samuel is completely wrecked. He has no idea how to handle or comprehend the loss. From this time on, he is a little less himself. Though an old man, he starts to “seem” old. He laughs only for others’ sake.

At my book club, we were discussing our initial hatred of Eliza and how cold her laughless, practical life seemed to us. But at the end of the conversation, it turned to admiration and a declaration of her amazing strength, in light of her daughter’s death. My friend asked, “well, isn’t that what great faith is? Not having any attachment to this world?” We all slowly nodded our heads. Walking down the street afterward, though, I couldn’t get Eliza as the model for great faith out of my head. All I want is faith that runs deep, but I want nothing to do with her passionless life!

In “Mere Christianity” C.S. Lewis wrote: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” This concept changed my life. The deep longings that I feel to be—quite literally—a part of the beauty I find in front of me or to draw the depth out of some piece of music or to live inside a great story I’ve read show me that I am longing for things unattainable in this world. I learned I am not longing for the travel or the sunset or trees—not the thing itself, but for eternity: all its beauty and fullness and depth that are completely satisfying. This alone completely reordered my life. So, yes, Liza. Heaven is home.

Why, then, am I so drawn to Samuel? I think it’s because he exemplifies what Jesus meant when he said “Thy Kingdom come.” Samuel brings Life (with a capital “L,” my dear Springboro ladies) into his corner of the world. Samuel draws out the laughter. He draws people into the story. People walk away different. Samuel listens. He calls people out to be better versions of themselves. Yes, hope in eternity. But listen. It on the wind here.

I want faith that incorporates both of the Hamiltons.
I want to place my hope in heaven. I don’t want to be completely wrecked when the world breaks my heart.

But at the same time I believe that the story of redemption starts here.

I want to be a part of that.

I want to see more of the Kingdom in my corner of the world.

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