Sunday, December 7, 2008

advent. and wanting to find hope in the lonely exile.

I recently read an article in New York Magazine that quoted one of my favorite short stories: "In J. D. Salinger’s 1952 short story “De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period,” the main character observes that wishing to be alone “is the one New York prayer that rarely gets lost or delayed in channels, and in no time at all, everything I touched turned to solid loneliness.” Interestingly enough, the article's thesis is that the aching loneliness that many associate with urban life is actually a myth.

Nonetheless, the Salinger quote got me thinking about the way people in New York interact. The great thing about living in this city is that it is nearly impossible to completely ignore the brokenness, whether that is in the hungry and homeless, the consumerism or the selfishness. Yes, I think this is a great thing. It is so easy to live an isolated existence where real need seems distant, impersonal and far beyond our thoughts and daily lives.

I wrestle so much with the broken state of humanity. Its immensity weighs on my heart and traps my thinking. Today's message and music at church, though, offered a glimpse of hope--of the truth that gets eclipsed way too often in my mind:

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

The music in the first lines of the verse seem mournful themselves. I wish I could type the way the violin and classical bass sounded this morning. Lonely exile seems is not as it should be. The last two lines have so much hope, and yet they still have a tinge of the current reality of brokenness.

So. Despite my sometimes-tendency to be a homebody and hibernate in my apartment (especially in the winter) I want to be an active waiter in this advent season: knowing that ultimately there will no lonely exile and doing what I can so that people don't feel the lonely exile quite so much.

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