Thursday, March 22, 2012

because i forgot to cherish, letter nineteen, hilary to preston

On Tuesdays and Thursdays around these parts, Preston and I write letters back and forth. We share the wonder of mystery, grace and our encounters with mercy. We hope to see you in the comments. Read the letter I'm responding to here.

Dear Preston,

Your last letter felt like you reached across the many miles that divide us, between our respective Macbook Pro screens, Skype or Twitter or social media, and tapped me on the shoulder. "Remember?" you seemed to be saying. "Remember what it means to cherish? Remember what it means to be in awe of one another?"

This Lent I keep forgetting to cherish. Last year I wrote about tripping and falling during Lent. It was apt at the time, the right metaphor in the right moment. But now it doesn't quite feel like that. I didn't trip - I didn't accidentally fail. I forgot. I willfully let my mind wander to other things, away from cherishing what I promised to cherish, away from the miraculous beautiful wild world I heard God tell me to pay attention to. I promised I'd read Rilke, and I haven't. I promised I'd write in my journal from Italy, and I won't put a pen to the page. I promised Him that I would look for Him in the world, and I've squinted my eyes, scanned the horizon, and gone back to my homework.

I forgot to cherish. I'm ashamed to admit it. I have been busy chasing things that now seem, as we draw frighteningly near to Easter, to fade in importance. I have been chasing approval, chasing accomplishment, chasing some kind of saving by a dazzling performance. I wanted to prove to God how good I've become. I wanted to dazzle Him.

And not only did I fail spectacularly this Lent, like all twenty one of them before, but in the midst of all that rustling and proving and defeating I forgot to cherish. I forgot to look at my wise and eager and lovely apartment mates and be awed by them. I forgot to listen for my friend's laugh, and the soft smile that follows it. I forgot how rare and how treasured are the moments of being known. I forgot to think about the communion of saints, and how the love of friends stretches across miles and time zones. I was busy this Lent, thinking of my piety, and along the way I left my ability to be amazed behind.

We read Gilead this week in the class I am a TA for. I can't tell you how it makes me feel; my words quiver against the strong heartbeat of that book. I only know that God is absurdly, wildly gracious to us in the words He sends through others. I think He knows what that book does to my heart; I think He keeps sending me there on purpose.

And the story catches me in the first moment. "I told you you might have a very different life from mine, and from the life you've had with me, and that would be a wonderful thing, there are many ways to live a good life. And you said, Mama already told me that. And then you said, Don't laugh! because you thought I was laughing at you. You reached up and put your fingers on my lips and gave me that look I never in my life saw on any other face besides your mother's. It's a kind of furious pride, very passionate and stern." - page 1.

How John Ames comes alive in the smallest moments! How I wish I remembered to be nearer to the soap bubbles in the sun, the laughter as we walk back from class, the eager faces, the miracle of water. How I hope I learn how to taste the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. How I long to cherish with words. It isn't just how she writes, though goodness knows she writes beautifully. It's more that she reminds us to cherish.

And in Lent, I need reminding. How the goodness of the Lord is visible here, at the end of our senior years of college, in our still young lives, in all that lies ahead of us. How He cherishes us, cherishes this world. He keeps inviting us to cherish it, too.

I'm praying that you are filled with awe at the people in your world, and that you are given the gift of enough time to be in awe a little longer.



  1. thank you for this beautiful reminder hilary. i love this passage from Gilead: "I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave--that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm" (246) - I want to remember to see the precious things put in my hands. thank you for reminding me of this.   

  2. Thank you, Alyssa. And yes, yes - that quote is beautiful and true in all the best ways. I hope we can always remind each other of this.


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