Innocence and Loss - Livin' the Good Life
Apr. 10th, 2009
10:17 pm - Innocence and Loss
As I ponder the biblical meanings of death and resurrection this "good friday" evening, I'm remembering Martin Luther's saying that "daily dying and rising with Christ" is a necessary part of being "born again". One needs to return to a life "centered in God". As we grow up, we become more and more centered in the world, focusing on how we can best fit into it. And so, almost from the beginning, we are drawn into the world's view of things instead of God's. At some point, Christians say, we need to re-turn ourselves back to God's view. They call that "being saved" or "turning from sin".
I always had a strong sense that my babies were still very close to God. No returning necessary. And I keenly felt that as my children grew, they might still be able to remember God. Therefore, I cherished and protected their innocence and tried to keep them safe from the "corrupted" thinking of this world for as long as I could. Of course, it was futile. They all lost their innocence eventually. But, it seemed to me that my efforts did keep them in a beautiful state of relative purity for an extended time. And that seemed like a worthy thing to try and do at the time. I treated them gently, because after all, they were just fresh from heaven and still tender. They were spiritual beings in human bodies. I encouraged their idealism. I aided their saving-the-world-super-hero play by making them costumes. I read them books with stories and themes and characters that kept directing their attention toward the higher things in life. And I think that today they understand and embrace the concept of the transformative power of "daily dying" to the worldly, "feeling-separated-from-God" self. But, as very young children, I think they unconsciously resisted taking on that "separated self" in the first place. I believe they were still hanging on to the hand of God, with one foot feeling around, testing out this world, but with the other foot still anchored firmly in heaven. I sure treasured that about them. So, when I came across this wonderful poem by Billy Collins today, I cried.
ON TURNING TEN
The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light-
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chickenpox of the soul.
You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.
But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solomnly
against the side of my treehouse,
and my bicycle never leaned against the side of the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.
This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.
It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I would shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.