You read and recognize through lines. The lines of the narratives connect in you and seem true.
Recently I've been reading Christian Wiman's My Bright Abyss and Dennis Lehane's World Gone By.
Wiman is a poet who is living with cancer and charting a journey into God. He speaks so eloquently of the "burn of being" that animates the reflective among us to relentlessly pursue our work and often leaves our faces scrunched with headaches.
He also speaks of the soul in one of the only ways I have ever found interesting. Instead of the supposedly hallowed piece of a tri-partate person he envisions soul as the fabric whose threads bind us to one another, ourselves and God. This collective soul, which I can hear St. Paul calling the body, I can get behind. This soul, unlike my fragile self, I can imagine becoming holy.
As I read Lehane's stories of Joe Coughlin and Jimmy McNulty (yup, Dennis was a staff writer on the only Dickensian sprawl I've ever truly cared about) I see people like me who burn with being and long for soul. Coughlin and McNulty burn beautifully before the idols of the work and their singular devotion leads them to regularly slip the Baltimore knot and head off on their own journeys.
Yet in the midst of their burn, these characters yearn for the connection. Coughlin loves and laments his family while McNulty searches for connections that will both simultaneously recognize his intelligence and call him on his shit. They burn with being and yearn for being bound.
Perhaps the Jesus painted on the liturgical canvas of Palm Sunday is also a portrait of this tension. We look upon the Savior who is afraid of being burned down and yearning to cover us as chicks under his wings.
We recognize your tensions Jimmy and Joe. We meet you here Lord.
Jeff Gentry is a husband, father of two and a jaded optimist who lives in Beverly, MA. He is a former bi-vocational minister and dedicated Episcopal layman who assists people with disabilities as they pursue more independent, dignified lives.