Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Trish #17

Well, Trish has her own room.

She ate a little bit of food today (fed herself as a matter of fact! Did it very slowly, but nonetheless ...)

She's still a bit confused but sometimes but that's not all bad. For example, today when the nurse asked her to look at me and say my name, she paused a bit and then said, "sweetheart, his name is sweetheart." That may sound corny to you but it sure sounded good to me!

Since Trish's aneurysm ruptured, the events of each day have seemed to arrange themselves around a core thought. Today was no exception. Someone wrote me yesterday to say that they had been sending copies of my e-mails to their friends. The same person told me that those friends have been enjoying the news about Trish. However, they had wondered if they could get abbreviated versions of my updates, e-mails with "just the facts, " since, as they put it, I tend to write a bit "flowery."

So, today I have been asking myself, "why have I made Trish's trial 'flowery?'"

What came to me as an answer reflects my views about the purpose and nature of art. Of course, I use the word "art" in the broadest sense here. My e-mails are not anything like Paradise Lost or The Divine Comedy, to be sure. However, there is more to art than just "high art." The word "art," after all, consists of the first three letters of the word "artificial," that is to say, "something made by humans." In one way of looking at it, anything human beings make is art. We must also say that ONLY what human beings make is art. For nature is often beautiful but it is never "art." The materials and events of nature are raw products that make art possible but no thing becomes "art" unless and until a human being decides to arrange it in some meaningful way.

Of course, human beings do not always decide to make art out of the materials they discover. Most individuals have an opportunity at some time to hold a lump of clay. Few will decide to mold it into a magnificent piece of pottery such as the ones Native Americans in the Southwest create. Likewise, every day people win lotteries, get serious illnesses, get married, get divorces, and see sunsets. All these events are raw products that nature and life present to these individuals. However, each must decide what he or she will do with these "raw products."

In some of the old liturgies of communion, Christians pray, "We thank Thee Lord God, King of the Universe for this bread and this wine which you have created and which human hands have prepared ..." The prayer acknowledges that only God can create wheat and wine. It also acknowledges that human beings are requires to make bread and wine from these raw products. For bread and wine are not found in nature. Fine bread and wine are pieces of art. They require "artists" to craft them if they are to exist at all.

From the second day of Trish's illness, I wanted her pain to pay. I was not prepared to let this wonderful woman go out of this world without people knowing about her. I decided that her light had been under a bushel long enough. The e-mails were my way to put her light high upon a lampstand, so you could see her good works and glorify her Father in Heaven. As a result, many have prayed. Many have written. Many have renewed their sense of marriage and family. Only God can do that. However, He only does it when we give Him the opportunity.

I am rambling but I forgot to quote the rest of that old communion prayer. In that prayer we don't just thank God for "the bread and wine which you have created and which human hands have prepared." We go on to say, "and they shall be for us the body and the blood of Christ." We pray that prayer as a way of recognizing the process by which God makes things redemptive, by which he makes them into vehicles of blessing.

The process goes something like this:
1. God, life and nature offers us materials and situations.
2. We decide how we will mold those materials and situations -- what we will make out of them. 3. We give what we fashion from those "raw products" to God.
4. God pours grace upon our gifts in order to transform them into something capable of bearing "the weight of glory."

Trish has really suffered. Those of you who know her would not have enjoyed seeing her these past few weeks. Her body has been beaten and bruised from the operations. The tubes, the loss of blood, the indignity of her exposure -- well, you get the picture; it hasn't been pleasant. For two weeks she hardly opened her eyes. Her brain had fever. She hung between life and death.

Why? Why? Why?

Because she is a human being. She is subject to all the difficulties and tragedies of any creature living in a fallen world. Others will face other things; she faced an aneurysm. But there is a wonderful thing about our faith: it centers upon a cross. When tragedies cannot be avoided, they can at least become redemptive, if we so choose.

For three weeks, Trish has joined our Lord "in the fellowship of His suffering." She could have just laid there and cursed. But I knew she that wanted to make her tragedy into a piece of art.

I knew she would want to find some meaning that might possibly lurk in the things she has been facing. I knew that she would want to offer her ordeal as an offering, as a piece of art.

These e-mails have just been my "amen!"

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