Laura, I love you


Dearest Laura,

Well, here I am again. I've wrote so many of these letters to you. I've sat here in this shop so many days, thinking of you. I don't know if you realize how much you mean to me, how much you're the focus of my mind and heart, the purpose of everything I do. I miss you so much - that's the problem, Laura.

I don't know how to say this. These letters are always a little painful to write, but this is the worst one yet. And I intend it to be the last.

Laura, I've made it my goal over these past few years to think about you always and write you as often as I can. I'm sure you can guess how much you mean to me by the volume and content of my letters. I think I've achieved my goal - I think I've made you all I care about - but I think it was a mistake. Everything I see reminds me of you - the flowers, the sky, the songs on the radio. But every time I'm reminded of you, I'm reminded that you're far away, that you've been gone so long, and that I'll probably not see you again for many more years. I used to think that writing you would help. I know you read and treasure my letters, and I thought that this way of communicating with you would ease my longings, but I was wrong. All they do is make me yearn to be with you, to hold you, to kiss you, to see your face and hear your voice. And that's why I can't do this any more.

This is the great, defining truth of my life: I long to be with you, but I can't. This is the source of my sorrow - this unquenchable yearning that I've always had, but that I've willfully fed and encouraged by dwelling on you. Laura, I love you, but I can't do this any more.

But the letters aren't the only problem, it's my whole life. If I were to forget you I'd have to destroy everything around me. I'd have to stop coming to this shop. I'd have to cut myself off from all our mutual friends. I'd have to destroy that book you gave me. I'd have to move.

Oh Laura, I can't do this. I was writing this letter to say goodbye. I've thought it all out and this longing for you is killing me; it must stop. But I don't have the strength to rip myself away. You're too deep in my heart, Laura. Even if I was strong enough to face the consequences of forgetting you, I could never do it. I know one day you'll come back to me and we'll be married - bound together forever - but I'm already bound to you. I'm bound by something stronger than any vows or any feelings or effort of the will. I'm bound by this deep, defining truth: I need you.

Laura I can't go on like this, but I must. I can't live without you, I can only exist. My need for you is beyond desperation - it's plain necessity. Laura can you understand what you mean to me? I'd rather be dead than be without you. I find no pleasure in anything. Everything I love only reminds me of you. Oh Laura.

And here am I again, writing you another letter, not so different from any of the others I've written. In a minute I'll get up and leave and continue my life of longing. Laura come back to me. I need you. Laura I love you more than words can say. More than my mind can comprehend or my heart can feel. I'm dying a slow death without you. I'm wasting away from the soul out. Laura, come back and love me. Please.

With inexpressible longing,

Jacob.


I use these kinds of parables sometimes to help me work through my thoughts. When I got the idea to write this letter it was to be a breaking-up kind of letter. But when I got to the point where I'd say goodbye I realized it was totally unrealistic. The bonds are too strong for me; I can't imagine anything that could break them. Basically, what the letter says is that I've created in myself this overpowering, unquenchable longing, and it's the source of so much heartache and despair. I've been through so many cycles of renewed longing and redoubled discouragement that I can easily see where I am at this moment, and I can't see myself ever getting out of this rut. But I have to keep trying.

My idea was that it might be good for me to just stop thinking about God and cut myself off from everything that encourages my longing. First of all, I'd have to stop "writing letters" (praying). That might not be hard. I'm already so discouraged with prayer that it wouldn't be a hard habit to break. I'd have to get away from all these worship songs that stir my emotions and promise great intimacy with God. This would be harder, because it would mean not going to church. Aside from the impossibility of doing this while under my parent's roof, it grates hard against everything I've been brought up with and presently believe. But the worst thing is that I'd have to cut myself off from all my friends. I couldn't do that. If I had no God and no friends I don't know what I'd live for. Anyway, I don't think they'd let me.

Nevertheless, I need to take some decisive action here. I need to do something to break out of this destructive cycle.

I don't know if there's anyone out there who would counsel me to stop praying. (What a horrifying idea!) But maybe I can change the nature of my prayers. Maybe if I prayed more to the Almighty Elohim than to Jesus my lover I could get away from this expectation of interaction that prayer always seems to create in me. (And then invariably crush, leading to frustration and confusion.) I can't easily stop going to Church, but maybe I could stop going to worship services. That would be tough because I love worship songs (I think mainly for the emotional high I can produce) but too many of them only encourage these crazy longings. And I can't get away from my friends (nor would I ever want to) but I can tell them this:

If you're one of those who would encourage me to pursue a personal relationship with God, be very careful. Consider the effects of your words. I'd give absolutely anything to experience tangible closeness with God, but I'm also so discouraged that I have a hard time believing that your new idea will be the one that works. If you're going to tell me to keep at it, you'd better have a clear understanding of how significant that is to me. If you're going to tell your friend that he should continue to pursue his life-long dream, you'd better not be doing it to make him feel good. Do not toy with my soul. Let me say again that I would do anything to have a relationship with God. If you would encourage me in that, you'd better be prepared to do anything to help me. (I do not exaggerate.) And you'd better be so close to God yourself that you have absolute confidence that he'll do what you ask of him. If you can do that, I will put my trust in you and place the wellbeing of my heart and soul in your hands. And if you fail me I will be deeply hurt. If you are not willing to accept these terms, do not venture to encourage me. You will me no good.

The other mind-set says that we shouldn't be focused on achieving closeness with God at all. Rather, we should be seeking to serve him better. I think I agree with this in my mind, but my heart is easily swayed. But I think I'm ready to actively move towards this way of life. I've often said that the greatest way God speaks to me is through other people. If you know me you'll know that I dislike small-talk and large groups and social activities, and that I quite literally live for meaningful one-on-one conversations. I'm thinking that this can't be bad, because it creates a love for other people. Allow me to wax eloquent.

You, my friend, my fellow human being, are the closest thing to God I'll ever know on this earth. We're all in this together. We all wrestle with this same fundamental problem: we need God, but we can't access him. So let's support each other. Let's love and serve and relate to each other. Let's shift our focus from religion and church and even God and focus on each other. (That sounds scary. I don't know if I'm effectively communicating what I want to say or not. Help me work this out.)

I've realized that I'll never be close to God. (Failing something miraculous and entirely unexpected.) The desire of my heart will never be fulfilled in this life. Weep with me. Come alongside me, let us mourn together for this great unquenchable longing and unmeatable need. And then let us focus on each other.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

J,

It's interesting that you chose the name Laura, as that is the name of Petrarch's beloved. Whom is Petrarch, you ask? First of all, I appreciate you using the objective case. Petrarch is the father of unrequited love poetry, also known as "courtly love" poetry. Essentially, a lover pines after a beloved whom is unatainable and perfect. Stanza after stanza proclaim her beauty, her perfection. The subtle irony (lost on Petrarch I think) is that the lover never knows the beloved, in both senses. So not only is the beloved unattainable, she is also unknowable.

Perhaps our pursuit of God is no different. Perhaps he is ultimately unknowable and unattainable and therefore we ascribe him characteristics of perfection, omnipotence, omniscience, etc. Perhaps "relationship" with God would destroy this construction of perfection; this is certainly the case in Petrarchan love poetry.

Slavoj Žižek relates a scene from a horror movie where a man is endlessly pursuing this woman, asking her to sleep with him over and over again. Finally, she says: "Sure, why not." His response: "Really?" Of course, once she had acquiesed--that is, once she was attainable--he lost interest. Maybe that is the idea.

Or maybe I'm going to hell. Even odds, I'd say.

__________________________________________________
Wandering StarThey are wild waves of the sea,
foaming up their shame;
wandering stars,
for whom blackest darkness
has been reserved forever.

Candice said...

Hello. You might not ever read this little comment. It may become lost in the abyss of the internet forever. But here I am, at 2:13am, unable to sleep, and where do I go? First to the Bible where I read about Jesus claiming to be the bread of life, and then second, to facebook, where I think about all the amazing friends I have, which brought me to third, your blog.

You always give me good and interesting things to think about.