Living Mystery

I wonder when my life got to be that at 7:30 in the morning I’ve been up for two hours (I overslept) and I’m already wondering if I’ve wasted too much of that on Pinterest and how many calories were in the green tea I had for breakfast.

Stairs to our place. Credit: Erin Glosson
Stairs to our place. Credit: Erin Glosson

Already I’ve read my Bible-in-90-Days portion.  I’ve done my three pages of writing, though I cheated and counted my homework for the 21-day course I’m taking.  Along with my course reading, I’ve read on the economy, how to tone your arms in 6 weeks, and from the New York Times.  Puzzled over stocks, drank my liter of water, and in a wild act of rebellion put my laundry off till later.

I recently lost one of my (various and sundry) jobs.  My friend suggested I put my TESOL certificate to good use and pick up some spare cash at his language exchange business, and I might have balked.


He raised a “Don’t you need the money?” eyebrow at me.

And I blushed a “Yeah I really do,” and bit my tongue.

But.  But . . . The income is not my real concern.  I never really worry about money beyond “Do I have enough small bills to pay this auto driver?”  I do, full disclosure, sometimes worry about whether or not I worry about money enough.  I mean, whether I should start worrying about money.  Especially now I’m less a job . . .

So I’ll just say it:  My pocketbook may be hurting, but my pride is hurting more.  It began to hurt the minute Accounts Payable started to exceed Accounts Receivable and money going into savings became Zero and then started to inch into the negative decimals.  My self worth took a blow when I could no longer list my profession as a Writer, because all I was writing “professionally” was editorial notes.  A TESOL certificate is one thing, but what about . . . you know . . .  my degree?

You see, I don’t worry about my wallet; I worry about my portfolio.  I don’t worry about having a job; I worry about having a career.  I don’t worry about tomorrow; I worry about ten years from now.  And when I look back I don’t want to see a decade defined by abundance — my daily experience — or even that love that so marks my history, but . . . sense.  I want to be explainable.  And I’m not.

So just back up for a moment.  No, further.  Step away from the 20% of my life that everything I’ve said thus far encompasses.  The early morning hours, running, reading, writing, working, my ridiculous regiment of self-will (um, I mean, discipline).  Stop trying to figure out how many companies/people I work for (I don’t even know).  Look at the person.  Look at the life.  What do you see?

I see the prayer house where I live.  I see hours spent in alone in the prayer room and leading worship sets that sometimes no one comes to.  Outside in the street I see sewage floating by and children living under the closest flyover.  I see community and I hear laughter.  I know the kind of friendships I’ve longed for all my life.  And I see people sick and broken and hurting all around me.  I hear prayers that they will be healed . . . and sometimes they are.  And all of this is so unquantifiable, so unreasonable, I don’t even want you to know about it.

The street where I live. Photo credit: Erin Glosson
The street where I live. Credit: Erin Glosson

I don’t want my friends to know how little I get paid, while I don’t want my neighbors to even know I have a job.  I don’t want my housemates to know how early I get up in the morning, and I don’t want to admit to myself how little of that time I actually spend writing (no, blogging does not count).  That 21-day course I mentioned in paragraph 2 is not a writing course.  It’s in miracles — the odd, uncomfortable detail effortlessly edited out.  I’m good at what I do.

The French Cardinal Suhard wrote, “To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery.  It means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist.”

In that sense, does making my life a glorified double-blind test mean I’m hiding this little light of mine under the proverbial bushel?  Me, a mess of worries and striving, a witness to the God who feeds the ravens and dresses the wildflowers?  Where is the sense in that?  If the child starving on the street nearby means nothing to my resume, my resume means even less to that child.

I wasn’t even planning to write about street children.  This began as a Facebook status . . . and here we are.  As much as we can separate the parts of our lives, we can’t separate out the parts of ourselves, or even keep them secret from each other.  As humans, even wounded and broken, we make up a whole.  The question is not, is the witness the whole picture, but is the whole picture a witness?

My life is a mystery I’m far from solving.  A picture of pride, of woundedness, of faith, and fear of failure.  But “to witness” means to see.  And I am seeing more and more that the senselessness of man is indeed the wisdom of God.


What are the dichotomies and tensions in your life right now?  What are the parts you’re trying to integrate or keep secret from each other?  (Come on, you can be honest.  How many people even use the internet?)


One thought on “Living Mystery

  1. Hey Em,
    I’ve spent the last decade trying to reconcile similarly opposing tensions in my own life. In 2005 when I was a highschool senior, I had very little direction as far as a career was concerned. I had all these grand ideas of being a filmmaker, doing something substantial with my life that would make a
    broad AND deep positive impact on the world. Film wise, all I had accomplished were some amateur unicycle videos and school film projects that weren’t all that indictative of a soon-to-be-successful prodigy. I was completely irresponsible in researching film schools (meaning I didn’t) and had attempted to film a short adaptation of a play I had participated in one summer and only succeeded at completing a single scene. Around that time, my two older brothers had written a letter to my parents, voicing their fears that unless I became serious about pursuing my film ambitions, I would be stuck making commercials, if that. First world problems — I know.

    I was preparing to hear back from my collge applications, I wrote a short film script about myself, imagining that I had gotten into every school I applied to. Taking all my acceptance letters, all my earthly belongings, all my photographs — every material thing I could be potentially proud of — I stuffed them into my family’s newly acquired (and used) blue BMW hatchback (the coolest car we’ve ever owned) and drove to the top of West Rock, which overlooks the city of New Haven,CT. Alone on a giant circular pavement slab, I emerged from the car with a bright red plastic can and began dousing the car (and all it’s contents) with gasoline. Just before I light the match from a safe distance, a blind homeless man walks up behind me, smells the fumes, and asks if he can join in on the supposed barabaque. I try to clarify that I’m just burning trash, but he then asks why I have a sheep tied up to a post nearby. Sure enough, there was a sheep, bleeting away next to a grill. The film ends with me teaching the blind man how to do donuts with the BMW. In the foreground is the unused match and a plate of eaten lamb chops.

    Six months later, I fell from the cliff in india and became permenantly paralyzed in my hands and below my arms. I knew that my condition was medically permenant. I knew that a good portion of who I was, how I interacted with people, what strangers and friends could expect from me, had burnt away forever.

    It has taken seven years to really see the permenant fruit that that seemingly tragic incident has born. It has taken seven years to recover from the social awkwardness that ensued when a two-year, long-distance romantic relationship began and began to end weeks after my accident occurred. Seven years to regain the naive confidence of a struggling artist. Seven years to battle the cruel irony of having close paralyzed friends living in Indian slums while I tortured myself over my major and what classes I should take at Dartmouth College. Seven years to get over to survivor’s guilt that almost drove me over a steep embankment behind my college dormitory. And now, only in the last month, have I come to see that what I hoped to be true (Romans 8:28 “All things work together for good, for those who love God and are called unto his purpose.”) has actually occurred, had been occurring, and will continue to occur — no matter what I do, no matter what I don’t know yet, no matter how much I am incapable of being disciplined, responsible, and successful. As long as I continue to hope, to love, to forgive, and trust in God’s forgiveness, I am condemned by the author of LOVE to look back at my life seven years or a decade from now, and see all the gaps filled. Condmemned indeed — because there will always be a part of me that wanted to have all the answers, but then I will remember that the best stories in life have their share of suspense, and that the ending can NEVER be clear if it is written to be good.

    And Em, by the way, writing blog posts most definitely count as writing. You are a writer. You have, are, and will continue to have an impact. Besides, the most important things we write aren’t with pens, pencils, or keyboards anyway. ; )

    With love,
    – Jonathan

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