Written by Father Michael
TIME magazine darkens its cover with a gray tone photo of writer Jonathon Franzen. First glance for the unhip Midwesterner that Franzen captures so well in his writing may suggest that this is another story about vampires, but Franzen fangs are not out to suck blood. Franzen snares Midwestern values, especially of family, and creates a feast to enjoy. He pumps life into banality of living.
Nine years Franzen was entombed in a bare rented room writing and writing to produce his latest book. It will be unveiled the end of August. Now we have anticipation of what to come.
His last book THE CORRECTIONS presents a portrait of Midwestern life and family. A sad and comical picture is snapped of Enid, the dedicated housewife. Secretly she is a hoarder, “the bandy-pumpkin “spread” that had turned a snottish gray-green…the Nixon-era bottle of MaiTai mix with an oozing crust around its neck, the collection of Paul Masson Chablis carafes with spider part and moth wings at the bottom”. She is constantly moving her cache of treasures “since nothing incidental was allowed to pile up downstairs – since the fiction of living in this house was that no one lived here”.
The fact that life is messy, living is messy, could not be acknowledged in Enid’s house. Spiritually we live that strange fiction that a good spiritual life is pure, perfect, no clutter. We desire that the relationship we have with God be neat, clear, no dust bunnies in the corners of our mind.
“Since the fiction of living in this house was that no one lived here.” Do we spend so much time moving the imperfections, hiding the things we hoard that we do not get around to developing a relationship with God? Alfred, Enid’s husband, was banished to the basement with his luxurious blue leather chair sitting on the beige rug with the matching blue design because he could not keep his space clean. In the living room there was no living.
We get caught up in this business of creating a perfect place. God is the creator, not us. We need to develop a relationship with God. We need to live with God in our lives. The fiction is that we can earn heaven. God gives us heaven. We do not earn it. We need to learn to live with God at our side always. It is really something small. It is to walk hand in hand with God. To recognize we can do nothing without God.
Jesus in His time on earth was not in Eden but the messy Middle East. He mixed it up with tax-collectors, sinners, strangers, the poor and the sick. He developed relationships with people and they were messy. Just look at the relationships with his Apostles, Peter, Judas, James and John. He loved them and they him. They lived with him, got to know him and He knew them. Does God know you? Do you know God? Do you spend time with God? God asks us to live with Him. He asks us to pile up treasures in heaven. Quit planning and preparing, start living with God.