Sunday, October 22, 2006

Faithfulness

I keep thinking the word, "faithfulness," and thinking about it. It's a running theme in my head, in meeting for worship, but also at other times. For instance, in the second of the Lord of the Rings movies, there is a scene in which Gondor has just come under attack. Hundreds of years have passed since Gondor and their old allies, the Rohirrim, have had any meaningful contact, and Theoden, the King of Rohan has just barely survived a catastrophic invasion, with no help from Gondor.

The scene begins with a fire kindled in a watchtower in Gondor, signalling for aid... and the camera pans over mountain after mountain, rushing over snow and rocky summits, so we see fire after fire lit, on distant peaks, as one after another, men set to keep watch see the signal, and respond.

Finally the signal reaches Theoden's citadel, and Aragorn, who has been trying to persuade Theoden to answer Gondor's appeal when it comes, rushes into his hall, taking two immense stone steps at a time in his haste. He throws open the doors, and cries out,"Gondor calls for aid!" and there is a long, pregnant pause. Theoden is a King. He has been ignored in his own hour of need. Will he stay true to the old alliance, or no? And then, visibly making up his mind, he calls back--"And Rohan will answer!" And since Viggo Mortensen and Bernard Hill are breathtaking actors, the scene is incredibly potent.

But.

The part that makes me cry, _always_ chokes me up, is the visual of the distant watchfires being lit, one by one, on peak after lonely peak.

I think of what that implies. Hundreds of years of men and women making sure that there is always dry wood, dry kindling. Keeping watch at all hours and in all weathers, for a signal that never comes, a need that never rises.

Until, one day, it does. And they are there.

I love Viggo Mortensen and Bernard Hill, and I love their characters. But in that scene, the heroes are never on camera. Which is why I love it. Because _that_ is faithfulness. In daily life, too.

Faithfulness is this idea, this _ideal_ that is more and more alive for me these last few months. It is the faithfulness of Friends I saw deliver important messages at Yearly meeting that moves me, even more than the messages do. The purity of intent... the openness... the determination in the waiting. I feel such love for those I see practicing this. I think that maybe, more than anything else, it is this faithfulness that creates that Light I see in the eyes of our "facing bench". Where does that ability come from?

Today, in meeting, I found myself thinking about my dog, Jeffrey. Jeffrey is a pound dog. And the hard thing about bringing a dog home from the pound is that you can bring only one, and must leave so many behind. So you think carefully about what it is you're looking for in a dog. Jeffrey was responsive--more than any of the other dogs, he was sensitive to my movements and my vocal tones. He watched me to see what I wanted of him, where I was going next. He's still that way--his eyes meet mine when I look at him, follow me when I move... This dog lives for the chance to respond to us.

He is faithful.

Dogs don't have such a good rep. Doggish faithfulness is seen as fawning, and we humans look down on submissiveness. And, well, OK--I will admit that doggy breath and doggy hygiene are not things to boast about. But still...

I would be God's dog. I would go for that. That's a good way to be, I think. I'm gonna leave the whole question of what I mean by "God" (or "Gods") for another day--those questions are too big for me. But I'm going to try to remember my dog's wisdom, as a way of staying "low down to the Truth" of faithfulness. I'm going to try to remember the importance of little acts of faithfulness--the kindling and dry wood, without which there is nothing--stuff like keeping promises to my students even though I am sick of grading essays, or cleaning out the bathtub because Peter is feeling down about how out of control the day-to-day of life is. All that minor stuff, that isn't really minor at all, because it's how life gets done.

Hm. I was gonna write more. Had some stuff come to me in meeting on the topic of Grace, too, that I think is worth writing down. But not now. Peter spent a chunk of the morning writing the latest chapter in our fantasy epic, and I promised to listen to him read. So, in the spirit of faithfulness, that's what I'm going to do now.

Blessed be, everybody. And good night.

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