Thursday, 27 February 2014

The Light of Valinor

“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tower high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

"Tell me, Legolas, why did I come on this Quest? Little did I know where the chief peril lay! Truly Elrond spoke, saying that we could not foresee what we might meet upon our road. Torment in the dark was the danger I feared, and it did not hold me back. But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy. Now I have taken my worst wound in this parting, even if I were to go this night straight to the dark lord."

(Gimli, on leaving Lorien)

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

There are some dangers worse than torment in the dark. When you are wounded by light and joy, that is an agony far keener.

This winter a wild God knocked at our door. We tried to ignore him. It didn't work.

Let me explain. In early December a friend posted a link to a poem called 'Sometimes a Wild God' by Tom Hirons on a social networking site.

The poem is here. I would think it has resonated with many people this wild winter. It certainly has with me.

There were times in some of the storms this winter when the air seemed literally to have turned to water, when the wind didn't sound like wind but the blind nameless roaring of primeval forces of darkness, when black pools of fear and pain seem to have been rising around me, setting all the old dependable things adrift in the chaos of wild weather, inundation with water, the seeming sudden decay of parts of our home, power cuts and floods. In short everything that could go pear-shaped did. All plans were thrown out. We were not in control, the cosmos was shouting it loud and clear.

The first time this really became clear was when Lisa's waters broke at the end of December. The plan for the birth of our child was - home, birthing pool, candles, breathing. Oh wow. What idiots. No contractions for days, and thus, because of the risk of infection, no home birth team. This, as will become clear, was the best thing that could have happened.

 It was a birth which needed the intervention and skill of many people, but from which none of us escaped without wounds. My wife Lisa lost lots of blood during the emergency Caesarean section that she had to have, and little Lucia got stuck, so they broke her collarbone to get her out, but that didn't work, so they had to make another incision in Lisa. Lucia didn't breathe for a minute and a half, and they said that Lisa might have to go back into theatre if the bleeding got worse. The lead up to this was perhaps the worst agony I've had to endure in my life, as we waited listening to Lucia's heartbeat dipping below the 'normal' levels indicating fetal distress.

But she was born, Lucia, a beautiful light in the gathering darkness. A brutal entrance into a brutal world, but in a little circle of light we prayed for protection. We were so thankful! How blessed we are!

We have been pierced through by the joy she has brought us. She reminds us every day of the absolute sheer gift of being, of our profound dependence on this given-ness, of the meaninglessness of all our attempts at hoarding, of our attempts to take hold, to set claims on things. It is a sweet and joyful wound in our hearts.