Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The River Runs… Deeper with Age

I’m at the writing cabin this week for extended study and, of course, some writing. But one can only do so much of either, especially when the weather is so remarkable, as it happens to be this middle of July. So tonight at about 7:30 I moved the kitchen and the office outside, grilling a steak to go with wild greens salad, rice, and merlot. I ate to a movie I’ve not seen in some time: A River Runs Through It.

My children are older now, and I’ve a suspicion that this entry won’t be very meaningful to those whose children are still in diapers, still less to those looking for a mate. But I need to say that this movie, like a fine merlot, grows better with age. My “children” are now 24, 23,18. One is working on a farm in Europe this summer. One is taking an intensive course in Italian and working two jobs. The youngest is preparing to put on a play in August with her 18 year old peers, complete with business plan, marketing, and royalty payouts, along with all the rest that goes into making theater in the real world. Children? The word drops to the floor as irrelevant. Yes, they’re my family, my offspring, my namesake, and their activities for the summer, playing with mountains and words, bespeak their relationship to both my wife and I. But children? It’s no longer the right word. And so, “River”, which tells a story about growing up, hits me tonight in all the right places.

The movie is a coming of age story of a minster’s family; a minster, no less, who loves the outdoors and finds restorative moments in creation. As I sat here tonight watching, as the stars came out, as the brothers grew older, so much rang true; so much pierced my soul. I was reminded once again, for example, that….

Moms absorb pain. Only now, through the grace of compiled years, am I able to see with clarity the ways of my wife. They are ways of sacrifice, of self-denial, of living extensively in the shadows so that others, both her children and her husband, can find the spotlight that she believes, with them, to be their destiny. The mom in “River” is surely of this ilk, and so is the woman I married. The blessing of it though; well, that is something that appears slowly, like the dawn, except much more slowly than the dawn, for the ways of sacrifice have been dawning slowly on my darkened mind for 29 years now. “River” reminds me, though, that I’m seeing things more clearly, learning the ways of maternal instincts and learning to celebrate and honor them as the precious gifts that they are.

We’re all broken. “River” portrays a pastor’s family beautifully. Of course, no family is ‘typical’ and you’d be mistaken to draw parallels between the characters of the movie and my own children. We’ve no alcoholics or gambling addicts among us. Still, there’s poignancy in the portrayal of each character’s humanity. Each one is glorious. Each one is broken, as we all are to varying degrees. Each one interplays with the others in life giving and life depriving ways. The ones who need the most help seek it the least, which is probably why they need it in the first place This too, of course, is the way it is for all of us in every family. I see the conflict avoidance. I see the deep love. I see the longings for greater intimacy. I see the anxiety over one another’s well being. It’s all there, and more, in the movie, in all of our lives, all of our families. Perhaps the gift of time allows us to identify more fully with each and every piece, both glory and loss.

Faith, creation, family. This, perhaps, has been my own little secondary trinity. I love my relationship with God, who has been a good shepherd for me through a great deal of untimely loss and personal crisis. I cherish creation, even as at this very moment, I write in the forest as the sky fills with stars and the smell of wood smoke from a neighbor’s fire fills my lungs. Soon meteors will fall from the sky in an other worldly light show, and I’ll be there. My life would be so much the poorer if I missed it instead. And of course, the third leg of the trinity is family. In my case, the family has been present for the faith and creation explorations, taking us at various times to the highest peaks in Colorado and the deepest doubts of God’s existence. We’ve enjoyed the shores of the Pacific together, and wept at the remembrance altar of 9-11 at the Seattle Center. We’ve spoken of post modernity and avalanches, Romans and the Roman Wall on Mt. Baker. My God it’s been good. “River” reminds me of all this and I need to stop the movie more than once and give thanks for my secondary trinity and the privilege I’ve had to enjoy it.

Loss. Maybe you’ve not seen it yet, so I’ll give nothing away. Suffice it to say that the theme of loss runs right through the family as much as joy does, as much as the river itself does. “Do I look older?” the mother asks when her son returns from six years away. Of course she looks older. Of course we age. Of course we die. But we’re never prepared for it, not fully, not truly; and especially not when it comes early.

Romance. First contact. Attraction. Falling in love. These are such good gifts, and rich are those who have walked this road and are able to look back on it as a glorious, life giving path.

“A River Runs Through It” should be seen again and again, especially when your children are older, your nest emptying. After you’ve ridden the rapids of raising a family, those same rapids look richer, deeper, when you seem them in the movie.

PS - If you'd like to read about the Mt. Baker climb my oldest daughter and I did last year, it's the feature outdoor article in this week's "Foothills Gazette". The PDF will get the pictures too.


At 16/7/08 12:31, Blogger Donna said...

We've certainly enjoyed this river ride together, haven't we? I love you and desire equally excellent companionship & adventures for our children to enjoy in their futures. -d2

At 29/7/08 12:46, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you enjoyed the movie, I would highly recommend the book... which is more perfect than the movie...

"When I was young, a teacher had forbidden me to say 'more perfect' because she said if a thing is perfect it can't be more so. But by now I had seen enough of life to have regained my confidence in it."

And a book with more passages worth quoting than any I know...


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