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Intersection of Life and Faith

MARGARET BECKER

  • 1999 2 Feb
  • COMMENTS
MARGARET BECKER
I sit in the outer office, nervously jiggling my leg. Ripples skitter down the side of my pink wool skirt. Cream silk shirt, pumps, lipstick: I am in my best. I've never done anything like this before. I've thought about it, but just didn't know whom to go to. But Scott vouched for this guy, claimed he was the real deal and had all sorts of insights. If Scott-the ultimate in complicated-could benefit, then surely I will, too.

"Come in, Margaret." He stands long and dark in the doorway. Definitely a professor, hair greased back and wearing a 20-year-old brown-tweed suit jacket. His steps are intended, slow, as if thoughts proceed from each gentle placement. "Please, sit down." He motions, his long bony fingers raking the air toward a well-worn green Naugahyde chair with brass tacks outlining the frame.

His office is dark, attic-like. It has the feeling of dust, though none is visible. Books spill from every corner: in piles, on shelves, stacked on top of cardboard boxes. At least he's learned, I think hopefully, afraid of yet another disappointment.

As he settles himself into a creaky wooden chair from the forties, I survey the books, trying to read the titles still legible on the frayed bindings-nothing I recognize. I watch him clear his desk. His hair is still jet black, unruly strands falling forward as he organizes a stack of papers. I make a wish as he sweeps it back, that he is indeed all that Scott said. I've done everything I know how to do, and still I am in this state.

My life has felt like it had one foot nailed to the floor for several years now. Wearing a circle into the ground around me in so many different ways, I've almost become convinced that this was my final position: miserable.

It was a jumble of frustrating events, from the large to the small, all sprouting and flourishing at once. I couldn't find a job with opportunity, although I was overqualified for many that I'd interviewed for. I couldn't free myself from this dream of writing and performing, although there were no opportunities appearing. Relationships around me were in turmoil. My car was falling apart, a metaphor of my life. No money, no prospects, no escape hatch. I was in turmoil with no way out.

I couldn't bring about my own movement in this bottomless sea of inertia. It moved me, though, to the brink of despair on more than one occasion. I'd finally concluded that real life wasn't supposed to be so frustrating, so constricting-so devoid of hope.

I'd been to the pastor. I'd fasted and prayed myself down to 100 pounds. I'd been to all the self-help seminars, read all the "how to get a job" books. Nothing changed. It just seemed that the frame of my life, like some sand castle by the sea in rising tide, was overrun with setback after setback until there was only a smooth pit of swimming sand swallowing me up.

My best friend, Scott, had been holding my hand through this. "It'll pass, Mag," he'd say with each new event. "I know that you'll get some direction soon," he said at the end of each prayer. With his brow prematurely creased on my behalf, he deluged me with sermons, tapes, books-whatever he could find to help dig me out. But even he was baffled.

In a last-ditch effort, he talked me into seeing Dr. Breene, a teacher from his college. Warning me not to pay too much attention to appearances, he assured me that the man had insight.

I was tired of waking up in tears without hope. The linoleum floor in my bedroom was too familiar to me, from all the prostrate moanings sent heaven's way. Although I didn't feel like pouring out my soul to a stranger, it was for only this one time and maybe just telling it from beginning to end would make me feel better. So I agreed.

And here we are now, in the powdery afternoon light: Dr. Breene and I, sitting in silence in his closet-office at the college. He starts. "So, why are you here?" He flips a pencil over and over between his thumb and his forefinger.

The simple question punctures me. This dam of emotions has more force than I had recognized. I don't want to break. I begin having second thoughts. "Well, I don't know where to start, actually." I consider faking the whole thing-just getting out of there-but decide against it. I begin the saga.

"I am at a dead stop in my life. I can't seem to get a foothold one way or another. I'm a burden to my parents because I can't get a job that will allow me to move out. There are many things I know I can do well, but the opportunities are not there. I'm an artist of sorts, and of course my dream is to express my art. But that seems impossible now. And yet it haunts me, like something you have in your memory that you wish you could change."

It hurts to speak so plainly. My knees begin shaking as if I am too cold, but I can feel the moisture of heat on my back. I continue, "I'm willing to let it go. In fact I pray for it to go, but it doesn't. And when I try to do other things-anything that might become a career-the doors slam shut in my face.

"I feel hopeless. Some days I don't want to face it anymore. This has been going on for years now, and I don't know what to do. Usually, I'm very resourceful, I can fix just about anything, but I've done all I know how to do and I can't stop this circle."

I let out a shaky sigh, noticing that I've moved forward in my seat quite a distance. I slowly lean back into a proper right angle. "That's it, Dr. Breene. Does any of this make sense to you?" I feel like a child asking things of Santa Claus, not sure if he's the right guy for the job, but hoping anyway. "Can you help me find something to hold onto in this-a hidden thread that I can pull to begin unraveling this net?"

He considers all I've told him, hands clasped and set like a teepee before the door of his mouth. Finally he speaks. "You say you've done everything that you know how to do?" he asks, summarizing.

A glimpse of hope. Maybe he will help. "Yes. Everything."

"And all your strengths have been ineffectual?"

He's leading me. . . "Yes. All my strengths amounted to nothing."

"Hmm."

"Hmm"? Please, God, let him say more than "Hmm."

"First off, Margaret, let me say that I think that you are right where you should be right now. You are in what I would call God's greenhouse. What I mean is that a greenhouse is an environment where growth is accelerated. It's not comfortable in there. Hot, wet, a lot of pruning-not a particularly clean environment, either-but the best for growth. That's where I think you are."

He speaks with a calm. I carefully gather his words like tiny white stones that will eventually form a path leading me out.

Pausing, he swings slightly in his chair, considers life on the other side of the window. "And second, I tell you honestly, I'm frightened."

He's frightened?

"I'm frightened that I may interfere with what is obviously a sacred surgery taking place in your life right now." He moves his body back to the edge of his desk so that we face one another. He looks into my eyes without familiarity, but with clarity and purpose. "I am only a man, Margaret. My hands are of flesh, and although there are things I could probably tell you, do for you, to ease this course, I dare not because I believe this struggle is for your strengthening. And if I begin cutting the bonds, loosening the cords, you will emerge weaker for it.

"Perhaps it's a little like nature, the way a moth larvae changes into a butterfly. It is the struggle against the cocoon that sends blood into its wings so they will be strong enough to navigate the wind. Without that struggle, the wings would come out, but they would be deformed where it matters the most-inside. Pretty, but no strength."

He leans in slightly for emphasis. "So you must wrestle with it, Margaret. Let no one assist or relieve you. This is for your betterment and perhaps, if your dreams align with God's, it is the beginning of your artistic journey. Try to see the art in the struggle. Pray that God gives you the strength and the wisdom to love it, because it is His great love for you that allows it. You must be prepared."

My leg ceases moving. I have a hot, puffy cloud in my throat. I don't want to cry in front of Dr. Breene, but two tears escape me. What an odd way to look at pain and despair.

He sits politely across from me, requiring nothing.

I am being prepared . . . hope. I felt like I am liquid, liquid with direction. I am no longer held down. My foot is freed. I have escaped in the most unusual way, through the most unexpected means. The knowledge is cathartic.

I look around his office again as he stares at the blotter. He allows the quiet to separate him from his words. He wants no recognition, no legacy for my emancipation. It is a kind gesture that allows me to fill every nook and cranny of my mind with the balm of his wisdom.

I close my eyes and mentally take my two hands, knitting them together, fingers inward, in the middle of my chest. In my mind, I peel back, with all the strength I can muster, what is left of my armor, my shielding. I expose the raw flesh of my beating heart. If this is surgery, then let us be done with it, I pray. Let us get every last bit of shadow, every speck of fear. And these strengths-break them into bits. They are of no use to me, as I have seen.

I stand to leave, and though I am heavy with emotion, I feel unbearably light, like there is no gravity. I know there is more struggle ahead, more surgical steel, but I have hope for the healing, vision for recovery.

I leave Dr. Breene's office with that one thread in my hand, the key to it all. I watch with new eyes as the mystery begins to unravel.




{{Margaret Becker}} is an award-winning singer/songwriter whose most recent album is entitled ==Falling Forward==, released by Sparrow Records. Her first book, With New Eyes (Harvest House), much like her music, is a revealing glimpse into the heart and soul of a believer seeking to make an intimate connection with their God.