It’s day one of 2010 and I’m supposed to be making New Year’s resolutions. I haven’t made them, but I have been thinking about them. That is not unusual – to be considering such things – except that I don’t make resolutions. Truth is, I don’t make resolutions because then I don’t have to live up to them. Nor do I have to live with the embarrassment that comes from failing to follow through on them.
Yet, something is stirring in my heart. I have an ache that won’t go away. The past year was not easy. I lived most of it in Limboland. I don’t know about you, but I found Limbo a very difficult place to live. In Limboland there were treacherous hills to climb and plenty of valleys in which to descend. And in between all of that climbing and descending, there were the flatlands which often left me cold and numb.
You can see why it would be exhausting to live in such a place. I long to move forward, but in order to move out of Limbo, I have to take some major risks. I have to be open to the pain that accompanies change and I have to be active rather than passive. While I am not proud of it, it is much easier to crawl under my covers when the hills cast their scary shadows on me, rather than do the hard work of climbing their slippery slopes. The same is true when I found myself in a dark, isolated valley, fearful of what might be lurking in the unknown corners.
But the more I stay in this land, the more I notice myself dying a slow death. The passion that has always characterized my heart has started to dry up and I cannot stay the same.
Tonight I went to an event where my friend, Jeff Sparks, the president of the Heartland Film Festival, was showing several short films from this year’s festival. I stood at the outskirts of the packed room, trying to decide if I wanted to commit to the screenings. I got there at the beginning of a film called, “Paul and His Wall,” which caught my attention. As I moved in to the room a bit more, Jeff walked up and said something about staying for the one about the bicycle, which would be showing next. I respect Jeff’s opinion, so I stayed.
If God ever wanted to get my attention, there is no doubt he did that tonight as I stood there, feeling incredibly sad and alone, even in the midst of a dark, crowded room.
Paul and His Wall
This is what http://www.dcshorts.com/weblog says about the film:
“Paul and his Wall is a wondrous, if strange kind of fairy tale about a hyper agoraphobic man and his next door neighbor he falls in love with through a hole in his wall. Charming and childishly fun, the excellent visuals and sound quality weave a tale of simple but compelling love.”
Yes, it is all of those things, but it is also incredibly personal as we have all felt trapped and fearful of the outside world in some way, shape or form. We may not be agoraphobic, but we all have fear, and we all put up walls. When Paul’s neighbor, an attractive woman, accidentally bashes a hole in the wall between their rented apartment rooms, he begins a process of really living. He lives a pathetic life, but as he interacts with his neighbor, his depressing room starts to fill with light and life. When the woman plans on moving, Paul’s world feels like it will shatter. He covers the hole in the wall and tries to go back to living his old life. But he can’t. He’s tasted a bit of the life he is meant to live, and it scares him. When the woman asks him to uncover the hole in the wall, Paul does so only to yell at her.
“I’m done being your experiment,” he says. “Just leave.”
“Where did you think this was going, Paul,” she answers. “I’ll admit I felt something for you, but what? Are we supposed to fall in love and get married through this wall? Paul, you never gave us a real chance.”
At that, Paul backs up and runs full force through the wall – every part of him – wham! right into his love’s apartment. And it is there that Paul’s wall is wide open. As they leave the apartment building a storm rages outside, but it does not matter. Paul and his lover stand hand-in-hand with the rain pouring over them as they run into their future.
Oh my goodness, I had to choke back the sobs I felt coming from inside me as I watched them run through the rain toward a real life.
I won’t even try to explain this film as the website’s synopsis says it most beautifully:
“Jitensha” (or “Bicycle”) is a story about Mamoru Amagaya, a young man struggling to find meaning in life. A co-worker confronts Mamoru on his apparent apathy toward life, and this results in Mamoru leaving his job out of humiliation.
Now alone and without work, just as it seems that things could not possibly get worse, parts of Mamoru’s bicycle begin to disappear, one by one. In frustration, Mamoru leaves a note for the thief, begging him to just take the whole thing. The note left in response is signed “God”, leaving Mamoru only more confused.
At last, when the only remaining piece of the bicycle is a lonely bell, Mamoru receives an envelope, containing addresses at which each piece of the bicycle might be retrieved.
Puzzled yet intrigued, Mamoru embarks on a journey to resurrect and reassemble his beloved possession. As he seeks out each piece of the missing whole, Mamoru begins to discover that he himself is in a healing process. As he puts his bike together piece by piece, he realizes that he himself is in the process of being reassembled in the same way, by one far greater than himself.”
This is how 2009 felt to me, like I was being reassembled for some other purpose than the one I was living. When Mamoru leaves the note to the thief begging him to take the whole thing, my heart skipped a beat. I often want the thief to take everything at once. Just take it all. Let’s just get this over with. Stop tormenting me with the slow losses. But God’s plan is different. Almost always. Instead he goes about things piece by piece in order to get my attention. And when I hunt for that which is lost, sometimes I do not even find what I’m looking for. Unlike Mamoru, I find a completely different piece of myself to fit into a new place.
I love that God left the bell for Mamoru, too. Of all the parts he could have left, it was the bell. To me the sound of the bell symbolized a warning, like, “Watch out, here I come.” It seemed to be a sign of Mamoru’s new voice, a voice he was yet to discover. A voice that would tell the world he was there. No more Mr. Invisible. It was a foreshadow that although everything else was gone, he could still be noticed and tell the world that he was on his way. On his way to somewhere new, some place meaningful.
One of the best lines was when he was looking for his bike seat. It was the last piece he needed to reassemble the bicycle. He knows it is at the beach somewhere so he digs hole after hole searching for it. Along comes a man with a metal detector and as it beeps, Mamoru runs to that place and uncovers the seat. He tells the man it belongs to him and the man says, “Sometimes we need others to help us find what we are looking for.”
While I know people can never truly put me together, I believe that puts certain people in my life to help me uncover the whereabouts of my heart when it feels so lost or lifeless. I am eternally grateful to these friends. They are the ones who help bring me back to life. Who make me laugh again. Who help me notice beauty. Who spark a wave of creativity. Who breathe passion in me once more.
So as I stare into the face of 2010 and all of its promise, I consider my resolutions. The theme will not be much different from that of these two films. Like Paul and Mamoru, I no longer wish to waste my days sleep-walking through life, nor building a wall to keep safe. There are circumstances that will always cause me to visit Limboland, but there is no need to live there forever. To do so would be wasting this gift called life. It’s time to leave my great enemy Fear back in 2009 and grab the hand of my friend Courage as I walk into a new decade. May you find what you want and need as you run through your walls and reassemble that which has been stolen.
Happy 2010, my friends!