Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, February 03, 2020

Sown Among Thorns

A few days ago, we had the gospel parable of the Sower and the Seeds, one of my favorites. The seed falls where it will, some among the thorns where it takes root well, but the thorns choke it out and refuse to allow it to flourish. The thorns are, as Jesus explains, worldly cares and anxieties which overshadow the necessities and demands of the Christian life.

I love the phrase "sown among thorns", which is going to be the title of my as-yet-unconceived novel. And the concept resonates with me because I live among the thorns, the cares and anxieties of worldly life. Not bad cares and anxieties, mind you; just the average family chaos that can dim everything outside of it. If we have any readers left at this point of blog negligence, they'll have noted that January was an unusually fallow month here. Not for any exciting reason, but simply because of the thorns.

Our oldest daughter, 17, has applied and been accepted to Franciscan University, our alma mater, and leaves in August. This entails a lot of fuss in various ways, of course, but one of the January ways was the filling out of the FAFSA. To be brief, we are on the hook for a great deal of money because we make a great deal of money, and having seven dependents doesn't make that much of a difference. Fortunately, we'd begun a process of retrenching a few months earlier, but I think we had not fully grappled with the cost of college until we saw some hard cold numbers.

As it is, with a scholarship and some other small aid, our assessed family portion of our daughter's tuition is about 2/3 the sticker price, and that's a bit of a shock. Retrench, retrench.

Our big blue van is back at home, after the hit-and-run damage. We had the insurance deductible, of course, and then the shop asked: did we want to replace the bumpers, dented and rusting out? For an extra fee? We sat and discussed present financial necessity vs. tax return coming up vs. needing this van to last for about ten more years, and opted for yes. Unretrenching. At least the shop washed and vacuumed it before sending it back.

All of January was a lead-up to February, in which Darwin will be traveling a good deal of the time. His company's international sales conference is being held this year in Dubai, and at this moment he is in the air, probably over the Persian Gulf. Dubai is probably about as safe as anywhere in the Middle East -- safer, probably, because it needs to project the image of being a secure place for people to indulge in Oriental luxury -- but still, one is nervous. And one is alone at home for a week with seven children, so one needs to keep up business as usual.

All the thorns have not been secular. This past Saturday Darwin and I gave a talk at our parish's marriage prep program about Christ Restores God's Plan for Marriage (the program's title). The total amount of work we did for this was watching the official video on Thursday night, taking some notes, and deciding we could do it better, but the logistics of the day of the presentation were made more complex by the fact that the two oldest daughters were in the car all day, delivering a friend back to FUS after being in the car all day on Friday picking up the friend so they could all watch the musical Anastasia in Columbus. Fortunately for us we have a third oldest daughter who needs to pad out her Confirmation hours with some babysitting.

No doubt even the most generous reader's eyes are glazing over at this point of family minutiae, but here's my point: these are the thorns I live among: teenagers driving places, husband on the other side of the globe, other small peoples with their own needs, obligations here and there.

In the midst of all this, I've been rereading Lord of the Rings. I've just finished The Two Towers, with Frodo and Sam creeping down through Ithilien, guided by Gollum, to get to the secret pass into Mordor. At one point, they hide among thorns.
Their twisted boughs, stooping to the ground, were overridden by a clambering maze of old briars. Deep inside there was a hollow hall, raftered with dead branch and bramble, and roofed with the first leaves and shoots of spring. there they lay for a while, too tired yet to eat, and peering out through the holes in the covert they watched for the slow growth of day.
Here are thorns as unexpected safety and protection, outwardly forbidding yet with unsuspected interior space. They're no good for permanent settling, but for passing through for a season they offer structure and support. I'm trying to keep my thorns from overwhelming my interior space, and I'm trying to use that space as Frodo and Sam did: watching, waiting, listening.

1 comment:

Agnes said...

I love your alternative imagery of thorns! Well, Tolkien's but you are the one to put it in this context.
And I so love Sam and Frodo's journey through Ithilien. It is one of my favourite comfort parts of the growing darkness of The Two Towers - all the small sources of comfort and hope, like the flowers around the statue of the King's head that had been desecrated, and the rays of sunshine, and the rabbit stew. Although IIRC this part of hiding among the thorns is already at a darker part, even there, small measures of help and comfort can be found.