Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Shining Barrier

Sheldon Vanauken, in his book A Severe Mercy, called it "creeping separateness." It, being the inevitable pull of life and responsibilities that gradually dissolve intimacy. Sheldon and his wife Davy noted that however much in love a couple starts out, there is a marked drift after five years....ten years. Couples drift and families rupture and creeping separateness is a force as subtle as Satan and as strong as gravity.
But it doesn't have to be like that.
Sheldon and Davy built what they called the "shining barrier" around their love. Like a sapling, their love was protected by a metaphorical fence. Anything that wanted to approach the sapling had to pass the question, "What is best for our love?"
While engaged, Dave and I noted the wisdom in this and built our own shining barrier around our vulnerable new love. Our question did not appeal so much as to what was best for our love, but what was God's will for our love.
So we got married, our shining barrier grew strong and secure, our sapling gained strength. But, as the years rolled into decades, creeping separateness took it's toll. Long work days, four kids, allergies, numerous other trials, and our barrier showed signs of wear. Crafty serpents slid through barely perceptible cracks and infiltrated the sacred area called family. Almost before I understood what was happening, my life had turned into a whirlwind.
I'm busy. Dave's really busy. Even the kids are busy.
Barrier control slid down the priority list.

Last weekend was our first time to stay all weekend at the Parkdale house. As Dave and I spent time together, and with the children, I thought about something. The main flaw in the idea of the shining barrier is the assumption that all evils have to penetrate the wall in order to enter. No matter how diligently we guard our sapling, predators can still mutilate. Mold, fungus, disease, can cut short the life of a tree. Selfishness, greed, pride can attack from inside the fence.
I watched this weekend as our family put our arms out toward each other. We offered a hand to grasp, to steady wavering steps. Struggles were so much more perceptible with out the noisy, busy background to distract. Against the beauty of God's earth, the gaps in the wall and the fungus within grew very clear and obvious.

We know for our family tree to benefit others it must grow strong and healthy. In order to shade and shelter, it must branch out in confidence. It must bloom out in beauty to encourage and inspire. It must grow tall, to make people look up.
So we call a retreat.
To slay creeping separateness.
To mend the shining barrier.
To protect our family tree.

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