old road shone white

Posted by on May 6, 2013

The Convert

by G. K. Chesterton

After one moment when I bowed my head
And the whole world turned over and came upright,
And I came out where the old road shone white.
I walked the ways and heard what all men said,
Forests of tongues, like autumn leaves unshed,
Being not unlovable but strange and light;
Old riddles and new creeds, not in despite
But softly, as men smile about the dead

The sages have a hundred maps to give
That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
And all these things are less than dust to me
Because my name is Lazarus and I live.

* * * 

Many changes are afoot. The main and most overt one is that I have decided to leave my part-time job at the Presbyterian church. I already had the conversation with my boss, accompanied by a sickish stomach, to let her know I wanted to leave as soon as they could make a smooth transition to replace me. Only nine months ago I described, right here, how this little job was the perfect situation for me, opening up at the perfect time. Quitting after nine months seems short-lived, maybe fickle, inviting scrutiny: What was all that airy talk about this job being perfect? But nine months is time enough to arrive at brand new conclusions about self and life, as in fact I have. The experience of this job has been an important part of these new realizations, which, in time, I hope to write about. And so I say: I am really glad I had this job when I did. It was right thing when I began and now it is the right time to end. Nothing need be crossed off the official records.

I am tired today. Sunday we celebrated Easter in the Orthodox Church, which always means getting about two to three hours of sleep–for the best possible reason, which is, of course, because you are celebrating something which, if it is true, is the most important event in the universe for all time and eternity.

I have not been the best church citizen over the past two years. I think that our time in South Bend, with my husband being a deacon in two different churches (one of them an hour away) was so strenuous that something inside of me–unforeseeable– broke when we dramatically changed our situation and moved to DC (now almost two years ago). The supportive scaffolding of our entrenched existence at Notre Dame was removed, and something in me promptly collapsed. My endurance for church attendance (particularly with little children) and church-related observances unexpectedly abandoned me– snapped into two like a cheap plastic fork– both pieces flying off in irrecoverable directions. Or maybe not so irrecoverable. And maybe my endurance was not really a cheap plastic thing but a durable thing rightfully tired. That’s what I’m hoping anyway. A still-small willingness does seem to be reemerging in small increments. The Easter service helped because it is very moving and, after all, very heart-softening. Nothing softens the delinquent, laggardly, and choleric heart as effectively as the stern voice of St. John Chrysostom telling you to pull up a metal folding chair in the church basement just like everyone else and feast– feast sumptuously. If ever the belief in my heart shrinks down to the size of a rice grain and my soul dries into a husk of brittle leather, please place me on a stretcher and lower me through the roof of the nearest Orthodox Church on Pascha night. It should help.

And here’s another big change: I have decided to home school my oldest daughter next year instead of sending her to second grade at the public elementary school she now attends. See how much thinking and changing I have been doing? You thought that nothing much was happening and all the while subterranean plates have been shifting. But seriously, this blog is becoming a veritable public record of my fickleness, since I have said here more than once that I would never homeschool. So I do plan to write about the process of coming to this conclusion (for my own satisfaction, if for no other reason), but probably not until after I leave and fully recover from being employed. One thing I’ve noticed is that writing, having small children, and part-time employment have been mutually exclusive for me–impossible. As soon as I take a job, I stop writing. When I leave the job, I begin writing again, as if by magic. So I’m pretty much counting on my blog to recommence as soon as I hang up my secretarial robes and turn in my key to the the whitewashed* Presbyterian church door. That’s all for now.

*Addendum: My husband pointed out that calling the door of a church “whitewashed” sounded like a possible allusion to the whitewashed sepulchers in scripture– you know– bad– hypocritical. That’s not what I meant! I can assure you that no Pharisaical or otherwise judgmental implication toward this nice church was intended here– more an allusion to whitewashed in the quaint sense of the word– a Huckleberry Finn, Anne of Green Gables, small-town-Americana sort of connotation. I just wanted to make that clear for the small and disappearing percentage of the population who is still biblically literate. : )

Posted in: Uncategorized
  1. annajouj
    May 8, 2013

    Wow, good for you, Julia! I admire your courage: in moving on when it's time, and in home schooling plans . . . you are brave, and to be commended!
    love you, friend,

  2. Veronika
    May 13, 2013

    I think night and day about your decision of home schooling! First of all, I cannot wait for you to start writing more, second, I am looking forward to hear all about what lead to this decision. Third, I was telling Lucas last week: " people send their children to preschools not because they want the best for them, but because it's SOOOOO hard to deal with them by yourself." I was saying it, of course in despair of hardly managing taking care of two of my toddlers. 🙂 you are so brave – good for you and for your girls!

  3. Julia
    May 13, 2013

    Anna, Thanks for the encouragement. And of course I can look to you as a model of bravery in unconventional life/career paths, for sure.

    Veronika, You're not the only one curious about why I am doing this and I do want to write about it as soon as I am able to collect and organize my thoughts. I don't know if I am so brave and wonderful– it's been a process leading up to this decision. And sending my kids to school to get them off my hands (or at least fantasizing about them being off at school) has been a part of this process. It wasn't that long ago that I could not imagine homeschooling either!