Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Band Perry and the Lady of Shalott

One of my latest song obsessions is called, "If I Die Young," by The Band Perry.  Admittedly, the song is fairly depressing, as it talks about death at a young age.  At the same time, though, the lyrics are fascinatingly beautiful: "If I die young, bury me in satin / lay me down on a bed of roses / sink me in the river at dawn / send me away with the words of a love song." Click here for a Youtube video of the song. Who wouldn't want that kind of a send-off?

I decided to investigate the song, as I was wondering why a hit song would be written about such a topic.  I discovered, in my investigation, that the song was based on a Tennyson poem, called "The Lady of Shalott."  There is a copy of the poem here, for those of you who are interested.  The poem is about a woman held up in a tower in Shalott, forever weaving a tapestry based on the image she sees from her mirror, pointed out the window at the countryside below.  She cannot turn around to look directly at her beautiful town of Shalott, or else she will be cursed.  So, she remains, staring into the mirror day after day, weaving her tapestry.

That is, until Lancelot.

One day, Sir Lancelot (of Arthurian legend) comes riding through the countryside on horseback, and the Lady of Shalott is forced to turn around to gaze at him.  As the curse comes upon her, she decides to leave her tower, and lowers herself out the window.  She finds a boat, gets into it, and starts floating down the river toward Sir Lancelot.  She dies as the boat carries her downstream, and when Sir Lancelot and his Knights find her peacefully lying in the boat, Sir Lancelot says, "She has a lovely face; God in his mercy lend her grace, The Lady of Shalott."  Wow - some poem!

Sir Lancelot's dashing appearance onto the scene forced the Lady of Shalott to turn around from her tapestry and mirror, and look directly out at the countryside.  Don't you wish that such beauty would appear in your life?  A gallantly beautiful horse, a handsome hero.  Surely death was a small price to pay for such a truly beautiful moment, after a lifetime of shadows!

My favorite line of the poem comes after the Lady of Shalott saw two lovers in the field below.  She says, "I am half sick of shadows" as she muses on them below, living their lives, while she seems forever trapped in the prison cell of her tower, for fear of the curse.  It seems to reflect a lot of the fear in our own lives.  We get so caught up in weaving our own lives, afraid of being cursed with hurt and failure, afraid of dying to our own desires.  We refuse to turn around and actually stare life in the face, to see it on God's terms, as He meant for us to see it.  We refuse to take that leap of faith because we know that life means pain, and fully living life means fully dealing with the consequences and emotions and daily battles.  Many of us find it much easier to sit weaving away our tapestry in a tall tower, removed from it all.  

So, we often find ourselves at the loom of life, weaving away at a tapestry, keeping us distracted from reality.  We weave the life that we see in the mirror, letting other people tell us what the countryside of our lives should look like.  But what worth does life have if we cannot savor its beauty, stare it in the face?  My grandfather had a saying in Italian: better a day as a lion than one hundred days as a lamb.  In essence, better the life fully lived than one not lived at all.

So, when I hear the lyrics of the song, "Gather up your tears / keep them in your pocket. / Save them for a time when you're really gonna need them," I think of all the lives that have lived without ever having seen the kind of beauty I have known.  It's then that I realize that the tears aren't for death or loss, but for people who never knew love, or beauty.  The tears are for the people who never turned around to look directly out the window, who were never so stunned by the beauty of God that they were at a loss for words.  The people who remain in that state, captivated by this beauty, don't feel the fear of being cursed.  They understand the freedom of living life to the fullest, and the futility of living in a world of mirrors.  If the price we pay for beauty is death, then we are well-served to take the risk and pay the price.  Otherwise, we die without ever having truly lived.

In the Love of Christ through Mary,
Christina :)

The Romance of Christ

I have been thinking a lot about the intersection between faith and relationship lately.  The desires of our hearts seem so far removed from our realities sometimes - there is always a piece of the puzzle missing, and we struggle to reconcile the hope of Heaven with the difficulties of earth.  Women struggle so much with the search for love on earth - finding that "special someone" to complete us, defend us, preserve us.  We want to be loved, and to love fully in return.

And then, there is Jesus.

If there was ever a man to fall head-over-heels in love with, it's Christ, first and foremost.  It is so SAFE and BEAUTIFUL to give all of ourselves to Him!  He is the ultimate Lover, gracious, kind, giving, attentive, courteous, strong, forever seeking, forever loving.  Why does it surprise women that we are not satisfied by anything less than a man who imitates Him?  Everything in our soul cries out for the love of Christ, for the love of the God and Man who laid His life down to rescue us.  Our hearts pine and yearn and thirst for this kind of love - self-sacrificial, whole, complete and beautiful.  The Passion and Death of Our Lord, who died for us, serves as a fitting testament to the depth of this love.  How could we stand for anything less, when we have already tasted the sweetest of the fruits of love?

So many women feel the loneliness, shame, and heartbreak that comes from wounds and attachments they have suffered in relationships.  Women fight to discover that love they have searched for so ardently, the one that they pray for with their whole beings.  Yet, our battle is counterproductive: seeking rather than allowing ourselves to be sought, trying to discover love in men rather than men in love, making plans rather than letting God take care of it.  What a silly way to go about letting God direct our lives, and what a silly way to let Him bring to us the man He has kept for us all this time!

To take a valuable lesson from the Song of Songs, "I adjure you, do not arouse, do not stir up love before its own time."  The only love that can ever fully satisfy our hearts is that of Christ, who teaches us how to be TRUE women of God.  As women, we crave respect, fidelity, attention - someone to confirm our hope that we are precious, beautiful, worth seeking.  Rather than seeking that love among men, it is our job to discover the seeking love of Christ.  He pursues us day and night, moment by moment, hoping He will win our hearts and our undying love.  He has been burning with this love for us, waiting for us to answer His Call all along - the passion of a lifetime is the romance of Christ!

The best romantic movies, to me, are the ones where the female half of a pair of long-time friends suddenly discovers that the male friend has always had feelings for her.  The woman is often surprised (although the audience often is not...) that this man could care about her like that.  And she often ends up making a decision to go for another man, which she later rescinds in favor of this lovestruck best friend.  She realizes in the end that true love is something we are given, often something that is right under our nose.  It is not something that we can make ourselves.  We can't treat our love life like a cookie recipe for true love - take one guy, make sure he fits certain standards, add in two parts romance, one part emotional attachment, one part attraction, and a touch of idealism...  It simply doesn't work.  Real love, the kind that lasts a lifetime, is something we are offered, something we are given freely and fully.  Real love is a man conforming to the Will and grace offered by God.  Real love is something that requires no convincing, no solicitation - just a patient, womanly heart that is willing to wait in silence.

I find Christ completely analogous to that lovestruck best friend.  Christ has been my best friend for so long, and knows everything about me.  He was there when we were kids, growing up together.  He knows my every thought, what makes me laugh and what makes me cry.  He knows all my secrets, my passions, my longings, the wounds from my past.  He has loved me the whole time He has known me, in the hope that one day I might feel the same way for Him, always thinking of how He will win me over, how He can do what is best for me.  He has been pursuing me my entire life, sending roses, birthday presents, and "I love you's" in the form of beautiful silences filled with peacefulness, joy and happiness that carries over to others, grace-filled friends, an amazing family, moments of sadness, moments of wonder, moments of confusion and pain, and moments of clarity.  All of it is a calling to share our hearts with Christ, because His love for us never yields, and always seeks our love in return.

With a love like that, how can we feel anything but blessed, even in the darkest of times?  And, when that "right one" comes along, shouldn't we expect nothing less than the best?  After all, He has loved us with an everlasting love, and He is the one who will bring us that special someone to love us completely with His own love.

In the Love of Christ through Mary,
Christina :)