In several days I will be flying back to Seattle. Christmas break will have ended, a month away from Seattle Pacific University will have passed, and I’ll have left behind another year. As I prepare for the new year, starting with Winter Quarter, I have been reading The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky, translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky. I began reading it more than a year ago “for fun,” if that expression actually describes the motivation that drove me to buy the book. But school led me away from Dmitri, Ivan, and Alyosha and into the world of ancient Greece. Before I stopped my attempt to blast through it, I made it approximately a third of the way through.
If you are familiar with The Brothers Karamazov, you might recall when the Elder Zosima relates the story of his life to Alyosha and others as he is reaching his life’s end. He begins with the story of his brother, who, an atheist, became sick and returned to God before dying while still a young man. In the last days of his life, he was consumed with a joy and love that confused his mother, visitors, and doctor, who mistook his fervor for madness. It was this passage that I read on the plane back to Seattle nearly a year ago.
“Mama,” he answered her, “do not weep, life is paradise, and we are all in paradise, but we do not want to know it, and if we did want to know it, tomorrow there would be paradise the world over.”…. None of us could understand it then, but he was weeping with joy: “Yes,” he said, “there was so much of God’s glory around me: birds, trees, meadows, sky, and I alone lived in shame, I alone dishonored everything, and did not notice the beauty and glory of it all.” “You take too many sins upon yourself,” mother used to weep. “Dear mother… [l]et me be sinful before everyone, but so that everyone will forgive me, and that is paradise. Am I not in paradise now?”
I recall that flight now because I started the book over at the beginning upon realizing that it is required reading for a class next quarter, and tonight I reached that passage. This passage frames 2012 for me. At the start of the year I was sad and lonely. God’s love and glory were all around me but I lived in shame, not able to see it. But I can now look back saying, by the grace of God alone, that my depression, guilt, and anxiety have all but completely been removed from my life. My friends and family have allowed me to share with them my sins, doubts, and frustrations, and that openness has allowed me to see the paradise in which I live. I was blind but now, although I’m still not quite at 20/20, I see.
To my friends reading this who know nearly everything about me: Thank you for the unrelenting love you have given me. Thank you for your prayers and for allowing me to pray for and love you back.
To my family: Thank you for your patience and grace. It has been difficult being so far away from you for so much time. I love you.
To those who are hurting: You can’t see it now, but life gets better. Know that you are loved and valued. Fight the silence and hang in there.
To everyone: Have a happy New Year.