A Beautiful Haunting

I like melancholy things. I like bittersweet movies and music – I really like listening to Enya and haunting instrumental music. It’s funny to me because I’m a pretty upbeat, optimistic person. And boy, do I like some silly pop music and cheeseball movies for sure. But I am just drawn to things that create a longing in me. I think they remind me that I am not at home here and there is something more to come. Bittersweet things stir feelings of the sadness for our fallen world and the amazing hope we have in Jesus. The beauty and the pain are intertwined – like the line from the hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” that says “sorrow and love flow mingled down.” That’s how I see life. There is tremendous love and peace and joy here…and also tremendous pain and suffering. So life is bittersweet.

One of my favorite movies is A River Runs Through It and I just watched it last night with my friend Kelly. This movie tugs at my heart like none other. It’s beautifully written and the cinematography is wonderful. If you haven’t seen it, go out and rent it right now. It’s the true story of two brothers, Norman and Paul Maclean, and their life growing up in Montana during the early 1900s. And it’s about fly fishing. I love how it shows the connection this family had to the earth and how they found life on the big Blackfoot River, waist deep in the water with a fishing pole in their hands.  Norman (the narrator and writer of the book on which the movie was based) said, “To my father, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.” I love that. I also love that as children, the boys were given the freedom to run free through the wildness of the Montana landscape; “Every afternoon, I was set free, untutored and untouched until supper, to learn on my own the natural side of God’s order. And there could be no better place to learn than the Montana of my youth. It was a world with dew still on it, more touched by wonder and possibility than any I have since known.” So beautiful.

This movie touches perfectly on the beauty and pain of life. I won’t spoil it for you, but the ending of the movie haunts me. Norman is reflecting back on his life and I yearn with him for the carefree days of his youth. I long for him to be back there as a boy, when heartache and pain were not fully known.

That’s another interesting thing about me – it’s hard to describe, but I’ll try. The ending of the movie gets me because I yearn for everyone in the story to be together as they were at the beginning. It was happy and good then and everyone was still connected. I get this feeling when I leave a gathering, either with my family or friends. When I am with people and having fun and then everyone disperses, I am left with a melancholy feeling and pang of sadness in my heart. The magic is gone. The moment has passed. Once we were all together and now we’re all going our separate ways. When I was in plays in middle school and high school, I would get this feeling so acutely at our cast parties after the last show. I was devastated that it was over. I would never be with these people again the way I had been for the previous months. Oh, the feeling fades in a day or two…actually it usual only lasts the night. I would feel it in college when I would return to school after a weekend at home, a.k.a. the Sunday night blues. I get the feeling even now when we have big family gatherings that are so fun and then everyone leaves in a frenzy on the last day.

I guess I’m just a people person. And I feel deeply. I just love being with people I love and I yearn for good things to last forever. I think that’s eternity tugging at my heart. It shows me that I truly was not made for this world. We were not made to see the endings of good things. When we are complete in the presence of God in Heaven, we’ll never be haunted by the way things were or could have been. We will be complete and full of the best kind of joy. There will be no end to the peace of being with those we love and we will be full of the glory of the presence of God. Amen to that.

“When I am alone in the half-light of the canyon, all existence seems to fade to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the big Blackfoot River and a four count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise. Eventually all things merge into one and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops; under the rocks are the words and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.”

(from A River Runs Through It)

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