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We pray to an unseen God and wait for a knowledge of his presence or a sufficient impression of “peace” as part of a growing relationship with him. It can be hard (though, I’m not defining all of my faith as being so existential). It’s not uncommon for me to pause, acknowledge Jesus and have as explicit a conversation as one can have with a person that’s not physically in the room. And, admittedly, I must be content and thrive on that quiet peace or voice that I often accept as “his end” of the conversation.

It’s the most damned and frustrating thing, trying to maintain a relationship via one of my most hated mediums: the telephone. It’s hardly a request or search for a more pleasing medium, because for me the only satisfying means of having a relationship with a person is in person. The telephone leaves my ears hurting almost as much as my heart.

I’m at my least realistic when I’m on the phone. I need to be with a person, with all of her nonverbals, in order to feel it’s a worthwhile time. It becomes unbearably arduous to read someone — much less keep a meaningful relationship for months at a time — when you’re deprived of that reliable way of understanding and knowing someone. Faith is crucial to any “long distance” relationship, be it with God or man, and I can’t imagine how such a relationship would be possible for a faithless or selfish person. Jessica and I are forced to give each other a steady and unending stream of benefits of the doubts.

A few weeks ago I was in Amarillo, visiting Jess’s town and family for an extended weekend. They were easily the most perfect 5 days of my life. It’s difficult to describe how much I miss her or how much we struggle to feel that we’re making the most of those rare occasions when we can actually be together. There’s nothing like making her laugh until she’s gasping with the kind of abandon that makes me feel like the funniest person on the planet. I’d trade 5 hours of phone calls for 5 minutes of driving and laughing together anyday. We spent that Saturday at Palo Duro Canyon where we tanned (unintentionally — I don’t know any Indian who WANTS to tan) and had lunch. It’s fitting that our relationship had us vacationing in a canyon; its desert terrain perfectly captures the way we feel without one another — alone and surrounded by the uninhabitable.

My relationship with Jesus sometimes leaves me doubtful and frustrated. I always feel like I don’t have enough of him, that prayers too often feel unanswered, that conversations are too tedious, that too many things should be different. With Jessica I’m praying that the time we have to spend apart is worthwhile, that somehow we grow in ways that bring us closer; we’ve already grown to understand the foolishness of taking each other for granted. To Jesus I’m praying that I understand the breadth of that distance between him and me, that somehow I’d come to understand how much he longs to be closer as well.

It’s the all-too-familiar desert, in love and spirituality. A person in love can’t spend his life simply inferring the heart of another, no more than one can know God merely through interpreting the writ and subtexts of Scripture. You’ve gotta have time, time alone and together, with the kind of explicit empathy that leaves you in awe of the fullness attainable in this lifetime. As unpleasant as it can be, it may be for the better: sometimes you see paradise clearly when you’re in the desert.


One Comment

    • sheenatabraham
    • Posted May 19, 2008 at 7:18 pm
    • Permalink

    Beautiful words. Beautiful photos.

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