Cupcake Countenance: DesireColumns, Cupcake Countenance — By Kim Gottschild on November 2, 2011 at 8:00 am
After school lets out for the summer, the girls and I speed through neighboring Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, approaching both our Myrtle Beach vacation and Christihimmelfahrt, or Ascension Day, per my twentieth century Filofax calendar. A software project deadline has prevented Bjoern from travelling with us, and I sense the mileage between me and my beloved spanning greater distances every second. But in a week he’ll fly into Florence, South Carolina, where we’ll pick him up and drive down to Hilton Head Island all together. Without him, the car seems quiet, the only sound being an old Chris Rice album playing subliminally in the background.
I heard about the day You went away.
You said you had to go prepare a
And even though I’ve never seen Your
face, I’m missing You.
Missing Bjoern already as we cross into North Carolina a mere seven hours since leaving the driveway, this all too familiar feeling recalls the origins of our life partnership. And I chuckle. In the beginning, I was so utterly convinced Bjoern already had a girlfriend. And why shouldn’t he have, as charming as he was?
He wrote me e-mails Monday through Friday only, which I devoured like refined carbs at the campus library. Upon awakening every weekday morning in my shared off-campus townhouse, the first thing on my mind was whether or not I would find yet another testament to our similarity awaiting me in my inbox. And five days out of five, I would discover the affirmative. Not only had the dashingly handsome German written in his beautiful, grammatically correct language, but he had managed to share all of my thoughts, dreams, and ideologies. Every Monday through Friday, despite living among twenty thousand fellow students, one person on the other side of an ocean, on another continent, actually got me. And I got him. We were kindred
I lie awake tonight and I watch the sky
And I wish it didn’t have to be so high
‘Cause I’m belonging on the other side
And I’m missin’ You
But weekends brought a disappointing lull in communication, which I could only semi-rationally appertain to his having a girlfriend his own age. A girlfriend who needed tending. Who needed dinners at authentic Italian restaurants, cozy walks through the Fussgängerzone, and quiet nights in, renting dubbed over movies from the nearest Videothek. I pictured this girlfriend to be an eight years older version of myself, only slightly thinner, since she had probably not attended an American liberal arts school thereby gaining the obligatory freshman fifteen. She was something like, I imagined, a cross between me and Claudia Schiffer.
Dammit. (That was me, not the Chris Rice lyrics.)
When you have a girlfriend like that, there’s no time to e-mail the little American girl your older sister had hosted for the exchange program three years prior, I had figured. No, the fun with the novel, late century technologies would have to wait.
‘Cause somewhere behind those stars
Is Someone who belongs to me
And I know in my deepest heart
There’s a place for You until I find the place You made for me
But still I’m missin’ You
So while the one person on earth that actually understood me was probably out cavorting with some supermodel across the pond in Europe, I was on the other side attending the odd campus party, holding both a red Dixie cup and conversations that went something like this: Annoying College Boy: “So what are you drinking?” Me: “Water.” Annoying College Boy Just Before Walking Away: “Oh.”
Meaningful discussions on the exploitation of women in advertising were just going to have to resume on Monday, when I would exchange e-mails with a real, older, more mature man who did not care what was in my cup. And I’m just now realizing that could be taken in more than one way.
When not attending the random fete a fete, which was almost always, I could be found at the library, studying among all the international students, one of whom told me “I just converted another little blonde girl – just like you to – Islam just last week.”
If I was at neither party nor periodicals, I was in my tiny room, singing along to Sarah McLaughlin lyrics: Your love is better than chocolate, better than anything else I have tried, Your love, is better than chocolate, everyone here knows how to cry. My roommates couldn’t hear me because they were out with their boyfriends.
I dream about Your promise to return
And I wake up hangin’ on Your every word
But for now my feet are planted here on earth
So I’m missin’ You
Summer eventually rolled around and I lived for the rush of my parent’s dial-up connection. I would speed home from work to resume our discussions on faith, activism, and our worldviews. I forewent making plans with friends to pour my heart out to someone who understood.
But honestly, I was beginning to long for more than a virtual connection. It wasn’t enough anymore to merely write to Bjoern. I wanted to actually be with him. I wanted to be in his company. I wanted to walk and talk with him, the way we had that first summer we met, when we had taken his dog for a walk through the park under the trees by the canal among the flowers.
I wanted to hear the tones in his voice; I wanted to hear him laugh. I wanted to know how he smelled. I wanted to hug him, hold his hand. I wanted something alive and real.
Because, without having even seen Bjoern for three years, I missed him.
And even while they say that I’m a fool
I know you see me waiting here for You
Oh, and prayin’ that somehow You’ll get here soon
‘Cause I’m missin’ You
Amidst the Smokies, I notice the uncanny correlation between the “Missin’ You” lyrics and my feelings for Bjoern. And to my surprise, I admit I feel exactly the same way about Jesus. After all, we have tons of stuff in common. I really like justice. And so does He! I really love God. And so does He! I really like the Bible. And so does He! I’ve never even seen him and I know we belong together. But He’s on the other side of heaven, in another kingdom. And I’m stuck on earth.
I suddenly acknowledge that I ache for His presence. He said that it’s for our good that He’s gone
away, but I don’t care. I want to touch Him like the bleeding woman, I want to talk with Him like the woman at the well, I want to pour oil over His feet, I want to cook Him dinner.
I miss Him something awful.
How much longer will it be?
Till I get to see you?
Though I know You’re right here with me?
Tell me when I can be there with You?
At Myrtle Beach, I enjoy my week with the girls. But I drink my tea alone while I watch the girls swim, I fly kites with the girls on the beach alone, I watch the girls play pool games alone, I get them ready for bed alone, I go to bed alone. And while we’re having fun, Bjoern’s presence is sorely missed.
On the way to Hilton Head, we pick Bjoern up from the Florence municipal airport located just off the highway and I immediately feel relief. For the next week we lie on the beach, we watch the girls swim, we find a horseshoe crab, we kayak, we make dinner together, we buy me a striped bikini, we take pictures, we ride bikes to the pier, we talk. Reunited, our family is complete and the fun takes on a new dimension.
But I still miss Jesus. And the grief is silently gnawing at my core.
My Filofax says it’s time to leave Hilton Head and head both towards home and Pfingsten, or Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit descended upon us. Just as God came down to wrestle with Jacob, and Jesus came down to manifest grace, the Holy Spirit came down with a sound like a violent wind from heaven, filling the room in which the disciples were sitting, which is what it says in Acts.
After we’ve been home a couple of weeks, Bjoern and I watch a BBC documentary about India, which highlights the origins of Buddhism. The show’s guide, in explaining the basic tenets of Buddhism, relays that the Buddha had said that all desire is wrong. I get that, I think. Christians talk about that too, we talk about storing our treasures in heaven and stuff, which is to say, we shouldn’t strive so much for material goods.
But then the guide says that the Buddha said that it is even wrong to desire God himself.
How odd. We Christians desire God all the time. It’s all we do. We sing about “God coming down,” pray about God being a “guest at the dinner table,” and invite God “into this space” at church. We do this habitually. Not desiring God is perhaps the strangest, most seemingly sacrilegious concept I have ever heard. I squirm in my seat. I must be feeling convicted, hearing such false doctrine.
But why should I feel convicted? I’ve been missing Jesus constantly, and frankly, it’s been making me miserable. Maybe that’s why the Buddha said it is wrong to desire God. To put us out of our misery.
“Mom, this may sound weird, but I’ve been missing Jesus lately,” I confess one morning over brunch at the café. “I just wish He were here. I know there’s the Holy Spirit and all, but Jesus isn’t right here in the flesh to walk and talk with me. He was here and then He left. He was here again, and then He left again. I don’t get it. How is this supposed to be good? It’s just frustrating.”
“Yeah,” my mom nods knowingly, “but because of the Holy Spirit, we actually have more of Jesus inside of us than if He was sitting right in front of us.”
I drop my fork into my omelette.
“Mom, that is so perfect. I’m writing that down for my article. Do you have a pen?” Of course she does, she’s my mother. She also always has Kleenex and Band-aids. My girls and I both rely on her preparedness, for I did not inherit this gene.
“Think about it,” she continues, handing me a pen. “He lives in us. And the Holy Spirit is not an ‘it,’ by the way. He is Jesus himself.”
Writing furiously, I obey my mother and think about it. If Jesus in the flesh were with us, we could never become fully enmeshed with Him, all of us experiencing His grace simultaneously. And what codependent doesn’t want to be fully enmeshed with someone or something, recreating their identity? This sounds too good to be true.
Later I flip through the New Testament, reading about Jesus’ time on earth, and I notice He was always limited as to how many people He could touch and heal and speak to at once. One woman, twelve men, five thousand people. But as my Student Bible’s
“Insight” blurb says, “Jesus came to reside in one body; the Holy Spirit came to dwell in many.” So, by leaving and then manifesting within us as the Holy Spirit, Jesus has basically multiplied Himself, exponentially expanding His influence. Reunited, He leads all of us into His truth simultaneously. Therefore, the kingdom of God, taking on an unlimited dimension through the work of the Holy Spirit, is like yeast working its way through a batch of dough. Dough that will later become a nice loaf of bread and actually feed people. Sustain them.
And now I understand that I hadn’t been feeling convicted for not desiring God, but for desiring what I already have. I don’t have to miss Jesus. His name is Emmanuel after all. And as we are connected with Him, we are all connected with each other. One giant family, we are complete. Together, we shall pervade and rise above.
So with Jesus Himself actually dwelling inside me, we can talk, we can cook dinner, we can go grocery shopping, we can go to work, we can sleep, we can have coffee. We can laugh, we can cry. We can dance. And I don’t have to share Him, there is no other woman. Well, actually there are many, but I turn a blind eye. Not that Bjoern should be getting any ideas.