Saturday, February 16, 2008

Purpose and Atonement

I’m still in my 30s. We just got home from seeing the film Atonement, the first movie I’ve managed to catch in a theater for many months. A beautiful, powerful, heart-wrenching piece of cinema, complete with foot-washing, Lady Macbeth-like hand-cleansing and a command to wipe the blood off of one’s forehead.

The movie took me places—onto the French fronts of World War II, into the English countryside, and deep into my own heart and emotions. Like the film’s young character, I, too, grapple with the desire and implications and hopes of atonement. Some regrets linger more powerfully than others, and some of the brokenness that gave root to these regrets still lingers with the potential of unleashing more. The human condition and need for proximity to God doesn’t change with perspective or wisdom.

Tonight I remembered what my 10th Grade English teacher, Mr. Denny Bowden, told me one day. He’d read one of my novels and encouraged me to keep writing, warning that I’ll be surprised “how fast the years go by.”

That was 25 years ago. I was 15.

The years do go by quickly. Tonight I find myself a little freaked, staring at the clock, wondering if I’ll fulfill my purposes in life but unclear at the moment exactly what the chief purposes are supposed to be. Is writing and publishing a book or two the purpose, or is that only part of it?

Or am I trying too hard to find a purpose rather than living purposefully in each moment? And am I too caught up in seeking atonement rather than letting myself love and be loved, which perhaps is the greatest purpose and most sustainable at-one-ment of all…?


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