(originally posted on my CaringBridge page on 1/15/13)
Only the gentle are ever really strong.
~ James Dean
Have you ever woken from a deep sleep with a face ingrained in your mind? Confused for a moment, not quite recalling what you were dreaming about, but knowing it had something to do with this face. Often times this face is someone you know who’s been heavy on your heart, or maybe someone you’ve recently encountered. Sunday morning I woke up with a face fixed in my mind of someone I’ve only ever “met” through pictures and films—James Byron Dean. Not sure why exactly? . . . I mean, I haven’t been thinking about him lately, haven’t seen one of his films recently. Anyway, there it was . . . his beautiful face.
We’ve always referred to our oldest son, Colby as an “old soul,” incredibly wise beyond his years. When he was three years old, his favorite movie was It’s A Wonderful Life, and he earnestly remained captivated, even during parts of the film that would likely bore even the most passionate Jimmy Stewart fans. I, too, was one of those “old souls,” a girl before-my-time. While many girls were donning posters of Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze on their bedroom walls in the late-80s, it was not uncommon for my walls or bookshelves to include black & white images and books of actors such as Montgomery Clift, Audrey Hepburn . . . or more significantly, James Dean. I was especially enamored with him. Recalling my fancy over this complex, young actor—who came and went before my time, I began to think about one of my favorite reads of all times . . . John Steinbeck’s, East of Eden. James Dean’s face brought this book to mind, as I was reminded of his infamous role as Cal in Elia Kazan’s film based on this haunting novel.
As a lover of literature, I read this book at a fairly young age and reread again later . . . at the time never exploring the depth of my own human condition. Cal was symbolic of Cain in the Bible, and like all of us, he had free will to decide between good and evil. Choice. Just as each character in East of Eden faced—so does, ultimately, every human being. This same free will that we’ve been given, even blessed with, applies to every aspect of our lives…and at times it can be really hard to choose responsibly, especially in the realm of the mind, when the bad creeps in at your weakest moments.
This past weekend, I got to enjoy a wonderful “date” weekend with my three little princes. The good stuff came with: snuggling by the fire w/a movie & popcorn, watching magician, Logan perform his latest card tricks, laughing with Lance as we read through a great book, and getting goose bumps, listening to the latest story Colby wrote in his journal . . . and then church Sunday followed by a fun, “mom & guys” brunch afterwards. Good times.
The bad stuff found a way in too, looming in the always active mind. It can quickly become a vestibule of doubt, worry and fear—closing in when you least expect it. It usually presents after a long day of distracted fun, perhaps in the middle of the night, when everything else appears peaceful yet lonely. My mind visited some unwelcomed destinations. I won’t share them, but I will tell you how much I thought about the significance of mothers. Being one. Having one. Loving many. I thought about my mom who is tangled up in her own web of worry—over a daughter who is ill, over her own mother, struggling with leukemia, and seemingly in a downward spiral …blood transfusions more often than not. It saddens me to the core to know how much heartache my mom is no doubt dealing with.
If you’re not careful, when it’s left to its own device, the mind becomes a filthy watering hole, “corrupting” your being with negativity and lies.
I love the line early on in East of Eden when John Steinbeck writes: “I always found in myself a dread of west and a love of east.”
You can love the east for the light that every morning sunrise brings or sigh at its reminder of another hard day’s work ahead. You can dread the west for the darkness that every sunset creates or relish it for the colors that linger on the horizon. Basically, we can choose to wander east or west . . . not always finding what we’re looking for.
As for me, I so long to rest my head in Eden, allowing paradise to guide my heart and mind.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)