Thursday, June 5, 2008

Our Fortresses of Solitude

When I was growing up Superman had a cool place to retreat, a Fortress of Solitude, situated far away from the regular world at the North Pole. The movie gave this an environmental reason as well - Krypton was a frozen planet, dimly lit by its red giant of a sun. So it was a piece of home for him.

We all like to retreat to familiar surroundings, where we're comfortable. In My Cousin Vinnie, Joe Pesci plays a former criminal turned legal counsel and when asked to defend his young cousin, he does so happily, but they are stuck way out in the country, and he's a former crook from the Big City. He can't get a night's rest until he's locked up (for contempt of court).

So Superman goes to his frozen north, and Vinnie goes to his jail and heck, that guy with pointy ears up above? Yeah, he goes to the Batcave - which is underneath his ancestral mansion.

But underneath it. In the dark.

In the movie, Batman Begins Bruce Wayne tells Alfred in anger that "This house is a mausoleum! If I had my way, I'd tear the damn thing down!" He unfortunately gets his wish - and then decides it must be rebuilt -his pain over his parent's untimely death should not destroy his family's legacy. "What are you going to do?" "Rebuild it. Brick by brick. Just the way it was." This is his closure, his healing. He has a different path now, but it is a good one. He's going to move forward, no matter the painful past.

Last night I watched someone in pain receive comfort in their Fortress of Solitude. Their spouse had walked out on them - again - and I must say, I understand why the spouse did it.

But what amazed me as I ate with them and fixed a broken garage door and relaxed by watching snippets of cool movies- Escape from New York and Dances with Wolves (yeah, that's quite a double feature, eh?) - that this was NORMAL for this person. This is where they lived: surrounded by animals, in pain and all alone. Like Snake Plissken. Like Lt. John Dunbar.

This was their Fortress of Solitude. This was their comfort zone.

Why? Well, years of pain and isolation and anger have turned relationships with the opposite sex into junk food: you want it, you can stomach so much of it, then you get sick and swear off of it.

Till next time. Unlike the heroes above, who's solitude refreshes them to fight again, this solitude re-affirms pain and painful memories.

I don't have an easy solution for this. Intimacy is scary and those who have been wounded are scared of getting close or letting others get close again. We demand of them what we should find in God - perfect love.

Oswald Chambers saw this, some 90 years ago:
"If we love a human being and do not love God, we demand of him (or her) every perfection and every rectitude, and when we do not get it we become cruel and vindictive; we are demanding of a human being that which he or she cannot give.

There is only one Being Who can satisfy the last aching abyss of the human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Why Our Lord is apparently so severe regarding every human relationship is because He knows that every relationship not based on loyalty to Himself will end in disaster.

Sound harsh? No, not for us recovering co-dependents. We want love, forgiveness, moral excellence and purity given to us while we "keep on trucking".

Only God can be put up with that and still love us. Only God can fill that void in our hearts. But until we learn that, we stay isolated, alone and, sadly, feel justified in our assessment of their sins and failings. "Do you know what he (she) did to ME?!"

Let me give you a heads-up: on the day that I yelled at God and He Himself replied, we did not talk about my ex-wife's sins.

He showed me mine.

God has a Fortress of Solitude called Heaven. Or, if you prefer, on Earth, He appeared in the "Holy of Holies" deep within the Temple.

But then He left heaven to rescue us. At the crucifixion, the veil separating the Holy of Holies from the world was "rent in twain" (KJV). From top to bottom, which physically no human could do.

I have prayed for this wounded person, because I remember when I was there. I was hurt, angry and despondent. I needed God. I needed a person to love.

On that magnificent day, at that moment of terror, I told my Lover off.

And He accepted me. Crud, how do you hate a God like that?

Somehow He is humble enough to come after us through locked doors. He knows that there is only one Key that will open them, and it is cross-shaped.

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock, it any man hears My voice and opens to Me, I will come in and dine with him."

But we are invited also to go to Him: "Come to Me, all you who are weary, and heavy-laden, and you will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Maybe it'll be you leaving your Fortress to find Him. A bit like the finale in Jerry Maguire, with God saying to you:


"You had me at 'hello'. You had me at 'hello'."

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