Sunday, August 26, 2012

My Favorite Landlord

I’m a great tenant. When I moved out of my historic apartment in graduate school, my landlords offered to write me a letter of recommendation. All kinds of parties—the millennium included—had happened inside my walls, but I kept even the ceiling molding clean. I took great care of that apartment because I was honoring the agreement I’d signed to rent it. After my two years on Walker Avenue, I not only got my deposit back, but I left the place better than when I’d found it.

My best renting situations were those where I signed an agreement: everything spelled out, everybody’s expectations traceable to a page. I did make the twenty-something-mistakes of renting a few hairy sublets that A) I shouldn’t have rented in the first place and B) had no spelled-out rental conditions. Here, a redux of those experiences blended into the voice of one, conglomerate landlady:

“Hey, want to rent my room while I’m in Milan for four months?”

Two months later: “Hey, I’m coming back to town. With my boyfriend. Can you sleep on the couch?”

One day after they returned: “Can you move out? And where is my pairing knife?”

Yes, I love the rental agreement: I promise to pay you X per month. I can stay here for X months. I will get my deposit back in full if X, Y and Z haven’t broken, fallen off the balcony, or gone missing.

The pairing knife’s location has remained a mystery, but my understanding of the landlord-tenant relationship has clarified. In fact, as I was reading the Book of John recently, I noticed something. In the spiritual version of the landlord-tenant relationship, I have been thinking that God resides in me kind of like a tenant does in an apartment. Even the “Christ in me, hope of glory” can seem to work when I hold role of landlord. Unexamined, that mindset is kind of crazy: God renting a room in Annaland?

What’s really happened is that I entered into an agreement with Him; I signed over all of me for all of Him. With my full permission, He’s got full ownership. Lordship. Landlordship, if you will. I agree to keep my place in working order. I take out the trash, I keep the windows clean, I notify Him of backed-up plumbing. It isn’t always easy to keep to the contract, and I admit that I’ve done more than a few things that should dent my deposit of faith.

As is the norm, my Landlord is holding onto that deposit for me. Beyond the norm, He’s invested it not for Himself, but for me. Its interest is growing in ways I can’t yet see. I don’t want to jeopardize its growth by punching holes in my walls of hope or dragging heavy anger across my polished wood floors. When my rental agreement in this life is up, I want the most gracious Landlord to write me a letter of recommendation. I want it to be filled with words like well done and good and faithful. That will be better than any party I could ever throw—on either side of a rental agreement.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dating an Older Man in Jacksonville

We are listening to the orchestra’s first morning rehearsal. By ‘we,’ I mean the Britt Festival and I. This year, he turns fifty. I have a ways to go until my golden years, and sure, the Britt’s grown a bit crotchety—putting up literal fences and all, but I’ve brought coffee, and everybody’s happy. We enjoy State-of-Jefferson-blue skies and share a bit of history.

For many summers, I’ve come to this outdoor amphitheater for concerts in and outside the fence—dinner picnics for both. Mornings, I’ve stretched here after running the woodland trails or brought pencils and sketched the vineyards and hills beyond the band shell. Off-season, I’ve sat in the empty benches and chatted with God until the stars came out. And once, on the lookout above the vacant sound booth, I kissed the man I didn’t marry.

I still wait for someone to witness my life as I hope to witness his. But there are years and years that he’ll never know. Meanwhile, the Britt hill has seen a fair amount of my life beneath his shady trees. He’s waited for me to return from extended bouts of expatriotism. He’s refrained from commenting on a curly cowgirl hat and an anemic stint of vegetarianism. He’s seen the few men I loved on his grassy slopes. And, like a patient and wiser suitor, he has kept an eye on me while waiting for his moment.

And it is here. For the first time since the Rogue Valley has been my mailing address, I love the Britt with the love that comes of finally seeing the gift that’s been my neighbor for the better part of a dozen years and several continents.

Dearest Britt: here’s to patience tall as your pine trees.  Here’s to the orchestral sound of hope.