Moral Education

Moral Education
By Cryn Johannsen

Every Sunday when she was a little girl, she would go to a big Gothic church with her parents and her older, increasingly rebellious brother. With her hair covered in bows and her body clothed in neat little dresses – white ones in the summertime and purple ones in the wintertime – she’d always tap her patent leather shoes against the pew. Her parents always sat in the balcony of the church, high above the old organ and preaching minister. It was there where she would drape herself across the red velvet pew cushions and drift off to sleep in her father’s firm grip.

Later, when she was inches away from being a broken adult, she would recall falling asleep either in her father’s arms or while holding on to one of his big hands. By that point in her adult life, when she remembered those weekly naps with her father at church, she had stopped speaking to him. In fact, it had been so long since they had communicated that she had great difficulty remembering his previous words of encouragement, his sweet notes of support which he sent to her three or more times a week, and even his smile. A gray fuzziness hung over the memories of her father, and those blurred images of him would make her weep just as she had when he went away on long business trips when she was young. By the time the separation from him had become part of her everyday life, a hollow emptiness had set in, filling the space where her father had been. Emptiness that fills the space where a father’s love belongs is dangerous for a girl’s health. In fact, her heart had become dangerously weak at this point. Even worse, she was also becoming dangerously ill.

And every Sunday in the church, before she would fall asleep next to her doting father – who had now become a fading memory — her eyes would always fall on an image of Jesus, which was located in the middle of a stained-glass window at the center of the church’s nave. Jesus wore a regal purple robe and was surrounded by dark crimson and purple roses. No matter how long she gazed at this stained-glass image of Christ, her dewy eyes always thirsted for that moment when she would first inspect it. Even though she had looked at this image countless times, it always seemed – as soon as she entered the church – as if she had discovered it for first the time. When she would leave to go to Sunday school, after the morning sermon, she would always steal another look. It was never enough. No matter how much she looked at Christ, she wanted more. The simple love for His innocent beauty, the figure that glistened with great intensity on sunny, cold winter days, consumed her. So she prayed to Him late at night, hoping for a signal. Her hunger to look at Him was insatiable, and she continued to pray; but as she grew older, a coldness set in, a slight chilling of her heart, along with the belief that Christ was not really there listening to her. As a young woman, she would eventually meet a soulless man who corroborated this belief, that Christ was not only ignoring her but that He didn’t even exist.

But before her heart was touched by the first frost of adulthood, she waited every day for a signal, naively failing to realize that the signs of Him saturated every single thing in her world. Even more powerful, her heart was blooming, unfurling itself for all to see, even when she was away from the church. At a later point, her heart’s efflorescence would become a dangerous liability. Indeed, she was not yet aware that her growing heart, filled with an eternally youthful tenderness, would be used against her and cause her and others great suffering and pain.

At this point, at the young age of seven, she fearlessly fell into the size of her heart and its full capacity to love. And just like other little girls, she couldn’t foresee the dangers of falling head first into the love that was tightly wound up in her little heart. While it might have been small in size, its ability to feel extreme tenderness for the suffering of others was overwhelmingly infinite.

As she became older, its enormity would become threatening to the Lost ones, those broken souls who knowingly or unknowingly hurt others. Alas, she did not understand the liabilities of having a big heart, and as she grew older, her heart became brighter and bigger with each passing day. She would soon be able to recall the way in which it would swell the most when she sat in the balcony, next to her father, who would hold her hand tightly every Sunday as she tried to ever-so-quietly become an adult. She attempted to hide this maturing from her beloved father, who – like all doting fathers – never wanted to see her grow old. Alas, she could not fight the forces of biology.

Every Sunday as a nearly broken adult, long after she had enjoyed fleeting freedom in college, she had forgotten all about Christ, the church, and her father’s comfort. Lost in daily tumult, life became increasingly harsh. The source of love, a well that she believed to be overflowing with water, had long been empty. Yet, like many people, she frantically returned to that source, hoping to retrieve its buckets of affection. She even looked into its deepest crevices for a single raindrop of affection. But that affection was nowhere to be found. One thing is true, if there had been a puddle, or one raindrop in that well of so-called love, it had already turned to a black putrescence.

The well had been overseen by a man to whom she was entirely loyal, so loyal that she lost her sense of self and even her own family. Since the man vigilantly guarded the well, even going to an extreme of strangling her twice when she tried to approach it without his permission, she was never able to reach its direct source, a source that was either arid at the very beginning of their relationship or had dried up shortly thereafter. Knowing in some vague sense that she had no direct access to the well, she sought love elsewhere. Objects were particularly appealing,
especially a burning lamp that she had discovered at an ancient antique store in New England.

When this man – a beastly, betraying one – tried to blow out her lamp of light, which illuminated a small side of her oversized bed, she remembered little of the moral education that she’d acquired as a little girl. The moral education had been hiding under a pool, created by centuries of tears that had collected under her bed. Centuries after she collected her tears, she would meet another man, a man with integrity, a man with morals. Even though her moral education had been restored by the time she met this man, she thought men with morals, with integrity, had ceased to exist. She thought they had all drowned in that pool under her bed. But that turned out to be wrong, and once again, she discovered a moral education bound to unadulterated love. When she found this love, she realized that she’d never experienced it as an adult. This fact didn’t make her sad. On the contrary, she embraced it fully, and began living a life that she’d never thought possible.

–Cryn Johannsen





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