Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lower the shields and prepare for transport

Maybe I should take Eowyn to see the new "Star Trek" movie; I think she'd find it very accessible.

In many ways, she's like the Enterprise herself. Get into a talk with her, and if her long-range sensors pick up something getting too close, she raises her shields immediately. Get in closer and it's all power to the forward shields, launch decoys, or whatever it takes to keep you from getting in a position to harm the ship. And if she determines you're a real menace, she'll shut down all nonessential systems and float dead in space like Kirk had the Enterprise do in "Balance of Terror."

Is there someone there? the Romulan crew wonders. Or is it a faulty sensor reading?

But every now and then it's possible to fly in close enough that you get inside the shields. You can see the dents and dings the ship has taken from its years of flying at warp speed, scan for metal fatigue where Klingon warbirds have struck with their disruptors, and even beam a landing party aboard.

It's a rare treat to walk the corridors of Eowyn's starship, but it's more satisfying than anything Paramount has produced for its franchise.

Today Eowyn let me aboard. She let me walk the corridors, visit engineering, and even gave me a seat on the bridge.  Put in non-Trek terms, this is a Big Deal. Essentially, Eowyn let me into the sacred grove as a sign of how much she trusts me not to desecrate it.

I walked carefully.

Eowyn and I were taking a walk while Ruth was at ballet, and discussion turned to hanging out with friends. Eowyn rarely does this, so I wasn't surprised when she made a silly remark to divert me. All power to the forward shields, Mr. Scott.

"You know," I said. "I've noticed that whenever the conversation gets uncomfortable, you make a silly remark. It's like this is you" -- I held up a clenched hand -- "and if someone gets too close, you try to keep them out here" -- I waved a safe distance away with my other hand. "Am I right?"

"Maybe," she said. But I could tell that I had nailed it. After all, it's not like I don't know where she learned this behavior. She has learned well.

But she has also learned over the past nine years that she can trust me when she wants to. And for some reason, she decided this time to trust me. To extend the Star Trek metaphor, she lowered her shields and allowed me to beam over, and while I was on board, we talked.

"I'm just kind of used to being alone," she said.

"Alone, or lonely?" I asked. She didn't answer, which was answer enough. "I see you alone too, and it tears me up inside, because I know how lonely you feel."

"It's okay," she said. "I'm kind of used to it."

And that, I pointed out, is one of the strangest things about human nature: We get used to anything, and tell ourselves that it's all right and even normal. I reminded her that the Bible tells us that Adam once had an easy time with his work. He would plant crops, and they would grow as easy as anything. It was work, but it was work that he could enjoy. But after the Fall, it didn't come as easy as it used to. Work became toil, weeds grew among his crops, and sometimes animals would eat his crops before he did.

"I'm sure Adam got used to living like that, but if he had a choice, which do you think he would have rather had: that life, or the one he and Eve used to have in Eden?"

"The one they used to have," Eowyn said.

So we talked some more about friends, and how sometimes you meet someone and she becomes one of your best friends almost immediately; and sometimes you meet someone, and you like her but she doesn't like you; and sometimes you meet someone and it takes a while to become friends, and you have to work at it, by talking with them, and hanging out with them, and getting to know one another.

"And sometimes that's risky, because sometimes you get hurt," I said.

"What do you mean?"

"Well," I said, "sometimes someone will do something that hurts you. They don't mean to, but it does, and you need to forgive them. And sometimes they won't do something that you thought they should, and that hurts too, and you need to forgive them."

"And sometimes they go away."


"Eowyn," I said. "I miss him too."

Of course it's not just Christian. It's Gabe and Kyra, two of her best friends from preschool whom we used to see regularly, except Gabe moved away, and Kyra's family didn't fully reciprocate our efforts to build and maintain the relationship. It's also Cassie, the older sister of one of Ruth's preschool friends, whom Eowyn got to know, but whose parents also didn't fully reciprocate our efforts to maintain the friendships.

And of course it's also the entire stinking third grade at school, when Eowyn was thrust into a classroom with none of her friends, and was barred from sitting with her friends at lunchtime because of some petty administrative need for control during the one time the kids have each day to be themselves.

But we talked. We talked for a good 30 or 40 minutes, sometimes on a bench, sometimes squatting in the parking lot. We talked about how there are a lot of people in her classroom and on her softball team who like her, we talked about the need to talk to friends and to reach out to people we like so that we can become friends, and we talked about how there's only so much that I can do as her father, and she needs to do the rest herself.

We talked a long time, and when we were done, I knew she had been crying, though she didn't want me to see the tears that had gathered on her nose.

We talked, and before we had dinner she called one of her friends and invited her to come over on Monday after school.

I'm trying, Lord. It's not easy, but I'm doing my best.

Copyright © 2009 by David Learn. Used with permission.

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