The Matchbook Diaries


My name means beloved.  My worth can’t be measured by anything in the world. My value is independent of the world.  I regularly see, here in Dar Es Salaam, people in utter despair, families living in the garbage on the beach, people without legs or hands begging, young people so bereft of hope, so immersed in intolerable suffering that their eyes do not focus; in those eyes I cannot detect any sign of life.  Before God, if there is a scale, then those and I, we are equal in value.  The difference between my relative comfort and the comfort of the masses is inconceivable to me and to them.  I cannot imagine the daily life of most people in this city of poverty.  Yet, if my soul and the soul of the filthy, boney man asleep in the garbage in the gutter, if our souls were placed in the pans of a scale, the scale would balance perfectly.

When I suffer from intolerable memories of my childhood torture, I feel worthless.  I panic and start measuring myself by the numbers: friends, deeds, or things I call mine.  What I am expressing in that moment is not my lack, but my faithlessness.  In any game of numbers, I lose.  I’m not at the top of the world in any measurable fashion.  Loneliness doesn’t originate by loss of love, and therefore it cannot be overcome by making many people love me.  Loneliness is wanting love from someone who did not love me.  There is my mistake.  I identify the source of love in my mother or my father, I see those people as controlling my worth by controlling how much love they give me.  I see my failures as the cause of my loneliness.  But people are not love’s source.  My merits as a person are not love’s catalyst.  Unlike gold, oil, or perfect skill, love is not a scarce commodity.  If I sit still in that hollow cave of loneliness, I begin to know, with perfect certainty, that the love I need exists in such quantities that were I to do nothing but consume love for eternity, I’d never scratch the surface of the infinite love God expresses for me personally.  Nothing mortal or material is holy.  No act I do is perfect.  Nothing here will last beside me, nothing here will survive my death with me.  I will die alone, even if, as I die, I clench one last precious thing in my fist, that too will fall away.

Belovedness is the end of loneliness.  I do not need one more anything.  My condition, my delusion that I am worthless cannot survive the truth.  The truth is that I am a child of God, and had I been alone here, on earth, God’s reckless, passionate, bankrupting reach towards me would still have occurred; such is the truth of love.  Love’s nature is to embrace, to forfeit its own perfection so that it can cherish me.

If everyone knew this, they’d see why the streets of heaven are paved in gold.  They’d stop allowing the streets of earth to be paved with men.