“Will you look at that? How am I going to wear this tonight?” Pawel fingers the edges of the fabric that were already pulling away from his uniform, revealing hints of the defect below. As he bends to examine it further the clamoring of his children on the stairs distracts him.
“Where have you two been?” Pawel asks as they tear past his room. A jumble of words informs him that they’ve ‘been out’ with friends. Pawel’s worry renews itself as possible scenarios flash across the screen of his imagination.
“Was everything alright?” he asks.
Both children answer with shrugs and retreat to their rooms. From one room comes the sounds of music and the dull thud of hands tapping on the wall at the head of the bed. From the other come the sounds of seclusion as a book is opened and the world is shut out.
“What else can I do for them?” Pawel prays aloud as he stares after them. There is no response. He wonders at their friends, their music, their books. He has been very careful about their exposure to the influences of the world. He seeks to immerse them in Truth and Love and to give them a firm footing on the Way. He now promises himself to reflect on new ways to protect and edify them, trusting that he can find a way to keep them safe.
“Honey, its just about time.” The reminder comes from downstairs. A glance at the clock spurs Pawel into action. He neatly folds his uniform and puts it where he will be sure to see it later and will remember to examine it more carefully. On his way down he checks himself in the mirror at the head of the stairs.
“Still have some hair,” he chuckles. His short-cropped hair is a concession to nature; his two-day beard is his answer back. He looks deep into the eyes that peer back at him, the eyes that have watched him his entire life. What they have seen they remind him of everyday. What they desire to see they scream at him every minute of every day. He cleans off his glasses on his shirt and straightens his belt, letting it out a bit- another concession. He gives himself one more look and puts on the smile he will wear for the rest of the evening.
“At least I can still put that on,” Pawel mutters.
His wife is in the kitchen, readying the pizza money for the kids and writing out a list of emergency numbers.
“Ready,” she says, taking his hand as he heads out to the car.
The drive is not long but it gives her plenty of time to tell him of her day and of the myriad of things on her mind. She needs times such as these to empty herself and he is pleased to listen. He worries about how he is doing by her as well, about her journey on the Way, about their relationship. He tries to be a watchman for her, seeking to remind her of dangers and establishing principles for her to follow. He tries to guide her in the ways of contentment, charity and service.
“How well am I doing?” he silently prays. But again there is nothing but silence from above.
“How will all this turn out?” he inadvertently says aloud. He has interrupted his wife, who smiles, but doesn’t respond; she doesn’t hear.
The uniform is presentable only periodically. Pawel can wear it when his work is successful; when he deems it satisfactory to the Most High. Like the times when he is seeing fruit exhibited in the lives of his children or when he is feeling the strength of his love for his wife. He can wear it when his walk is sound and his faith sure.
Back at home Pawel returns to his uniform, quietly unfolding it and laying it out upon his desk.
“Maybe it’s not as bad as I think…”
But as he begins to carefully examine it the entire defective piece inexplicably comes loose in his hands revealing the emptiness of the void he had so strenuously been trying to cover.
“No!” he shouts, “How can this be, my effort, my service, my desire…? It is never enough!”
Pawel moans, “I don’t understand, I just don’t understand.”