In Search of Numen Lumen

Elon 2
At forty I still feel young, especially when I’m with my college girlfriends. Age and time seem to fade and it’s just like when we were back under the oaks, listening to the Indigo Girls and drinking cold beer under a Carolina blue sky. I long for those days again, when life was simple and major decisions had nothing to do with houses and children and 401K’s. When the biggest crisis was who you were asking to the grab-a-date or finding where you left your bike the night before. It was a time when it was ok and almost expected to be a bit foggy at 11am and when everyone who depended on you was always a bit foggy too.

But time passes and life throws curves and rocks at you, you fall in and out of love and you find what matters most, all while amassing an adult life that you thought that you were supposed to have and aren’t sure that you really want. And with that brings problems and crisis and you find that your family and friends are real people with real problems, not the fairytale figures you created them to be in your youth.

People disappoint you and surprise you and horrify you and you realize that you are grown up and have to be strong because being weak is not an option. Yes, you may have moments of weakness but they can’t last because you have others who depend on your strength so that they may live their own lives and figure out this cycle for themselves. You see people who cannot be strong so you try to give them your strength to get them through and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
And a lot of times all you can do is hope for the best and pray. Pray that this too shall pass and all will work out for the common good and a million other clichés that I can’t even think of right now. Some rally to help and others are just too busy, too tired and too mired down in their own “stuff” that they just don’t realize that their strength is needed. And that’s the way life is.

It’s exhausting really, this whole getting older thing. How is it possible I went from eighteen to forty in the blink of an eye? A wife, a mother, three kids and a frog. A mortgage, tuition, bills, work. Those days under the Carolina blue skies seem so far away and lately I find myself longing for them. I feel a little guilty for wishing myself away from a man and a family that I love so dearly. But I think that we tend to feel like we are a little invisible at this stage in the game, that our value is measured in our ability to do laundry and make lunches and put together projects rather than what (and who) we truly are.

I had quite the blow out with my nine-year-old son the other day; it was about something silly, like picking up his belt off the floor. He told me that I was the worst in the world, that I was no fun and all I did was tell him what to do. Well, instead of walking away I turned right around and proceeded to tell him that I was fun and cool and that people (outside of this house) really like me. I told him I was talented and was capable of doing things besides laundry and dishes. Had I taken a moment to breathe, I would have realized I lost him at “fun” and “cool”. Right then I looked pretty crazy, even to myself.

But in that moment I longed to be the person that I was, the person that I felt that I had lost and could only get back by returning to my beloved college days, sheltered by the oaks and my memories.

This place and these days were filled with light and laughter and, though we didn’t know it then, peace. Funny that our university motto was “Numen Lumen.” At the time I had no clue what it meant but thought it was funny to say, even funnier after a few Busch Lights. After looking up the meaning I was a bit in awe of what I found.

“Numen Lumen- If you were an ancient Roman, and you went up a hill or down into a hollow, and you felt something holy or scary or beautiful, you would say that you were sensing the “numen” of the place. So “numen” means some sort of indwelling of God. “Numen lumen” is saying that the Divine is the guiding Light.”

What I took from this explanation was that I was a part of heaven, for just a little while. Now some are going to say that its blasphemy to say that college life and all that goes with it is far from holy and they may be right. But for me and many of my friends it was where we really began. It was light and love and peace. It was where we figured out how to show up for each other. Yes, we were carefree and a little reckless at times but we were also figuring out how to get out into the world and fend for ourselves while watching out for each other.

Now, no one who went to Elon College (now Elon University) is going to liken it to the big bad world but it was our first experience away from the shelter of our home and our parents. It was where we learned that family is not only defined by blood.

The reality is, I cannot go back and when I try it’s never the same but I can still feel the beauty of that time. I still have moments when I long to return and sometimes I do. When the sky in Virginia turns Carolina blue and my kids catch me staring up for just a moment too long and ask “what are you doing?” I just smile and look at them and say “Numen Lumen.”

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21 thoughts on “In Search of Numen Lumen

  1. Loved this one Meghan! I think we all feel exactly the same way sometimes….when life was so much easier! But we are so much wiser now….(right?) 🙂

  2. omg- meghan- this soooo speaks to me! beautifully written. you’ve put into words how i’ve been feeling since i turned the big 4-0 in dec!

  3. I’m a 40-something Fightin’ Christian who thinks you summed it up beautifully! One of the reasons I go back for homecoming each year is that it takes me back to those days of freedom, but more importantly, it serves as some sort of renewal of spirit. Interestingly enough, the building we called “College Chapel” has been renamed “Numen Lumen” with the description of the building saying, “…Numen Lumen is a time and space to take a break from the busyness of the week and refresh the spirit.”

    • Love the new name for the building. Funny how Numen Lumen has so much more meaning now than it did almost 20 years ago…I guess the saying is true…older and wiser! Thanks for sharing…

  4. Meghan, I love this. ‘Made me sit back in my chair and exhale for a moment…and remember where I began. Well done. xo, Julee

    Julee Spitzer (804) 627-3711 c

  5. Meghan, this is amazing!! Having turned 40 on Tuesday, I SO get this!! Thank you for taking me back for a moment and for grounding me in the present. I am excited for 40, but reality of life can be overwhelming at times. This was beautiful and poetic and powerful. Numen Lumen.

  6. I’m going to say this to everyone who I can reach. GET YOUR BUTTS BACK TO ELON FOR HOMECOMING! I’ve been back the last 4 or 5 years and it is truly good for the soul. You will experience Numen Lumen again.

  7. Thank you Meghan. This brought chills to my arms and warmed my heart. I cannot wait to go back in November…..back home to my family!

  8. We have all been wired for something better then the here and now. We feel it in our bodies in our youth and we search out things to fill that void and longing for something better. As we change into adults and have families of our own, life’s difficulties often overwhelm us. However, there is Hope and an opportunity for each of us to surrender ourselves to something bigger, amazing, more powerful, and everlasting: the saving grace of God which offers forgiveness and eternal life in Heaven.

    Thank you for the meaning of Numen lumen.

  9. Thank you for sharing everything I’ve been feeling for quite some time. I’m with 3 of the best college friends for a weekend to catch up. Your blog is another confirmation of how powerful being an Elon grad always will be.

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