With a pained expression mixed with a tinge of hope, Louisa asks Martin what he wants.
She is angry and frustrated at the dancing around they’ve been doing in their relationship…are we supposed to be together, are we not…
Louisa loves Martin.
She loves his intelligence and intensity. She loves him for his commitment to do his job as a doctor thoroughly, ethically, and yes, punctually.
She loves him despite his rudeness, despite his seeming indifference to the feelings of others, and despite the fact that he is a grumpy, anti-social curmudgeon.
Martin is a pain.
His social awkwardness hinders his relationships and his lack of community keeps him from dealing with his own emotional brokenness stemming from a lonely and neglected childhood. He has difficulty communicating much of anything besides anger and irritation, which hampers his ability to profess his love for Louisa. You see, Martin has a hard time with love. He doesn’t have a clue how to break out of the carefully contrived patterns and systems he’s lived with his whole life.
It’s not on his radar that breaking out is even an option.
Life is work. And more work. Everything is the same. Nothing ever changes. Why would it?
Get up. Get dressed. Turn on the espresso machine. See to the patients. Bark orders to a secretary, tell a child to shut up, kick the dog. At the end of the day, one must put paperwork in order, rinse out the coffee cup, tinker with an antique clock for a bit and finally go to bed only to lay there unable to sleep.
When Martin meets Louisa, all the walls he had precisely built around his heart begin to shift. The once mortared places start to crack like little hairline fissures spreading in a thousand different directions. Sometimes Martin has a moment where he is about to give in to love, but he usually ruins it by saying something stupid thereby promptly walling his heart back up and putting on the British stiff upper lip.
After all, one must get on with things.
We all do it; this getting on with things when life becomes too full of unanswered questions. Sometimes it’s easier to build a wall then deal with the stuff of heartbreak and failed community.
It’s easier to stop asking questions when we think there won’t be any answers.
Then one day, out of the blue, someone asks us question.
Martin! What do you want?
Louisa, frustrated that Martin is so pig-headed and despite her fear that his answer won’t be any good, confronts him anyway in the middle of the road. She has come to the point where she must know. It’s now or never.
Suddenly, emerging out of some fog that seemed to have held him captive, Martin’s normal ghastly look of irritation softens, the wrinkles around his eyes relax and he looks at Louisa with this longing…this love that he has kept protected in the box that is his heart, but now…now it’s out and spilling all over his face.
His heart has been pulverized.
Instead of averting his gaze, which is what Martin usually does, he looks Louisa right in the eyes. He pauses as if he’s waiting for the answer to arrive from the deepest place of himself and when it does, his answer to the question, what do you want, is:
Martin doesn’t give Louisa the classic answer she may have been hoping for. He doesn’t declare his undying love for her or ask her to marry him. (He does that later)
Martin does the unexpected. He bypasses the conventional and gives an answer that reveals the layers of all that is in his heart.
He is tired of his old life.
He is tired of building walls.
He is tired of himself.
Martin tells the truth. And it comes in the form of a simple, all-encompassing answer.
When he says he wants something new, Martin is actually declaring what Louisa has become to him: She is his something new.
He realizes that if he is with her everything from here on out will be new, too. If it means he becomes new as well, then so be it. Martin is ready to give up his old patterns and systems.
Knowing her has broken through everything he has ever known up until this point in his life. His defenses are gone. His truest self is beginning to emerge. Dare he hope that he could be transformed just by loving her and being loved by her?
As I watched this climactic scene from the British TV show, Doc Martin, I had just come from a time of intense weeping while standing on a ladder, paint splotched in my hair and streaked across my chin. As I swished my brush back and forth I had been thinking about some recent challenges of loss and heartbreak, along with some disappointments and questions I have regarding a few things that need a remedy. The remedy seems so far away it is more like a fairy tale than anything real, never mind possible.
A lament without words came over me on the ladder and I couldn’t continue painting, so I decided to eat lunch instead. At least I could breathe for a few minutes.
I settled in with a salad, some tea and a little Netflix, glad for a break in the emotion. The show Doc Martin makes me laugh, plus the scenery is as beautiful as Cornwall England can possibly be. Fields of wildflowers and ancient architecture makes me ache with joy.
But when the character Doc Martin said the words….Something New, I began weeping all over again.
And then a strange thing happened.
All at once it was like God was speaking to me, for me and through me. And I was speaking to him, although I uttered not one word. It became a strange and glorious dance.
Like Martin, I was jarred by the question.
What do you want?
God’s question. My question.
His answer. My answer.
A sacred kaleidoscope of communion.
This is what you were asking for in your lament; Something new.
This is what I am giving you in this moment; Something new.
This is your heart’s cry for others…Something new.
Weeping on the ladder and again in the flowered chair next to my tea and salad, I realized I really do want something new. I want all the old stuff to be gone, the old self, the old thought patterns, the old fears, the old lusts, the old illusions, the old complacency’s…the old cracked walls that are nothing but ruins anyway, I want it all to be pulverized.
In that moment with Netflix, God named what I really want.
Jesus is my something new.
This mixture, this communion of thought and emotion, questions and answers, all stirred up together somehow felt as if He was listening and speaking and answering and I was lamenting and questioning and understanding and being understood; knowing and being known; exposed and vulnerable, yet clothed and strengthened.
God is always clothing us, isn’t He?
This dance was the way the trees dance and sway with the wind, back and forth and around and around; not resisting, but bending in sync to it. Or maybe it’s the dance of the ocean as the waves tumble forward while at the same time drawing back in its own endless rhythm of beauty and power.
Sitting in my chair watching Doc Martin and feeling a bit awed that a scene from a TV show took on the glint of the sacred, it dawned on me what this dance of questions and answers and knowing and being known is called. It is called prayer.
And for me this kind of prayer was something new.
Photo of Martin Clunes in Doc Martin from Google images.