I get bumped off the journey with regularity. This week was rife with what seemed like spanners in the works, bumps along the road. When I was traveling in Ireland a few weeks ago, being stymied by a flock of sheep in the road seemed like a lark, an interesting happening on the pilgrimage. Here at home, I am less sanguine about things that get in my way–both on the daily rounds and in my spiritual journey. This week it was construction on a major street, inadequate access to a parking lot, a broken elevator, and a myriad of other little things that aggravate me or slow me down. Some times the interior conversations are even more of a bump. I despair for our country with the level of vitriol being spewed out over air waves and gatherings. I get annoyed at the latest report of clergy malfunction in a local church. My heart breaks over the bullying of little ones as they make their way through school. But all those attitudes become bumps if the road of my journey with the Holy One.
I listened deeply once again to Wendell Berry in this poem “The Peace of Wild Things”:
When despair for the world grows in me/ and I wake in the night at the least sound/in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be…I come into the peace of wild things/who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
I had to admit that my attention was fixated on the obstacles and distractions, and that I needed to turn aside, as Berry did, into the Peace of Living Water, the Beauty of the Holy One. I feel much more adept at noticing the blockages and obstacles than I do turning my attention to the ways the God is present in the world around me. I live in a place of continual unfolding beauty in its topography and skies, in its variegated population, in its opportunities and adventures. And God is present in all of them, my task being to open my senses to see, feel and hear that presence, and to open my heart to what God is giving me in the present moment. That perspective does not allow me to bury my head in the sand, ostrich-like, to the real obstacles and distractions that are all around constantly. It is to focus on celebrating what good is being offered and to be ready for the invitations, beyond the difficulties, to be kind, to be helpful, to give generously and to speak the truth in love.
This morning the devastating news of the wake of Storm Sandy is reaching us here on the West Coast. I can choose many helpful responses–checking in on loved ones, giving money to disaster relief, deep prayer for all. What will give me strength and power to do any or all of those things or more will be to attend to the restoration of my soul by still waters and following leading of the Good Shepherd, who makes it possible for me to trust that for my beloved ones, and those I do not know, there will be Holy Presence that comforts and guides. And I can trust that presence of healing and Grace as I remember this week All Souls who have gone before, and All Saints, on their designated days. I can even trust that out beyond the shouting and tumult that will rage through Election Day, there is a peace of God that surpasses my understanding. I am called to do my part to make it so. May I be given grace to do it!
Elizabeth Nordquist who blogs for Patheos reflects on choosing to focus on what is important even in times of frustration and crisis.