We’ve had the first of many snow storms today–the snow almost too heavy to shovel. Thanks to WordPress for the added snow feature for blogs! It’s the time of year when I feel myself bearing up for the long haul of winter: time for deep and quiet underground growth, patient tending to internal gardens, and the need to draw more certainly on spiritual warmth and light. As my brother from California put it last January: “these such lovely flowers of winter.”
I’ve been thinking about the simple, holy sanctuary of the space most deep within us–the space where we begin to grasp the things unseen, the substance of things hoped for as Paul puts in his letter to the Hebrews. The space where new dawnings take hold and transform us from the inside out, and give us bearings, footholds that do not crumble or shift.
There’s a poem by Conrad Hilberry called Wise Man. Dr. Hilberry was one of those professors who had a quiet instilling impact on my life. He was one of my advisors on a senior thesis during a time of great turbulence in my life. We didn’t talk much, and being the poet he is, his words were understated, piercing, succinct, and clear. He had a way of reigning me in when I was being reckless, giving quiet encouragement when I felt the work was hopeless, helping me refocus, go deeper and find my way. I love this poem in this season, and the gritty, tangible promise that it represents.
No one here is old enough. The father,
if that’s what he is, stands awkward as a stork.
The mother does not know whether to smile
or cry, her face beautiful but ill-defined
as faces of the young are. Aven the ass
is a yearling and the sheep mutter like children.
To whom shall I hand this myrrh that has trailed
a bitter breath after it over the desert?
I am tired of mothers and their milky ways,
of babies sticky as figs. I have left a kingdom
of them. There must be some truth beyond
this sucking and growing and wasting away.
A star should lead an old man, you would think,
to some geometry, some right triangle
whose legs never slip or warp or aspire
to become the hypotenuse. Instead, this star
wandering our of the ecliptic has led us
a dry straw, a stable, oil burning in
a lamp, a mother nursing another mouth.
Creation, then is the only axiom–
and it declines to spell itself across
the sky in Roman letters. Some events
are worth a journey, but there are no
abstract fires or vague births. Each fire
gnaws its own sticks; the welter of what is
conspires in this, a creation you can hold
in your hands, a child. A definite baby
squalls into life, skids out between the legs
of a definite woman, bedded in straw, on the longest
night of the year. And a certain star burns.
“No abstract fires…no vague births…some events are worth a journey.” Out of the grit and mess, the strivings and strugglings of our lives, meaning is called forth. Where else are we to find what we’re looking for if not here? Right here something is waiting to emerge in us. The story of Jesus’ birth and life says it so clearly: don’t look out there, it’s not about where you’re staying, the trappings, what things appear to be. Sometimes the things you need come in ways you wouldn’t ask for. The stuff that truly holds in our lives proceeds from the light within, a spiritual well-spring of divine light, leading us to recognize the definite holiness, relevance, necessity of who we are.
Our lives are worth the journey to move past the rough edges, the things we want to discard, the things that don’t belong to us. It begins with a quiet awareness and acknowledgement of the sweet, pure, precious child within us. This is when we begin to glimpse the something more, a hint of tender approval, a certain sense of belonging, an unavoidable embrace. I love that in Christ Jesus’ teachings and journey his message was always one that pointed to both now and here. People didn’t jump through hoops to be healed; they got a glimpse of who they really were through the penetrating, spiritual discernment of Jesus’ Christliness. This is spiritual truth made practical: it’s not abstract or vague, but laser clear, cutting to the heart of things, uncovering what’s true.
I’ve loved the writings and teachings of Mary Baker Eddy for this reason. She wrote of her own spiritual awakening in this way: “Into mortal mind’s material obliquity I gazed, and stood abashed. Blanched was the cheek of pride. My heart bent low before the omnipotence of Spirit, and a tint of humility, soft as the heart of a moonbeam, mantled the earth. Bethlehem and Bethany, Gethsemane and Calvary, spoke to my chastened sense as by the tearful lips of a babe. Frozen fountains were unsealed. Erudite systems of philosophy and religion melted, for Love unveiled the healing promise and potency of a present spiritual afflatus. It was the gospel of healing, on its divinely appointed human mission, bearing on its white wings, to my apprehension, “the beauty of holiness,” — even the possibilities of spiritual insight, knowledge, and being.”
Here’s to definite discoveries, simple logical dawnings, and lives made new in concrete and beautiful ways.