Joy Was A Flame In Me

I read a wonderful poem by Sara Teasdale this morning entitled "The Answer."  It was one of those things that you read, and you know that something changed in you for reading it.  

In fact, I felt a holy tremor through me, as I read and re-read the last few lines.  

Here, read it for yourself and see what you think: 

When I go back to earth
and all my joyous body
Puts off the red and white 
That once had been so proud, 
If men should pass above 
With false and feeble pity, 
My dust will find a voice 
To answer them aloud: 

"Be still, I am content, 
Take back your poor compassion!--
Joy was a flame in me
Too steady to destroy. 
Lithe as a bending reed 
Loving the storm that sways her--
I found more joy in sorrow 
Than you could find in joy." 

The speaker in the poem reflects on her death, and the fierce sense of joy that she has felt in life--all of her life, even the savage and difficult bits that were whipped by storms. 

This morning, I remembered a day many years ago when I was sitting in the office of R. Bruce Bickley, Jr., one of my Literature professors at Florida State University.  

Dr. Bickley had a placard on this desk that read, "Love it all."  I asked him what it meant, thinking that perhaps there was some connection to the quote with some obscure literary reference.  

He simply told me something that I've never forgotten:  

"You have to love all of your life," he said.  "Love both the good and the bad. It's all part of it.  It's the best you can hope for--to be able to look back on your whole life and be able to say 'I loved it all.'"  

These words of wisdom have haunted me more than once when I've felt myself being blown by the storms of life, or more often by the storms that rage within me.  They have haunted me when I have been tempted to rail against the storms, shaking my fist at the skies in bitterness and fear.  

The truth of the matter is, I believe each and every one of us long to find peace and hope in the storms of our life.  And further, we long to be able to say at the end of our days that "Joy was a flame in me/Too steady to destroy."  

I believe we all want to embrace the words of the Psalmist who wrote, "When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul."  

The storms will come, for sure, but when we bend without breaking through the power of the Spirit within us---we can find joy in the storms themselves as they reveal more about who we are, and whose we are than any calm sea or gentle breeze ever might. 

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always.  Amen.  

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