The Ground Is Wise

Yesterday I helped a family plan the memorial service for their mom, who passed away a little over a week ago. 

She was a sweet, kind soul who was always so gracious to me when I would see her on Sunday mornings

I had the opportunity to visit her shortly before she died, and it was all grace to be able to say goodbye to her---a holy moment if you will.   

But these kinds of things always get me thinking about my mom, who passed away nearly three years ago.  I miss her.  Every day.  But lately, I've been missing her more than usual. 

My mom always had a way of taking even the worst situations and finding the good in them.

The grace that she brought to tragedy and trial was often the very thing that would help the rest of us see the silver linings in the clouds that enveloped us. 

Throughout these last few months, I have often wondered what she would have said about all that we are going through---with COVID, and all the conflict over politics, injustice issues... 

I've even asked her out loud in quiet moments as I've looked out on the flowers blooming in my flowerbeds and watched the birds feeding as she loved to do,  and I've imagined she was listening... 

Sometimes I feel like I can hear her whispering a response in the wind rustling the trees, or the birds singing around me as she speaks grace to me... telling me to look closer, to see more clearly. 

In his poem "The Wild," Wendell Berry once wrote about the flowers that he saw growing in a vacant, blighted lot in the middle of a dilapidated city neighborhood:

But they’re the habit of this 
Wasted place.  In them 
The ground is wise.  They are 

Its remembrance of what it is. 

I love that whole stanza, but the last line is a revelation:  "The ground is wise.  They are its remembrance of what it is..."  Underneath all of the struggle and the conflict... just below the surface of the devastation is a memory of the truest things. 

There's no escaping the reality that things are not always as they should be.  There's no way to duck the challenges that come.  There's no way for us to avoid death in all of its forms---the death of dreams, loved ones, the way things used to be... 

But there's a memory that lives within us all that is grounded in Resurrection hope--placed there before the beginning of time by the One who longs to bring new life to what we left for dead. 

Theologian and philosopher Friedrich Hegel once wrote that the truest expression of Christian hope is to recognize that eternal life is like this:  
Not a life that shrinks away from death or remains untouched by devastations, but a life that endures death and bears death in itself is the life of the Spirit. 
And the mystery of this kind of life is, that it is outside of time, ever-lasting and forever.  When we learn to accept that the death of things is not the end of them or of us---we find the freedom to truly live. 

My mom understood this in her gentle and straightforward way.  She understood this mystery and lived it--imperfectly at times, but still, she lived it. 

And her memory is always beneath the oft-cluttered, blighted ground of my soul... a ground made wiser because of her... a ground that remembers who I really I am and who God is to me. 

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


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