Love The World

My youngest son longed to play tackle football and so we signed him up, and he started a week ago.  I am sure that he imagined that it would be different---like his video games, or the pickup matches he's played during recess.  

It's not.  It's the hardest thing that he's ever attempted in his young life.  

Even though the practices are in the evening, it's still Texas-summer-hot out on the field, and when you're wearing full pads and a helmet, it's even hotter.  On top of that, he's having to learn all new things that are physically and mentally challenging. 

Before we signed him up, I told him that his mother and I would not allow him to quit.  He had to finish the season, come what may.  He eagerly accepted it then, but I know he's struggling with his decision now.  

And still, he goes out onto the field, grim-faced, determined, uncertain at times, and then totally flashing some quality football moves on occasion.  I am proud of him.  

During water breaks, he'll often come over to where I am sitting (in the shade), and give me a little wave as he approaches.  He wants to know what I think.  He wants me to tell him he's doing good.  And he also wants me to give him advice and encouragement. 

Sometimes I will find him glancing over at me after he performs a drill, looking to see if I'm still watching.  

I've had time to reminisce a bit as I've watched my littlest boy grow up out on that field.  Sixteen years ago, I sat at a different field watching his oldest brother do the very same things. 

When I close my eyes, and smell the grass, and listen to the sound of whistles and little boys running, I am struck by my own memories of fields from my own youth.  

There is such beauty in the world if we are open to seeing it.  There's a rhythm to it all that is sacred and wonderful, and also bittersweet.  

You see, the field I sit on each evening watching my son is a sacrament--connecting me with the Divine pattern of dying and rising in ways that make my soul ache, and my spirit light.  

I read a poem by Mary Oliver the other day that helps me understand all of this a bit better.  Here is the line that resonated with me the most: 

I  have become older and, cherishing what I have learned, 
I have become younger.  
And what do I risk to tell you this, which is all I know?
Love yourself. Then forget it.  Then, love the world.  

I'm learning to do the first bit of that last line.  It's not easy.  Most of us can attest to just how hard it is to learn to love yourself, to forgive yourself, to let yourself be held by God, and be at peace.  

But there are moments when the sacraments all around us help us find the strength, and the grace to do just that.  

And the sign and the symbol that we are beginning to truly love ourselves, is our ability to surrender and let ourselves love the world and its rhythms.  Because then we will see how we are a part of it all, and we will cherish what we have learned. 

May you learn to love yourself, and then let go.  May you love the world in all of its frailty, brokenness, and beauty.  May you find peace and hope and joy.  

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



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