I've been reading a good bit of Wendell Berry's poetry lately. Berry is a novelist, essayist, poet, cultural critic, and environmental activist, whose work inspires me, and humbles me all at once.
I am inspired by Berry's poems because they speak in lofty terms of the beauty of groundedness--of discovering the Spirit at work in the creation and finding yourself in the midst of that discovery.
I am also humbled by his work because it convicts me in ways that are hard to explain, and even harder to feel without being overwhelmed.
Let me explain by way of an example.
In his poem "Meditations in the Spring Rain," Berry reflects how a moment of standing in the rain and watching it fall, leads him to wonder if the powerful feelings he's experiencing are a result of the beauty of the rain, or something moving and stirring within him.
As he stands there it occurs to him that what he's failing to describe all that well is actually indescribable. It is an encounter with the Divine both within him and in the rain itself. He then says:
For I too am perhaps a little mad
standing here wet in the drizzle, listening
to the clashing syllables of the water. Surely
there is a great Word being put together here.
I love that last line so much. It's actually what drew me to study the poem even more deeply. It reminds me of a story from the Old Testament that contains one of my favorite lines of all time.
In Genesis chapter 28, the patriarch Jacob is fleeing from his mistakes and seeks refuge in the wilderness. In the middle of literally "nowhere," he has an incredible vision of the glories of heaven.
Then he declares, "Surely the presence of the Lord was in this place and I didn't know it."
I have encountered holy spaces in the world that I have often referred to as "thin places," where the veil between our reality and God's reality is thin enough that we can actually catch a glimpse of "heaven," if our eyes are open enough to see.
My thin places have looked like cathedrals, wooded glens, city streets, coffee shops, fields of flax, mountain streams, and rocky beaches. But they all have the same thing in common---I felt the presence of the Divine within them.
You could argue, I suppose, that these spaces were no more or less imbued with the presence of the Divine than any other place in the Universe. Honestly, I rather like that argument.
The "thin places" became thin not because I was near some musical portal that leads to heaven, but because I became more aware of just how thin the veil is everywhere.
It might have felt to me like the Divine presence was more present in those locations, but more likely my spirit was drawn to them, and my senses were heightened within them because there was something about them that gave me the courage to surrender.
At this point, you might be thinking: "What in the heck is Leon talking about?"
It comes down to this. The Divine presence of God is all around us all of the time. It is the air we breathe, the creation we inhabit, the spaces we occupy. God is all around us, and also within us.
We just do a really good job of ignoring God's presence because we're too busy trying to control our outcomes, fulfill our own desires, and pursue our own purposes. We are blinded then by our own ambitions, and cannot perceive the glory we are standing in each and every moment.
Take a moment today to find a space to simply be. Slow down. Listen. Pay attention to your surroundings. Let your senses take in everything---the sights, sounds, smell, taste, and touch of it all.
Surrender to the moment. Close your eyes for a moment or two if you need to, and then open them wide. Let yourself see the signs of God's glory---signs that may have eluded you for a very long time.
And perhaps you will say, "There is a great Word being put together here..."
May it be so, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.
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