Wednesday 5/10/2017 5:20 AM
When I’m on my motorcycle I have an unhindered view of the world. All of my senses are bombarded as I ride along. I see the beauty of a cloud formation, the distant mountains, and a flowering plant in the median as I wait for a light to change. I feel the subtle changes in temperature as the wind blows across my face. I smell the pleasant fragrance of a bed of flowering jasmine or a street lined with jacarandas, which also overwhelm with their purple beauty. I smell the rancid odor of rotting road kill and the pungent odor of a skunk that had to protect itself.
Last night I was watching a television show about new, bizarre life forms that have been discovered by unmanned submarines plumbing the depths of the ocean. It seems the universe is a cornucopia of differing environments that are populated by a plethora of differing physical structures and life forms.
Yesterday I attended the funeral of Joe, a family friend. After the service family and friends gathered at their house to visit with one another, and to reminisce. Food that had been purchased and made by family and friends festooned the island in the kitchen and the dining room table. The food that was displayed mirrored the abundance that is found in the world, with a wide variety of colors, textures, and savory flavors. We sat at tables decorated with different kinds of flowers: daisies, mums, lilies, carnations, roses, snapdragons, etc., each with its unique shape, color, hue, and fragrance. White clouds floated across the deep blue sky as birds flitted among the trees. Different groups of people were sitting at each table aged from a few months to ninety plus years. Among them were musicians, engineers, nurses, pastors, factory workers, technicians, educators, businessmen and businesswomen, to name a few. Different personalities evidenced themselves as people interacted, some withdrawn, seeking quiet and solitude, while others moved from group to group like a honeybee visiting different flowers in its search for pollen and nectar. Each person there was unique. Each with his own set of circumstances, her own talents and abilities, and her own personality.
Today I read an excerpt from Earth and Altar, by Eugene Peterson, that reminded me of my experiences yesterday. He writes, “We do not begin life on our own. We do not finish it on our own. Life, especially when we experience by faith the complex interplay of creation and salvation, is not fashioned out of our own genetic lumber and cultural warehouses. It is not hammered together with the planks and nails of our thoughts and dreams, our feelings and fancies. We are not self-sufficient. We enter a world that is created by God, that already has a rich history and is crowded with committed participants – a world of animals and mountains, of politics and religion; a world where people build houses and raise children, where volcanoes erupt lava and rivers flow to the sea; a world in which, however carefully we observe and watch and study it, surprising things keep on taking place. We keep on being surprised because we are in on something beyond our management, something over our heads. In prayer we realize and practice our part in this intricate involvement with absolutely everything that is, no matter how remote it seems to us or how indifferent we are to it. This prayer is not an emotional or aesthetic sideline that we indulge in after our real work is done; it is the connective tissue of our far-flung existence. The world of creation interpenetrates the world of redemption. The world of redemption interpenetrates the world of creation. The extravagantly orchestrated skies and the exuberantly fashioned earth are not background to provide a little beauty on the periphery of the godlike ego; they are the large beauty in which we find our true home, room in which to live the cross and Christ expansively, openhearted in praise.”
I am not meant to walk through this world alone. God provides infinite stimuli to enrich my life: colors, textures, odors, and temperatures, each tickling one of my senses that are perfect for detecting the stimuli. People too, like the rest of creation, have a variety of personalities and abilities that enrich my life. I can live most fully when I engage with others in healthy relationships, bathing my life with the uniqueness each person has to offer.
Over the past months I have withdrawn from this lavish creation as I deal with the grief of my mom’s death. I’m quite certain that Joe’s family will experience many of the same feelings I have as the year progresses and they may also withdraw. Today I was assigned to read Jeremiah 31:11-14. Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet but his message in chapter 31 is one of hope for those living in want and under oppression. “For the Lord will deliver (his people) and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they. They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord – the grain, the new wine and the olive oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more. Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. I will satisfy the priests with abundance, and my people will be filled with my bounty, declares the Lord.”
Today, in the middle of my sadness and self-imposed withdrawal, God brings me hope that joy will return, and the bounty of his creation, animate and inanimate alike, will fill the void. I pray that Joe's family will also have glimpses of this hope and comfort as they meander through their grief.