I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the
pearl of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
~R.S. Thomas “A Bright Field”
The secret of seeing is, then the pearl of great price.
If I thought he could teach me to find it and keep it forever
I would stagger barefoot across a hundred deserts
after any lunatic at all.
But although the pearl may be found, it may not be sought.
The literature of illumination reveals this above all:
although it comes to those who wait for it,
it is always, even to the most practiced and adept,
a gift and a total surprise.
I return from one walk
knowing where the killdeer nests in the field by the creek
and the hour the laurel blooms.
I return from the same walk a day later
scarcely knowing my own name.
Litanies hum in my ears;
my tongue flaps in my mouth.
~Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to.
You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see
and my self is the earth’s shadow
that keeps me from seeing all the moon.
The crescent is very beautiful
and perhaps that is all one like I am should or could see;
but what I am afraid of, dear God,
is that my self shadow will grow so large
that it blocks the whole moon,
and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing.
I do not know You God
because I am in the way.
Please help me to push myself aside.
~Flannery O’Connor from A Prayer Journal
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God…
~Elizabeth Barrett Browning
The hardest thing is to step out of the way so that my own shadow no longer obscures what provides illumination. I am regularly so blinded by discouragement, busyness and distraction that I lose sight of God Himself.
Surprise me, dear Lord. Cram this common bush with heaven.
Though I regularly lament in the shadows, help me lift my voice in praise and gratitude for your gift, the pearl of great price you generously hold out for me to take each day.