Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colors which it passes to a row of ancient trees. You look, and soon these two worlds both leave you one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth.
leaving you, not really belonging to either, not so hopelessly dark as that house that is silent, not so unswervingly given to the eternal as that thing that turns to a star each night and climbs–
leaving you (it is impossible to untangle the threads) your own life, timid and standing high and growing, so that, sometimes blocked in, sometimes reaching out, one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star. ~Rainer Maria Rilke “Sunset” (Trans. by Robert Bly) from The Soul is Here for Its Own Joy
We, frail people that we are, live out our lives between heaven and earth, sometimes in an uneasy tug-of-war between the two. We feel not quite ready for heaven as our roots go deep here, yet the challenges of daily life on this soil can seem overwhelmingly difficult and we seek relief, begging for mercy.
As we struggle to stay healthy during a spreading pandemic, it is frightening to watch others suffer as death tolls rise. We pray for safety for ourselves and those we love, knowing we are living “in between” where we are now and where we soon will be.
Shall we remain stones on the ground, still and lifeless, or are we destined to become a star glistening in the firmament?
Or are we like a tree stretching between soil and sky trying to touch both and remain standing while buffeted by forces beyond our control?
Christ the Son, on earth and in heaven, maintains an eternal connection to above and below. In His hands and under His protection, we are safe no matter where we are and where He takes us.
We can be mere stones no more.
This year’s Barnstorming theme for the season of Lent:
God sees us as we are, loves us as we are, and accepts us as we are. But by His grace, He does not leave us where we are. ~Tim Keller
We must go up into the chase in the evenings, and pray there with nothing but God’s cloud temple between us and His heaven!
…and then all still – hushed – awe-bound, as the great thunderclouds slide up from the far south! Then, there to praise God! ~Charles Kingsley
Heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in the thin places that distance is even smaller. A thin place is where the veil that separates heaven and earth is lifted and one is able to receive a glimpse of the glory of God. ~Celtic saying
To make myself understood and to diminish the distance between us, I called out: “I am an evening cloud too.” They stopped still, evidently taking a good look at me. Then they stretched towards me their fine, transparent, rosy wings. That is how evening clouds greet each other. They had recognized me. ~Rainer Maria Rilke, Stories of God
We do not live in a part of the world with extremes in weather and for that I’m immensely grateful. We are moderate in temperature range, precipitation, wind velocity – for the most part.
Our cloud cover is mostly solid gray much of the time, very plain and unassuming, barely worth noticing.
When there are a few days each season of dramatic clouds, the horizon takes on a different feel, telling a new story, inviting our attention and admiration and welcoming us closer.
Heaven is nearer; the clouds recognize us and greet us with their rosy wings. The thin place between earth and heaven becomes thin indeed.
Will there really be a “Morning”? Is there such a thing as “Day”? Could I see it from the mountains If I were as tall as they?
Has it feet like Water lilies? Has it feathers like a Bird? Is it brought from famous countries Of which I have never heard?
Oh some Scholar! Oh some Sailor! Oh some Wise Man from the skies! Please to tell a little Pilgrim Where the place called “Morning” lies! ~Emily Dickinson
You are the future, the immense morning sky turning red over the prairies of eternity…
You are the meaning deepest inside things that never reveals the secret of its owner. And how you look depends on where we are: from a boat, you are shore, from the shore a boat. ~Rainer Maria Rilke, from Love Poems to God from the Book of Hours
I know now what weariness is when the mind stops and night is a dark blanket of peace and forgetting and the morning breaks to the same ritual and the same demands and the silence. ~Jane Clement from No One Can Stem the Tide
I head to clinic this morning knowing from now on my work will feel different after today, no longer the same ritual, no longer the same demands.
Mornings will be more resonant, depending on where I am: from the boat I no longer must be shore, from the shore I no longer need to row the boat.
I can simply be what the patient needs in the moment and the patient is all I need.
.…you mustn’t be frightened … if a sadness rises in front of you, larger than any you have ever seen; if an anxiety, like light and cloud-shadows, moves over your hands and over everything you do. You must realize that something is happening to you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any misery, any depression, since after all you don’t know what work these conditions are doing inside you? ~Rainer Maria Rilke from Letters to a Young Poet
…difficulties are magnified out of all proportion simply by fear and anxiety. From the moment we wake until we fall asleep we must commend other people wholly and unreservedly to God and leave them in his hands, and transform our anxiety for them into prayers on their behalf: With sorrow and with grief… God will not be distracted. ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Letters from Prison
Every day I see college students who are so consumed by anxiety they become immobilized in their ability to move forward through the midst of life’s inevitable obstacles and difficulties. They become so stuck in their own overwhelming feelings they can’t sleep or eat or think clearly, so distracted are they by their symptoms. They self-medicate, self-injure and self-hate. Being unable to nurture themselves or others, they wither like a young tree without roots deep enough to reach the vast reservoir that lies untapped beneath them. In epidemic numbers, some decide to die, even before life really has fully begun for them.
I grieve for them in their distress. My role is to help find healing solutions, whether it is counseling therapy, a break from school, or a medicine that may give some form of relief. My heart knows the ultimate answer is not as simple as the right prescription.
We who are anxious must depend upon a Creator who does not suffer from attention deficit disorder and who is not distracted from His care for us even when we turn away in worry and sorrow. We magnify our difficult circumstances by staying so tightly into ourselves, unable to look beyond our own eyelashes. Instead we are to reach higher and deeper, through prayer, through service to others, through acknowledging there is power greater than ourselves.
So we are called to pray for ourselves and for others, disabling anxiety and fear and transforming it to gratitude and grace. No longer withering, we just might bloom.