Presence

I have heard that beauty is the residue, the fingerprint-glory of God.  And I have agreed wholeheartedly.  But I have begun to suspect that a fingerprint is something we leave behind at the scene of a crime – and doesn’t that mark the suspicion in our breast?  Isn’t that the shape of our doubt?

But what if God is a gentleman, who left, that day in the Garden when we asked Him to, but it broke His heart to go?  And what if He only left like the faithful parent of a railing child, listening with His hand on the doorknob, ready to enter at the child’s first frightened cry?  

What if he left as the faithful lover of a woman momentarily lunatic on the tide of the moon: peering through the lattice, ready to protect her from the intruder she hasn’t yet learned to suspect?

What if He is this near: that slant of light that aches your heart?  What if the way the light cannot help but dance (and you, sometimes, cannot help but notice) is a whispered invitation to catch His eye?

What if He is this near: that breath of air that catches yours?  (The scent of sea, the alpine eucalypt, the daily breeze of dawn).  What if His very breath is breathed invisible through your ordinary window?

What if He’s here?

***

What if beauty is not evidence that He left, but evidence that He’s here?

What if beauty is the sound of His whisper to you, the sound of the song He’s singing to soothe you, woo you?  If the beat of the drum, when you hear that song that makes you move, is not a war cry but a heartbeat?  

What if He is love?  

And what if the beat of His heart is a war cry – against your enemy, and not you?

What if, when He looks at you, he’s smiling?

What if it’s not ignorance, but innocence, that’s bliss?  And if the only way to find it is first to admit that it is lost?

What if the way He returns, in this age, is not all at once (as He some day certainly will) – but one by one: to the ones that welcome Him?

What if He’s just waiting for you to welcome Him in?

Honey

Little golden moments, like drips of honey, suspended and viscous in my days…

I am not sensing You yet, nor yet Your Presence, but the hint of it – just a feeling – vague and sweet.

The memory of a feeling, rather than the feeling itself.

Memories, reminders, of moments with You. In place of an awareness of Your presence in my present, You remind me of Your presence in my past.

Here comes one:

A syrup-slow movement in my mind…back to that long-ago evening:

A little lounge room, cosy, warm. A red-barn farm in April. Upstate New York.

The lingering comfort of a hearty casserole dinner; quiet evening in lamplit serenity. The familiar comfort of agricultural magazines in tidy piles in humble corners…And an open Bible on somebody’s glasses-nosed lap.

Ah, and there it comes now: the magic! It’s the secret of You, isn’t it? That when the roll-your-own, cigarette-paper-thin pages are allowed to breathe light and see air…You escape from them like a genie, lamp-rubbed, and You fill the room with the fragrance of our farming Father.

The inimitable assurance that Daddy’s home.

My mind redeemed, no longer wasp nest but beehive: each of these memories will fill a hexagon crypt, wax-plugged and honeycomb stored.

The darkness is just smoke-screen.

I have tasted and seen that You are good. I have been filled. You will fill me again.

Lord

Reading Bandersnatch – C.S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings by Diana Pavlac Glyer, I’m struck by this quote by Tolkien’s son regarding his father’s writing process for The Lord of the Rings:

“It was far indeed from being a fixed text, and did not remain unchanged even in certain fundamental ideas concerning the world it portrays… As the years passed the changes and variants…became so complex, so pervasive, and so many-layered that a final and definitive version seemed unattainable.”

And then this, by Glyer: “Tolkien was constantly working on the world he had invented. Some of the most foundational aspects of plot and characters kept changing. Even the nature of Middle-earth remained in flux throughout his life.”

What strikes me about it is this: that an author whose genius achieved perhaps the most thorough creation of a fictitious world in literary history (complete with its own original and unique geography, history, populations, languages, alphabetic scripts etc.) – though indeed reflecting, by his act of sub-creation, the Creator of our own true world – was not able to come near the genius that must reside in the God who created an entire universe (ex nihilo!).

Our world, though replete with the seemingly endless variations available to free-willed characters, nevertheless has had an Author immutable in His one clear-minded, unchanging purpose and plot since before the beginning until after the end! Wow. Not even genius compares.

How can we respond except to say, “Glory to God alone”?

December is a field

This morning I turned the page of the calendar on my wall.

Then I took a walk to Field 12.

It’s a fallow paddock in the back corner of the farm. There I stood and gazed over the barren rectangle of soil, and it looked just like that calendar page: all blank and waiting to be filled.

And I wondered.

There are these boundaries that You give us. Fences and fields and months and days.

And nothing we can do will alter those borders.

Oh, but the crop!

We are farmers in Your image and we can choose which seeds to plant.

And as my Man of the Soil ponders which variety will yield, and what timing is right, even as he looks forward into an uncertain season…so I kneel here in the empty dirt and ponder the choices I have.

To sow fear or faith, hope or despair, courage and kindness or bitter recoil.

I look up at a dry sky and feel a parching wind on my skin.

And I decide.

I know what I want to harvest when the seasons have their turn.

Because I will return to this field and I will reap what I have sown and so I bend down with my knees in the dust and I feel the earth beneath my fingers as I dig.

And I plant my will.

I let it die and I bury it deep and I cover it with the dark earth.

I will wait.

I will trust it to the magic of the soil and rain and sun.

It will sprout here in the square plot of December.

Hope will soon push its green shoots up and into the glorious air.

Because a calendar is a field and my will is a seed and it must die to be reborn – and when that happens, it will yield a hundredfold.

Glory be to the Farmer who tills the soil of this horizoned month.

I will watch for the tender stems and leaves to shake the black earth from their tips. But while I walk here – and while I wait – I will trust the invisible work underground.

As I walked home I passed a field where the harvest is underway.

I give thanks for what has been.

As well as for what is to come.

.

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

O my God, in you I trust;

…Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;

…for you I wait all the day long.

(Psalm 25:1-5)

Golden

Oh, for the way You can make a day golden – soft Spring weather neither sultry nor chilled, but gentle, sweet, and nuanced… Unfurling buds not quite open-throated but subtle in their hope; lawn freshly mown and rainwater-green; trees fed by lightning and polished by hardly hail. Wiggle-tail lambs and milk-pure cats and a breeze like the breath of a child. Sonnets and soliloquy for morning tea. Noon is a room soaked with sunshine and silence and the stillness of books. And at twilight a supper al fresco in the sown-farm air, with candlelight under constellations of jasmine stars. Finally, flat backed on the black trampoline, all of us, chins inkward and mouths open to swallow the wonderment, and eyes reflecting the spill of that Milky stain…we worship You.

Oh, for the way You can make a night diamond!