Sandpaper greets the grain
As an honest old friend from way back
The boards have lost their true color
Through years of healthy wear
Holding us up as we
Mourned the passing of a friend
Gathered for Holiday
The old boards are old and due for a rest
The furniture is moved and the floor is bare and naked
The coarse paper setting it free from varnish and stain
The oak breathes deeply, a sigh of relief
Its story told through each ring, dent, and scratch
Of seed, sun and sky
Axe, hammer, and nail
House and home
Finally these boards began to keep our story
Like a vault they enclose our sacred and our secret
Their grain tempering our imperfections
Until the next sanding
Posted in My poetry
Lately in my studies at Christos, I’ve found myself struck by a paradox: both the light and the heavy yoke of spiritual direction. And even beyond “spiritual direction”, I think the same principle applies to the simple act of friendship as well. In worldly terms, being present to another person and present to God is a very light yoke, just as Jesus noted when he said that his yoke was easy and his burden light. Spiritual companionship is not about being attractive, successful, dynamic, or entertaining. It is about listening, withholding judgement, being slow to speak and being present. To do this, one must let go, empty of earthly cares, and be filled with God’s Presence. As you can see, in some ways this is a very freeing concept.
Jeannette Bakke, author of Holy Invitations says, “One of the great gifts of spiritual direction is to recognizing over and over how God trusts and entrusts us. God entrusts us with bearing God’s presence, voice, values, and actions in the midst of a beleaguered world.” So on the other hand, in a spiritual sense, it also seems heavy and incredibly challenging. It can be so easy at times to forget the “gift” and fall back into old patterns based on selfishness, performance, and reward. I love how Jeannette puts it: “God trusts and entrusts us.” The fact that God partners with us in this way is huge responsibility. The challenge of this heavy yoke lies in the ability to center one’s self, tame the ego, and discern emotion in an effort to really listen to a friend and really listen to God. It makes me motivated to pay special attention to the care of my own spirit. I feel that if I am serious about being a spiritual companion, if we are serious about the sacredness of friendship, then we have to be active in practicing certain spiritual disciplines that will set us free from worldly concerns. I believe this has the power to create liminal space for the Holy Spirit to work in us as we sit in the presence of another.
I’ve published this poem by Merton before, and was so inspired that I had to share it once again:
The naked traveler,
Stretching against the iron dawn, the bowstrings of his eyes,
Starves on the mad sierra.
But the sleepers,
Prisoners in a lovely world of weeds,
Make a small, red cry,
And change their dreams.
Proud as the mane of the whinnying air,
Yet humble as the flakes of water
Or the chips of the stone sun, the traveler
Is nailed to the hill by the light of March’s razor;
And when the desert barks, in a rage of love
For the noon of the eclipse,
He lies with his throat cut, in a frozen crater.
Then the sleepers,
Prisoners of the moonward power of tides,
Slain by the stillness of their own reflections,
Sit up, in their graves, with a white cry,
And die of terror at the traveller’s murder.
Thomas Merton, Selected Poems (New Direction Publishing Corporation: 1959) 24.
This is a pretty funny clip, and I think CK touches on some truth here… in many ways, a lot of us have lost our sense of wonder in our day to day lives. Enjoy.
Friends of JS,
My apologies for the unannounced and somewhat extended blogging hiatus. It was time for an internet sabbatical (everyone needs one of those once in a while, right?). Alas, I now exist in cyberspace once again.
In the meantime, I’ve cleaned things up a bit and added some new links on the sidebar. Check ’em out!
CAC– Center for Action and Contemplation
I’ve also got two months worth of poems that I’ll start posting in the coming days. Looking forward to a new year of blogging!