Tuesday, September 28, 2021

From My Nature Journal: The Hard Work Yet to be Done

Life is physical.

Speaking personally and vulnerably, this has seemed especially so to me with arthritis recently flaring up in practically every joint of my body these last couple of months!

But as a nature observer, one of the times that the physicality of life seems most pronounced to
me is at the change of seasons, and, though there are four changes annually in northern climes, it’s the change from summer to fall that astounds me the most. Whether it’s the eye-popping delight of green trees turning red, gold and purple here in the northwoods of Michigan, the taste of a good crisp caramel apple with peanuts, the smell of smoked fish or burning leaves (which have some similarities!), the honking of chevron after chevron of Canada geese heading south, or the tingle of early morning air already in the 30’s, the five senses alone declare the physicality of life. And this is to say nothing of that sixth sense: something in us actually sometimes senses the very physicality of change. 

And yet life is also spiritual. 

I wouldn’t blog these thoughts over these nearly nine years past if I did not believe this was so. Most of you who share these musings with me also find in nature a simple and beautiful pathway to God, though some of you might not describe it in quite that same way. God has created a lovely universe. The ancient Psalmist said it very well: “Your works, God, are wonderful, and my soul knows that very well (Psalm 139:14).” Yet, while holding precious God’s creation and committing to its care as its responsible ‘keepers,’ or stewards, it is of course not creation that we revere but the Creator. 

To me, these two simple declarations are to state the obvious. Life is physical. Life is spiritual. I typically write of elemental things. 

It is, however, as these two realities converge – the physicality of life and the spirituality of life – that deeper learnings and yearnings present themselves. Just as there is something in the physicality of creation’s beauty, awe and majesty that leads me to contemplation of spiritual realities, there is also somehow something in my arthritis for me to contemplate spiritually. Where is God when we are in pain? Is there anything possibly redemptive when one suffers? These are questions that have vexed many through the eons, and the answer that God is right there with us in our pain, while true, is not always that satisfying. 

Covid-19 has ravaged the world these past eighteen months, and the flourishing of variants present anew the prospect that we are not quite beating this thing as we had anticipated. The work that is still before us in our country to address racial conciliation and righteousness is as daunting as it is necessary. Our hyper-charged political climate and its absence of civil discourse has become such that the commonweal is neither common nor well. Each of these will require tremendous physical and emotional sacrifices and effort to overcome. And yet none of that can begin to be accomplished without the work of the spirit, both the God-given human spirit and the Holy Spirit, calling upon the mercy of God to empower our most creative spiritual resources. The physical beauty of God’s creation can belie the ugliness of the challenges we face, can play a part in its healing.

But we need the holy. And we need to remember, as Anne Lamott said in a recent National Geographic article, “The holy is not a spectacle… It is more often felt in small graces and blessings, although you do have to be paying attention to catch the momentousness. It’s around us, above us, below us and inside us all the time. It’s here, but often we’re not. Life wants to keep reminding us of its sacred self, but we have to open our eyes and hearts.”

Let’s put all of our resources to work, both physical and spiritual, to meet the challenges before us. 
~~ RGM, September 28, 2021 

No comments:

Post a Comment