Song of the Builders
On a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God –
a worthy pastime.
Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside
this way and that way.
How great was its energy,
how humble its effort.
Let us hope
it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.
– Mary Oliver from Why I Wake Early (2004)
There are days where it all feels like too much. There are days where the relief is a long time in coming. There are days when the news is equal parts compelling and overwhelming. I suppose I am a glutton for punishment, one of those folks who doesn’t know when to stop. One of those folks who doesn’t understand when it is too much. I walk the fine line of being informed with being freaked out, unsure what the right answer is, unsure what the point is. I walk away from time to time, recognizing the remarkable privilege I own, that I can walk away, that I can rest.
And while these days feel big and I quake in my bed, the overwhelm tries to edge me toward despair. Yet, what always emerges in my contemplative practice of prayer is a light, a stillness, a beauty. Gratitude flows and God’s mercy is displayed centered and true.
I’ve never been a glass half full kind of girl, I prefer to not assign an expectation but to be grateful that there is liquid in the glass at all. I have a sunny disposition and a warm smile, but the creases in the furrow of my brow are riveted, deep and permanent – a result of both age and concern. I welcome many into my fold with ease and without suspicion. And I do try to seek the best in all people and all situations.
But I get tired of all the feels. I’m tired of knowing this shit to my bones. I’m tired of seeing. And I’m tired of being tired and a freaking internal disaster.
A therapist friend called this morning in the midst of my staring-out-the-window grief and confusion. She asked how I was and I could not hold back. My tears, frustrations, and fright all tumbled out along with the apologies and backpedaling attempts to not also add to her burden. But in her gentle kindness she held my verbal and emotional dump with honor and care, echoing her own concerns and stories. We always have fellow travelers. We may have but a few, but they are a dedicated and diligent few, present at the right moments in the most important of times.
And in our conversation I recounted the incredible goodness of my week. The celebration of twenty-four years with my most wonderful partner. A late-into-the-night 50th birthday party for a dear friend who wasn’t supposed to see this side of 40. A precious soul who has gone through six years of hell, now living life to the fullest again – her beauty, peace, and kindness radiating like the sun. A girl with three years of grave health concerns, graduating from high school and preparing for college. A mama robin touring her babies through the yard, educating them on how the ground works and where the juiciest of worms reside. A delicious cup of coffee in a funky cafe in the mountains, while the youngest dirt bikes to his heart’s content. Soaking thunderstorms in the night. Three games of Yahtzee and a delightful movie to cap off a good day. A daughter with her own health concerns, carrying the stamina to work for the Forest Service through the summer. A human chain of 70 people saving a family from sure drowning at a Florida beach. The hope of a new church coming to my community and the people climbing out of the woodwork offering unconditional love and support.
And it hits me, I am one of the builders. Those of us who choose to see, who choose to know too much, who choose to own our responsibility and our discomfort. We are the workers, the builders, the strivers seeking to reconcile Creation to its Creator. We choose to dwell in the tension of no longer shirking in denial, no longer hiding in fear. We still quake in our beds and the ground is unsteady under our feet, but we choose to face. We choose to own. We choose to wrestle.
The degree to which we experience discomfort and suffering is the degree to which we can know joy. The degree to which we see the world and the people around us is the degree to which we can know truth and understand our privilege. The degree to which we know our privilege is the degree to which we can make peace.
My calling is to somehow be a part of the grand work of reconciling Creation to the Creator. The only way to counter hopelessness is to receive God’s love for me, and in turn, love others. The earth is groaning. Creation is crying out for relief. Science is our greatest indicator of the physical risks to our planet, and many are denying the evidence. We are called absolutely to the work of love in our world, to our world, bringing restoration and reconciliation through the making of peace. And until we open our eyes and SEE, until we look at what IS, and cease to dwell in denial and personal comfort, our efforts are nil.
May we be brave, may we know, may we see. May we risk comfort and eschew denial, bringing justice to Creation – each of us going on in our inexplicable ways building the universe.