The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.
-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
My years of studying nutrition included discussion of the fortification of commonly occurring foods in our country to prevent certain diseases: iodine in salt, Vitamin D in milk, the enrichment of flour and the addition of calcium. While, I take for granted the severity of these diseases, I can appreciate the efforts of the government and food industry to, on a public health scale, eradicate serious illness. I’m sure some are bothered by these efforts, I am not.
The state of our nation and world has me perplexed. I have been lugging a huge weight around, the load has threatened to buckle my knees, stunt my creativity, halt my dreaming. The ease I once owned is far off, the burdens of hate and injustice feel like abusive friends, my body adjusting to their heft, carrying the weight of their lies.
Joy and peace and lightheartedness have faded. Somewhere, while managing the tension between my good fortune and the world’s heartache, they were dumped out and swept into a dark corner. Their plaintive pleas beg for my recognition, for my head to turn in acknowledgement of their efforts to provide kindness and mercy. Oftentimes, I’ll hear their faint cry of invitation, but the drama of the news, the lure of social media, the addiction to adrenaline and anger override the gentle tug of curiosity.
Yesterday I returned from a weekend with friends. We stayed at my cabin and hiked thirty miles in three days, traversing through fields of lush wildflowers, dainty and petaled heads swishing against our arms. The paths, well-trod by horses and hikers afforded breathtaking vistas of rocky peaks and jutting volcanic formations rising toward the bluest of skies. The journey was punctuated with laughter and advice, groans, questions and aahs of beauty. The conversation flowed with the breeze, alliances forming and shifting throughout the weekend. The therapy of sweat and open spaces detangled the webs of concern, frustrations were laid out on the trail, enabling light and beauty to tease out the disappointments. A completion of life-giving and eternal work.
My body was weighed down beforehand, the post-convention analysis, polls, fear of the not-yet. With Karie’s gentle admonition we were advised to deny our phones, to take a break from the news and social media. Mine available only for photos and sending texts of love and safety, meant I received a much needed break from the constant stream of election coverage and violence and fear-mongering.
Through the acts of sweating, climbing, navigating and noticing, I laid down those burdens. Nestled amongst the mountain passes and blooming hillsides, they were deposited, one by one, set down, offered up amongst the hues of golden-yellow, violet, white and orange-red. The carpeted emerald peaks, with splashing waterfalls – carried my concerns to far-flung places, troubles forgotten, intermingled with the ministry of creation’s beauty.
Just as the earth still makes her annual turn around the sun, wars will continue to rage and demagogues will attempt to placate their fragile egos. But I can keep my joy. And you can keep yours. I can keep my peace. And you can keep yours.
Love has won. The work is done. Evil is still winning battles, but love wins the war. Not everyone needs us to bear their burdens, but many need our presence. Not everyone needs our service, but many need our laughter. Not everyone needs our fight, but many need our compassion. Not everyone needs our empathy, but many need our kindness.
I don’t have to be the bearer of all. I don’t have to surrender my health, my joy, my hope. I can hold close that which is precious and beautiful and holy. I can glue my eyes to the author and perfecter of my faith. I can surrender to grace and carry mercy. I can give and receive love.
May we fortify ourselves with the wonder of creation, receiving beauty from our communities. May we fortify ourselves with literature and music, with roasting marshmallows with friends. May we fortify ourselves with hugs and hikes, with hilarious laughter over goofy games. May we fortify ourselves with good food and exercise. May we step out of our heavy-weighted concerns and seek levity.
May we uncover the stifled joy that is begging for a glance in her direction, feeling in our bodies the relief her presence offers – choosing and offering ourselves time to rest, renew and strengthen. Our bodies cannot handle this constant barrage, we will become sick.
We must find time to fortify, so we may receive the delicious bounty of hope.