Great Patience and Wendell Berry

(from Eric)

Some days there is so much that is broken.

We ran out of another medicine.  There is no blood in the blood bank.  Some of our students need to be absent unexpectedly.  The Cropsey kitchen cabinets still aren't done, and so they still haven't moved into their house.  The oxygen concentrator broke (again), and the generator isn't built for the kind of stress we're putting on it.  I want to post this blog on Patience, but the electricity isn't on long enough!

These, of course, aren't the only problems.  There are bigger problems.  Public health.  National security.  Job opportunities for our graduates.  That list goes on and on.  But the first group of things are (in a phrase we have quite taken to) "low-hanging fruit".  We should be able to do those things.  The solutions are relatively straight-forward.  They should be controllable.

And yet they are often not.  Maybe there is a piece in the puzzle that is blocking progress, and we just can't find a way around it.  Or maybe a certain resistance suggests that this isn't going to happen anytime soon - for reasons that make no sense to us.

There is so much that already has happened, or that is currently in process.  But our bent is always to see the low-hanging fruit still just… hanging there.  Low.  To be picked.  And we can't seem to get it picked.  We remain impatient.  It doesn't feel like impatience to us, but impatience rarely does.  We're not impatient; progress is just too slow.

And all of this assumes that we have a good grasp of the necessary timing.  And we may admit that this is a big assumption, but that doesn't always change the fact that it looks right to us.

Last Sunday, I was yet again sitting under the trees reading Wendell Berry's Sabbath Poems, and I came across a poem where he is describing walking up the hill behind his house.  Not too far, but far enough to turn around and see everything:  his garden, the barn, the pasture.  Spring has come, filled in the branches, and replaced the starkness of March.  He finishes with these lines:

Birdsong had returned
to the branches:
the stream sang
in the fold of the hill.
In its time and great patience
beauty had come upon us,
greater than I had imagined.

I was struck by the combination of a timing that is not my own ("in its time") and great patience.  Here, he sees that it has surprised him with its beauty.  Maybe he had tried to make that beauty, but in the end, he found more than he had imagined.

It is, of course, a call to trust.  To trust that, with great patience, God will do something more than we could do, more than we could imagine. That trust is not easy.  It is not automatic.  It takes faith.  Our hearts say: Maybe with lots of time, it will all just disintegrate.  But when we trust, we learn to surrender.  We learn to let God's timing direct, to not obsess when things don't go according to our timing, but rather to trust in the possibility that something better is happening, even though we can't see it.

There is both a light and a lightness that come from living in the trust that a timing greater than our own and a patience greater than are own are ultimately at work.  And that light is what we are called to now.

And later?  Fullness of redemption.  That is our promise.  Who knows what it will look like exactly?  Maybe not much like my expectations.  I don't know.  But I do think we can say with confidence that one day soon, we will look back down the hill to say:

In its time and great patience
beauty has come up on us
greater than we had imagined.

1 comment:

Jamie Paxton said...

Thanks Eric. I needed this today. Love me some Wendell Berry!