Widening Circles of Love

With quarantine, social isolation and separation, lockdowns and warnings of infection, disease and even death, we risk missing the very wonder of the creation about us. Or are so caught up in the fearsomeness of job insecurity, furloughs, or job loss altogether, that perhaps we have become immobilized in our fear and prefer the darkness of despair. Spring stands in fearsome contradiction to whole enterprise underway around us. It is possible for life to stay frozen within us, but the alluring nature of spring cajoles us into action which has long been described as an ailment all its own: Spring Fever. Rainer Maira Rilke once observed that “I live my life in ever widening circles.”

Perhaps the most revelatory moment I have found in these weeks of separation were recorded on a walking trail where I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico — “What lies before us and behind us pales to what lies within us.” Somehow those words resonating deep within found an “Aha” with their simplicity and resolve. It was another spring gift to remember the shining and lightheaded days in the warming sun. It was also a reminder of deep callings and yearnings within the space of my own heart—which has weathered its own seasons of change battered by another virus—beats ever onward. 

I have come to a place of deep peace and acceptance, and yet I yearn for spring as her challenges keep me focused on only the most important things: friends, loved ones and collaborations—each distinctive and gifted and yet each possessing strands of love and acceptance sustaining me over the long haul. I am reminded again of the deep wisdom of Anglican Divine, George Herbert, a Welshman and mystic at a time when being a mystic could cost your life and the author of a clergy must-have, The Country Parson. As lyrical poet and passionate preacher he brings life into perspective in this meditation about springtime, entitled, “The Flower”.

The Flower

How fresh, oh Lord, how sweet and clean 

Are thy returns! even as the flowers in spring; 

         To which, besides their own demean, 

The late-past frosts tributes of pleasure bring. 

                      Grief melts away 

                      Like snow in May, 

         As if there were no such cold thing. 

        Who would have thought my shriveled heart 

Could have recovered greenness? It was gone 

         Quite underground; as flowers depart 

To see their mother-root, when they have blown, 

                      Where they together 

                      All the hard weather, 

         Dead to the world, keep house unknown. 

         These are thy wonders, Lord of power, 

Killing and quickening, bringing down to hell 

         And up to heaven in an hour; 

Making a chiming of a passing-bell. 

                      We say amiss 

                      This or that is: 

         Thy word is all, if we could spell. 

         Oh that I once past changing were, 

Fast in thy Paradise, where no flower can wither! 

         Many a spring I shoot up fair, 

Offering at heaven, growing and groaning thither; 

                      Nor doth my flower 

                      Want a spring shower, 

         My sins and I joining together. 

         But while I grow in a straight line, 

Still upwards bent, as if heaven were mine own, 

         Thy anger comes, and I decline: 

What frost to that? what pole is not the zone 

                      Where all things burn, 

                      When thou dost turn, 

         And the least frown of thine is shown? 

         And now in age I bud again, 

After so many deaths I live and write; 

         I once more smell the dew and rain, 

And relish versing. Oh, my only light, 

                      It cannot be 

                      That I am he 

         On whom thy tempests fell all night. 

         These are thy wonders, Lord of love, 

To make us see we are but flowers that glide; 

         Which when we once can find and prove, 

Thou hast a garden for us where to bide; 

                      Who would be more, 

                      Swelling through store, 

         Forfeit their Paradise by their pride. 

Spring and this season of the world is more than mere flowers, indeed. It is the Life and Death of many things. Our task, having endured the tempests of the night is to arise with resolve and clearer visions of what may be required to set aright that which has failed and deemed useless to the future. We have both responsibility and privilege to raise up the remnant among us and declare a New Day for Wonder, a New Day of Hope and a New Day of Wholeness and Equality. The work is strenuous and exhausting and some of us may not live to see the outcomes: “We may not see the outcomes, but we can give ourselves to it” with gusto, verve and delight. 

There is an old Frelimo battle cry that rang out over Mozambique in the day when the late Samora Machel and his beloved Graca (both were ardent Methodist lay folk — their movement founded in a garage Bible study while in exile) were leading the struggle for liberation from the Portuguese. 

A luta continua – the struggle continues. In these days of impending release may these words lead us in our resolve to grieve our losses loudly and sincerely, to change the established order, and to rescue the perishing of our planet. No small tasks indeed, but life must become more balanced if we are to celebrate another spring.

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