Like a Child

Milky Way, by Felix Mittermeier, Pixabay

“At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, this is what you were pleased to do.” Matthew 11:25-26

A course in Science was a required credit for an English BA, and I dreaded the college term ahead.  In high school science labs had been a frustrating experience.  Whether the fault was inattention to detailed instructions or just the normal Murphy’s Law tendency of my universe, there was seldom the predicted outcomes.  So, when I had a choice to complete the requirement by correspondence, it seemed serendipitous.

To my surprise, science proved to be far more interesting than I’d remembered, and another way to cross-pollinate truths of nature with the metaphysical, to see on earth what had been designed by heaven.  I’d always loved the Romantic poets’ appreciation of the natural world around them.  As a child I wandered around bulrush-fringed ponds, through small copses of woods with Jack-in-the-Pulpits, and ditches with their prickly burrs, Queen Anne’s lace and downy milk pods, savouring the berries that grew profligate in the fence rows.

So I linger still, sometimes, on the edges of science, the most recently in a library course on Philosophy and Physics, much of which I can barely comprehend, trying to glean a new way of viewing things.  Quantum physics, for example, implies a very weird world where choices are super-posed until actualized by an observer, Schrodinger’s cat both alive and dead.  I’m comforted in this incomprehension by the number of times the professor acknowledges ignorance as well . . . “Dunno.”  “I dunno.”  “We dunno.”    For every proposed theory there seems to be counter viewpoints.  It gets tiring, like watching a dog chase its tail.

So I’m grateful that God, in his wisdom, told the Creation story in language that is elegant and poetic in its simplicity.  We don’t have to know how everything works to experience peace and joy in our surroundings.  There is a time to intellectually pursue things, and a time to just be transfixed in awe, like a child.

When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me
When I was shown the charts and diagrams,
to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer when he lectured
with much applause in the lecture room,

How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night air, and from time to time,
Looked up in perfect silence at the stars.”

Walt Whitman

Light Shining Out of Darkness

Beacon, by Gerry Prins

From Olney Hymans, Light Shining Out of Darkness, William Cowper

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.

It does seem, sometimes, that the world is an unstable place, that there are storms of all different kinds, and we can become so anxious about the future.  Living with the ongoing adaptations in the COVID battle, the economic and political uncertainties, other health concerns, hearing of marriages that crumble under stress, can take a toll on our frame of mind.  Our children have had to learn to live with disappointment as plans necessarily have to be fluid in their schooling.

My tendency is to look at the challenges ahead to calculate the costs, forgetting to consider the positive side of a ledger.  Though they aren’t necessarily momentous, they add up just the same.  There are the small delights: a friend’s welcoming smile,  just going out to shop, a book that surprises you with a fresh insight, the irrepressible joy in laughter, beauty as the leaves begin to tinge with the fall colours, the fields strewn with pumpkins.  Sometimes I think that when we get to heaven, God will ask us if we noticed all the beauty He placed along our way: the crimson of that beautiful flower, the swoop of that murmuration of birds against the deep blue sky, the sparkling stars in the night heavens.  And we will be ashamed of our blindness to His provision.

Fear tends to give us tunnel vision, and it is why it is so important to trust that God’s heart is continually loving us in this way.  In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul blesses his audience with this prayer:  “May Jesus himself and God our Father, who reached out in love, and surprised you with gifts of unending help and confidence, put a fresh heart in you, invigorate your work, enliven your speech.”  (The Message).   Paul’s God is an interactive God, continually gifting day to day life, preparing the way with little thoughtful surprises and encouragement, leaving the light shining for you so that you can beware of danger and find your way home, bringing people and circumstances into your life for learning and growth, breathing fresh vitality into your everyday activities.

It’s the little epiphanies, the shimmering of something transcendent that can bring us hope and joy, give us glimpses of the God who is ever-present and Master of even the darkest storm.  What, then, would we ever need to fear?

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

47 Years

Image by Alejo Compa from Pixabay

How can it be that 47 years has already gone by since that beautiful September 7 day in 1974?  We stood blithely in front of friends and family and vowed to love each other for a lifetime.  From that vantage point, the naivete and optimism of our youth blinded us to anything but happiness.  Trouble, if any, would be on a far-off horizon.  Innocently, we viewed the future stretched out in a wide expanse, and there would be time to think about that later.

Well,  I can still feel young, but any 19 year old would not consider me that by any stretch.  And life has a surprising way of throwing curves at you, twists and turns in the road that will take all the strength and resources you have to navigate.  We promised to love each other through sickness and in health, poverty and riches.  While we haven’t faced the sickness or poverty in extremes, there have been times of illness and times when we really needed to pinch pennies.  There are different dynamics and values in our families of origin.  Divisions of labour needed to be determined, complicated decisions made when the way ahead wasn’t clear.

Marriage requires you to put someone else’s needs alongside your own and sometimes ahead of your own, first for your spouse and then the tiny bundles of joy who consume your days.  It requires you to grow up.  It requires a full commitment to each other, a refusal to give up on each other, or to be seduced by the illusion of greener pastures.   There are always competing demands of work and social obligations that can snatch away the unwary while a marriage dies for lack of attention.

The book of Proverbs pities the person who doesn’t have a companion to help them up after a fall, and how wonderful it can be when someone has your back, gives you appreciation, support and comfort.  And it’s so important, in dark times, at the limit of endurance, to lean heavily on God’s love and forgiveness individually, but also as a resource to offer each other.  It’s said jokingly, but it’s very true that we have loved each other through thick and thin, through sick and sin.  It’s God’s faithfulness, love, and providence that has always sustained us.

When we honeymooned in Washington, D.C. in 1974, the Washington Cathedral was being built.  The estimated date of completion was 1999, almost the turn of the century, and that day felt so far away.

But here we are, now, almost another 25 years later yet, having built a marriage through days, and weeks and years.  And we pray that this, too, can be a beautiful testament to this presence and great love of God in and for us.


Bless This House

Bless this house, O Lord, we pray
Make it safe by night and day.
Bless these walls so firm and stout
Keeping want and trouble out.

Bless the roof and chimneys tall,
Let Thy peace be over all.
Bless this door, that it may prove
Ever open to joy and love.

Bless these windows shining bright,
Letting in God’s heavenly light:
Bless the hearth ablazing there,
With smoke ascending like a prayer.

Bless the people here within,
Keep them pure and free from sin;
Bless us all that we may be
Fit, O Lord, to dwell with Thee.

May H. Brahe and Helen Taylor