Yesterday morning, I went outside very early while it was still dark. Just as I left the front porch, I saw a rabbit calmly hop across our front yard. I picked up the newspaper and began walking back toward the house and I heard a chorus of birds. Later, I went back outside to get into my Explorer to leave for work. I was parked under a mesquite tree next to our driveway. Just as I opened the door to get in, I saw a squirrel on a branch above just staring at me. When all of this happened yesterday, I thought of God and his creation. It was a good moment.
I don’t think this was that unusual. I suspect that what actually happened yesterday morning was that I noticed.
Later in the day, I was on the telephone with a longtime friend whose father had just died. He talked. He wept. I listened. I wept.
I noticed the sadness I felt. It was a sadness and grief for my friend. I felt a longing to be present with him in what he was going through. I noticed also that there was a grief in me that went beyond our friendship. This was a grief that came from my "gut," stored up from other losses experienced in this life.
And then, yesterday, I was preoccupied with a story of disappointment from another situation. This is the kind of disappointment that I wanted to talk about and did not want to talk about. At least yesterday, my way of not wanting to face that disappointment was in not wanting to give it "words." Yet, of course, not to give it words for a day does not make it less real. The good news was that I at least noticed that this early morning joy, this mid-afternoon grief, and this day long disappointment were all there, present and real.
Darryl Tippens, in his excellent book Pilgrim Heart, tells the story of his friend Kenny Barnes. He speaks of this man who was a young carpenter and poet he knew in the 1980s. Barnes suffered from leukemia and underwent much hospitalization and chemotherapy. As a result of these experiences, he became very sensitive to "the preciousness of life." He wrote a poem, "Last Days," in which he expresses something he grew to know better after his illness.
"These are the last days."
We have always lived in our last days.
Birth is a warning.
Tippens then refers to a line that Kenny Barnes wrote in "Hope After Chemotherapy." He wrote, "We all come to this: / our knees" (Tippens, pp. 194-195).
No matter what, we all come to our knees.