“you chose to listen not to your doubts and fears,
but to your greatest hopes
and highest aspirations;
we mark the end of one historic journey
with the beginning of another...”
~ Barack Obama, speech- 3 June 2008
On my returns home from work much of this week, after what would seem an unbroken chain of saturated days and events, I’ve simply had to go back out for walks. Just a few blocks. Some days’ cumulative effects leave me consumed and with scarce reserves; these days have made for such occasions. These are grim times- save for our recent election euphoria, and night falls so much earlier quite suddenly. Thursday night I took one of these decompression walks, out in the dark chilled air. Across Longfellow Square and south onto State Street, passing the little floodlit shrine beside the convent, then west onto Spring Street. The West End now has as many leaves underfoot as overhead. Slowing my paces, I thought of how vital it has been to continue writing- even straight through my fatigue; even if the words don’t immediately amount to anything. Finding a bench near some street lighting, I penciled a few notes, finding a little verbal traction to strengthen my reach. When seeking new words fails me, I reach for the best ones I can remember. When my recollections are clouded to the extent that I cannot determine what is best to recall, I keep my feet moving forward. By proceeding, even without words, I am trusting they will emerge in time. If I only know to reach forward, that is sufficient.
Just as it was intuitively vital to take those after-work fresh air walks, I am equally grateful for perseverance in writing- albeit in fragments, lists, and all I could conjure up during ten-minute coffee breaks. In continuity, particularly the unspectacular kind, is found the essence of faithfulness. Indeed, there are seasons of any length that challenge us to continue in constructive motion, trusting the words will follow. But to prevent from being diverted or stifled by distrust and fear is a learned effort. The spiritual discipline of “fear not” causes me to consider what I can do to keep unfettered by apprehension and to cultivate trust. As I think of this as a learned practice, at this moment today, it means maintaining a consistent spirit of prayer at each and every turn. Be sure there are breaths of reflection interspersed through the day, offsetting the chaotic with lectio Divina and silence from the clatter and clamor that can encrust as barnacles on the side of a boat. Another is to continually think the best of others- even if I encounter intentions that are difficult to comprehend, or if I notice myself chafing with a pace far too slow or reticent for my sense of urgency. Still another, and a lamp to keep fueled by night, is to wholeheartedly embrace the spiritual gift of belief that the best is still yet to manifest.
But our road conditions and visibility will vary; we are not always navigating through adversity. And if we do regard vast tracts of this culture as spiritual wilderness, then we might consider fatalism to be the most corrosive of desert temptations. To practice a life of “fear not,” the challenge is to not capitulate to cynicism, and to transcend obstacles in our way that ignite fear and small-mindedness. It is a practice, because it demands constant application. Through minefields of doubt, and the margins along which many of us walk alone, perseverance allows us to explore the length and breadth of the meaning of faith. There is a danger in basing our prayers upon just the few things we can see. Without boldness, how would anyone know humility? There is more than this, far more than one could ever see in the distance.
Looking forward needn’t mean losing the moment. I spent years out of my life grudgingly wishing for what I did not have. An attitude like that diverts from taking stock in blessings immediately at hand. But it is worthy to aspire. One might ask what is worth accumulating, or what sort of yearning is healthful. Wishing for something more can be a sacred calling from within. To comprehend more and to provide better. To know the strength of the new life, in its fullness, was the wish articulated by the ancient apostle Paul. He also wished this for his friends and readers: to live as one who is risen from the dead, and to know love that surpasses understanding. The pressing forward, and the drive to persevere, is the high calling that becomes our lighthouse through dark nights at sea. And in this transformative journey I sense my wearily limited perspective very gradually broadening as it dissolves into that risen life. Evidence of simply the motion itself is a light to me. The action of reaching hopes we saw from afar is assurance of renewal.