For as the heavens reach beyond earth and time, we swim in mercy as in an endless sea.
We sat together in sunny silence as snow lay all around like a smooth and glassy sea and over the waters of white danced the songs of the birds. Full-throated notes tipped and turned, floating, flitting in a chorus of call and response.
“Did you know,” she asked, “that birds only sing when mating season approaches?”
This was after the first snow, unexpected, and before the next that buried us under layers of flowing white adorning creation like a bride on her wedding day. Those birds whispered and whistled songs cloaked in the bright rainbow of spring’s hues even as we waded through a world turning from white to white again.
It was as though they knew, as though they believed in something more than what was seen.
Those birds and their songs, guided by a wider light, a deeper knowing that arose from somewhere beneath the surface of things, like the tiny shoots emerging green from their winter beds pressing like notes against the underside of all that snow and ice.
The notion that God is absent is the fundamental illusion of the human condition. Thomas Keating
If you were to ask me what one thing (though in truth, there are many) I’ll carry with me from our time of waiting for a home, this is what I would say: this waiting has stretched me open wide, this gestation in the land of not-knowing, in the depths of winter’s long dark.
I have learned, am learning still, to endure the pause between call and response, to open to the space between what is and what will be and to sink down into what is there, to trust in the slow unfolding.
I saw how time – all our times – are
contained in something bigger: a space that is none other than the
Mercy itself. . . . And in that Mercy all our history – our possible
pasts and possible futures, our lost loved ones and children never born –
is contained and fulfilled in a wholeness of love from which nothing
can ever be lost. – Cynthia Bourgeault in Mystical Hope
Maybe it’s like this – the way two dancers move together across the floor, arm in arm, leaning, shifting, moving in perfect rhythm each with the other. Such unity is a beauty to behold. But perhaps, in truth, the real test comes, when they break apart, swirling off into separate spheres for a time. Dancing across the floor, not touching, yet held together by the rhythm and even, also, by the space between.
There are times in which we are asked to dance the wild, wondering dance of faith in the absence of what we long for. What tune will guide us then, what rhythm move our feet?
If we were able to sink through the terror that comes in the absence of knowing, the blinding white that flies in the face of spring’s arrival, would we not also, like those dancers, find some deeper rhythm holding, leading, guiding our feet? And might not also the very space created by our longing be a reminder of that to which we belong, the One with whom we dance?
away everything else down to that point of final destruction, and the
last little bit that’s left before destruction, a little kernel of gold
which is the essence of you – and there is God protecting it . . . And
this is something terrific. – Thomas Merton
Author Cynthia Bourgeault speaks of this underlying unity as the Mercy, by which she means God – not a god who dwells apart or above, but the God who surrounds, holding us all as swimmers in a vast and spacious sea. Merton speaks of this as the protecting presence of God, this presence that holds the truth of every created thing – those tiny glimmering kernels of gold – protecting and preserving so that nothing is ever lost.
Maybe this is what the birds know, deep within their breasts.
Maybe this is what guides their singing, living, loving, the light that warms them long before spring’s unfolding.
You are not lost, dear ones, you are held, though you may not yet be aware of it.
This Mercy, this tender mercy, it is the key to endurance, the doorway to hope, the promise of joy in the midst of deep and tragic sorrow.
I have only waited for a little thing – a house, a home, a promise – and maybe this song I sing seems as foolish to you as the voices of the birds did that snowy day. What can I say to convince you?
There are not words, my friends.
So I’m singing today in the face of winter, singing from a place I’m coming to know, lifting notes that crack and fail to carry just as often as they sometimes soar. I’m singing this song of hope in the waiting, pressing these tender shoots of green against the snow and ice, dancing these slow, strange steps with a Partner I cannot always see.
Spring will come, love will unfold, and when it does, you will be found in its midst, held, protected, embraced.