Earth is crammed with heaven and every common bush afire with God. But only those who see take off their shoes. The rest sit around it plucking blackberries.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh
Right next to my window that overlooks the creek, a brown curled leaf impaled on a branch twists in the wind. I’ve been watching this leaf for days now and have decided I’m annoyed with it. It distracts me from the stark beauty of the winter woods. It’s not a small thing – crumpled, dead and from where I sit, very large in the window. Now it’s all I can see, so my mind wanders to ways I can set it free to fall to the ground, where it will turn to mulch as a good leaf should. After all, It didn’t intend to get stuck – it just happened. I can relate.
I want to live life as a feather on the breath of God (to quote Hildegard of Bingen) but often feel like I am impaled, stuck in one spot, twisting and turning at the whim of whatever ill wind blows my way. The worst days are when there is no wind at all and I just hang there limp, between heaven and earth with my mind running wild.
There are two ways of looking at the world. With natural eyes, it’s difficult to see the world as crammed with heaven for any length of time. Storms come, loved ones die, children leave, dreams dry up and suddenly a bush is just a bush – and it needs trimming. You try to pull yourself up, try to pray more, think positively. You take off your shoes hoping for a holy moment in the 15 minutes you’ve allotted for quiet time, only to step in your own mess. At this point, you would love to sit around and munch blackberries but can’t afford $5 a pint.
When we see through eyes of faith, we see God continually present and working for our good. This is what I love about a fresh new day – no matter what lies ahead, the moment we turn our thoughts to God, He is here with us. He is always here, of course, but it’s only when we acknowledge His presence that this truth becomes real to us.
Imagine. God with us, right beside us, carrying us in our griefs and disappointments, teaching us to think differently about hard circumstances, difficult relationships, challenging situations – and the most painful of all, ourselves.
Faith changes everything. I realize that I’m not stuck, I’m waiting. He’s preparing me for something and while I wait, He brings growth out of the pain; eventually, beauty rises from the ashes. Ill winds are harnessed to do His bidding as He uses them to move me, to redirect me, to transform me. Wherever they carry me, I trust Him.
Earth is crammed with heaven after all. I think I’ll take off those shoes now.
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
He will show you the way of life, granting you the joy of His presence and the pleasures of living with Him forever. So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
Come close to God, and God will come close to you.
(Philippians 2:13;Psalm 16:11;2 Co 4:18;James:4:8 – paraphrased, NLT)
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