Ice makes and unmakes and makes again the bed of the pond. It’s February: moody, adolescent, with assaults and disappointments still to come. Snow repents halfheartedly of its cheeriness and becomes sleet, then ice, then rain, then ice. A hardship of frozen cattails rings the pond. On the black water two ducks, companioning, cruise placidly, as if unfamiliar with February. Beneath the silvered surface their little orange feet work steadily, but they glide as if pulled by strings. Eating from the bottom they upend their butts without shame and find what they need, their eyes soft among the clicking reeds. Together, without guile, they explore the bank, in whose mess I imagine they’ll build a nest. They wait. They don’t watch the sky.
Snow covers the branches, covers the ground. But it doesn’t hide the earth, it is the earth. As the snow covers grasses waiting beneath it the grasses cover soil, the soil covers bugs and microbes which cover roots over layers of earth over the water table, where the snow will go… Nothing is a cover. All of it is part. Look beneath the visible.
You desire truth in the inward being, therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. —Psalm 51.6
________________ Weather Report
Low visibility, thick clouds, blankets of snow, heavy fog, and all manner of obscurity, all of which, as much as solid stone, is certainly true.
Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. —Matthew 4.1
O Steady One, steady me. I am unbalanced by secret weights of fears, tugged at by invisible strings of desires, and I stumble, crash into folks, break things. I don’t act because I’m afraid I can’t succeed— I wish I could turn stones to bread. I don’t love because I’m afraid of getting hurt— I wish I could jump off cliffs fearlessly. I cling to things because I’m afraid of being without— I wish all the world could be mine. But my wants are wayward, my fears are lies. The power, the security, the belonging I seem to want are all in you and you alone.
Touch my desires, Beloved, and bend them back toward you. Lay your hand on my hungers and steady me. Mend my wants with your generous grace, sweeter than bread with honey. Heal my fears with your perfect love, the earth from which I cannot fall. Calm my anxieties with your steady presence, for you are the world to which I belong. You settle me with trust, courage and gratitude, for I have all I need, abundantly. You whisper to me gently, Oh, fretting soul, relax. I have you.
Lent is when we go downstairs, down into the basement of our souls, into the dark, dingy, dirty places, and clear out the junk we need to get rid of. In Lent we don’t need to beat ourselves up. We need to lighten our load, bag up those fears and desires that are leaking all over everything, take our guilt and shame out to the curb. It’s not easy to lay our hands on broken things, to look deep into the gummed up works. That’s why Jesus shines with his light, shines so we can see our way down into the dark, see to lift up the junk and hand it over, so he can haul it out into the light of the dumpster. The light Jesus shines is good with dark places, so we know even from the deepest hole down there we’ll come out. The light will lead us. We’ll be OK. Mucking around down there we get dirty, and we come up with grime on our hands and ashes on our foreheads for everybody to see. But we’re free of all that blame and disappointment. And the darkest, deepest cellar hole becomes an empty tomb.
He was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. —Matthew 17.2-3
Jesus has just said he will be killed, and raised again. If you give away your life for love, he said, God will give you a new one. Jesus has already surrendered his life. He is already the Crucified One. And now we see him, with others who have died, and he is shining with Easter light, risen again, before it even happens.
Jesus is the lighthouse shining at the mouth of the bay where we enter the narrows of death, shining to show us the way through to deeper, wider life. The light emboldens us to enter the dark— the neglected, the unseen, the unfamiliar, the unloved— to find life there, healing and beauty and resurrection.
In this dazzling light, if we trust it, if we follow it, we ourselves may be transfigured.