December 13, 2010
A few days back, I got up early to go jogging with my dog through the new-fallen snow. We were full of energy. The dog saw a squirrel behind every tree and in every yard we passed. There was so much sound: the sound of our feet on the snow, the sound of my hat and earmuffs rubbing against my ears , my coat sleeves swooshing against my sides, the sound of cars taking people to school, the sound of a blue jay startled by our passing. My mind ran through the day’s news, my plans, thoughts of conversations and sermons.
Then we came to the thick woods beside the high school and stopped. No wind blew. The cars were stilled since school had started. No one was outside. One clean, unbroken sheet of snow turned the sport fields into shrines for the contemplation of silence. The trees towered in their white-traced elegance. The words of Wendell Berry came to me: “For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”
The religious life is like this. Not one of busy activity, nor one of silent contemplation, but of both together. As I stood silently, endorphins from my jogging intensified my awareness. The hyper energy of my dog made his moment of utter stillness awesome. The memory of crowds cheering in the stands, the green of summer, my daughters competing on those fields, all deepened the quiet of that place and time.
Soon my restless dog wanted to be off running. I let him sprint into the woods. before long I had to get back to exercise and the office. This is how it is. We begin engaged in the world. After a time, we must retreat to consider, ponder, and sort. Beyond even that we need to rest in the ultimate grace of life. Then, drawing from that deep well, we are able to return through thought and planning to engage again in the work of our days.
I hope your holiday season is blessed with balance, of vital work and deep peace.