I began to write this post yesterday, before knowing about the tragedy in France.
I had just walked the woods here at the University of British Columbia, and I was filled with nostalgia. Filled with that awareness of how much I lacked in appreciating what I had 20 years ago.
I wanted to write and tell current students to soak this all in, to not miss the remarkableness of this season of their lives.
We do that, don’t we? We see someone in a situation we experienced, and we want to stop them and tell them to really look at their life. To inhale and pause long enough to take a lingering look around them.
Yesterday I walked these trails and thought of our dog we had walked here, thought of all the wonderful classes I had listened to. I had scrambled to take the correct notes, writing furiously and concentrating intently…now I wish I had sat back a little and just listened.
I wish I hadn’t rushed through that season.
We say the same thing to parents with new babies: “Soak it all in because it will be over before you blink. They will change so quickly.”
Sometimes it is difficult to soak in the goodness and appreciate the wonder when you are trying to get facts all straight for exams.
Or the baby is crying and you haven’t had a decent night of sleep.
Or, the diagnosis takes your breath away.
Or life has just made you weary.
Or someone carrying terror in their hearts drives through your peaceful evening.
I hesitated to write this this morning, because it felt callous to talk of celebrating your life and appreciating wonder when lives were just so harshly destroyed.
One of my favorite quotations of Frederick Buechner, and one often used here and elsewhere is this:
“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”
Alongside that, hear this:
“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”
Sometimes it is very difficult to not be afraid, sometimes the mystery is overwhelming.
In those moments, following deep tragedies, there is this ache to do something. Find some way of bringing healing.
In the book of Jeremiah, in a letter to the people being taken into captivity under Nebuchadnezzar, this is the encouragement they are given:
Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Jeremiah 29:5
In the midst of what must have been a terrifying time: plant gardens. It goes on to tell them to marry and have children, and to pray for peace.
Translated for me today…go for a walk in the woods. Continue to live. Bring peace in your sphere of influence, bring wonder. Bring healing…but also fill yourself with wonder and healing.
Go for a walk in the woods. Weep for those who are overwhelmed in suffering. Look around Creation and see it is touched as well. See that in its beauty are the marks of pain…of lightning strikes and storms, of decay.
Still, so much wonder. Still, so much beauty, and even more so for the marks of lightning and wind.
Find that place where you can plant gardens, where you can continue to live and bring hope when everything feels terrifying. Find that place, and feed it. Protect it. Nurture it.
Pay attention when you are in the season of laughter and of lingering walks in the woods, so that when things are filled with terror you have the strength to continue to pay attention. You have the strength to look at the terrible things and see God make a way to hope.
“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” -Buechner