If you didn’t watch this week’s episode live, you missed this wonderful video of an equally wonderful poem. Take a minute to enjoy it.
There is surely a gift in lostness. To go to the places where we discover our size, our limits and our place is a journey always worth taking even when the only path we can discern is the next step. Reflecting on the story of the burning bush, this week’s guest, Melanie Elnes (yes, Eric’s wife, who agreed at the last minute to be the guest, thank you again, Melanie) observed that it was an entire bush, not simply a stick that was burning. The significance is that there are many branches to burn, implying that there are many places to go on the journey to find all the pieces. She said, “we all have a lot of different burning embers within us that set us on a path.” The remarkable thing about something burning without being consumed is that at the destination there is still more bush to burn, leading us to the next location. Or as Eric put it, “from path to path we go.” Or maybe it is as J. R. R. Tolkien put it, “not all who wander are lost.”
Or again, as David Wagoner puts it, “wherever you are is called Here, and you must treat it as a powerful stranger.” What if we were to approach living with the attitude that being lost is a gift? Then we might not seek so much to know as to be known. Then we might seek permission to know and be known from the places where the flames lead us. The God who speaks to Moses from the burning bush is the same God who asked Abraham if he could count the stars. There is a wonderful gift in getting lost in the grandeur and vastness of the universe, feeling the smallness of your existence. Surely Abraham felt that in that moment. But in the next moment God assured Abraham that his descendents would be more numerous than the countless stars. God is like that, leading us out into the wild yonder where we get lost in the vastness only to then assure us of how precious and incredibly important we are to God who loves each of us madly. Surely there are messages for us embedded in all the “here’s” where we find ourselves as we follow the flames of our lives. And if what the bush, burning or otherwise, does is lost on you, then you are surely lost and it is time to stand still and be found.
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
by David Wagoner from Collected Poems 1956-1976 © Indiana University Press.
Rev. Ian Lynch is pastor of First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Brimfield, MA. He blogs about the intersection of spirituality and society at CultureDove.blogspot.com and the intersection of spirituality and ornithology at https://birdparables.blogspot.com