I’d been facing and hiking west most of the late afternoon, watching the sunlight play in the mist cascading down the mountainsides.
I had been captivated. Then, as the sun sank low, I turned to a sound behind me.
Facing east now, I was surprised when my eye caught the first rays of the moon rising over the mountain.
Winter will be here soon and the days are growing darker earlier, but that means we see the moon more clearly earlier too. A little while later as I turned north to go home I saw a shooting star. Really, I did. I’m as astonished writing it to you now as I was then, not because these are not natural, everyday occurrences but rather because I do not often enough stop to see them, because mountains have a way of communicating strength behind the word, “pause,” while their stark lines bring clarity to my confusion.
Last week I washed all of my cabinets down. They’re white so the evidence of their need to be washed shows up rhythmically. Their face is in my face. But who will notice that I washed them down? This week I cleaned them out and organized them. Why does this matter? I could say these are just things I do as a home-maker, I maintain. There is a place for maintenance, a time for facing east, west, north, and south, a time for beginnings, a time for endings, a time for maintaining—even when no-one notices.
Another “ordinary” moment that took my breath away last week: I saw the sky breathing. The clouds—I could see them expanding and contracting with my naked eye. I’d never really noticed them doing that before. Have you? They reminded me to breath too and it made my breath feel so much less small, I was breathing with, within. I was alive within aliveness. I was facing up then.
These last several weeks I have been trying to face up so hard, even in the rain, but I just kept facing down. My friend recommended I read Grow Gently. Hearing about it through his telling gave me a different view. I decided to pick up my own book again, I spent time with it. I faced myself.
Of all the experiences in nature I’ve had recently, a coyote, a blue heron, an eagle, the sun, the moon, the stars…one word has also been an experience for me: face.
As early as the second verse in all of the Hebrew Scriptures, in Genesis, Bereshit, we hear about face. Panim, in Hebrew, means face. The place Jacob wrestled with God, he named the face of God, Peniel.
“The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” -Genesis 1:2
I’ve come to recognize there are a lot of things I avoid. I do not face. I hide, but still I am given presence, friendship—so often the very face of God to me. I’m as astonished writing that to you now as I often am experiencing it, not because these are not natural, everyday occurrences but rather because I do not often enough stop to see them, because molehills do have a way of becoming
mountains in my world, because sometimes the strength of love brings such a “pause” over me, I only know how to look at the sky to bring clarity to my confusion.
Somedays lately, the sky has been clear and magnificently starlit. I’ve been given the graciousness of friendship, I see I’m not alone looking up there but rather we’re facing our darknesses together. We’ve beheld the way, “all of creation, is eagerly, bound up, longing to be revealed.” (Romans 8).
This doesn’t make everything right or okay or pain-free. Rather being given the face, the presence—of friend—it has enabled me to hear an invitation written in the sky…everyday…cloudy or clear…an invitation to us all to turn our face and bring our voice to The Face, The One Who sees…us.
“O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the crannies of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.”
-Song of Songs 2:14
I have often turned my face away, shushed my own voice and even let myself become certain that it was another hushing me. None of this is unnatural, rather surely they too are everyday occurrences in the world of being human. None of this is for any one of us to feel guilty about. It’s for us to discover! It’s for us to explore and find the way molehills give way to mountains much more majestic and masterful than anything we can imagine or create on our own.
I hear and see an extravagant invitation like blazing gold embossed across the night sky—that’s right—I see it in the darkness. I’ve missed it more times than not, mistaking darkness for something bad, or sad, or lonely.
Would you let me be your friend tonight as I send this out to you, a voice, a presence of friendship that echoes back the light of Presence the way the moon echoes back the light of Sun? Listen for your name being known with me tonight? If it doesn’t feel true, let me know it for you, for just a little while? I’ve never been more sure. Sometimes, that’s what friends do for one another. (I must admit to you here that I’ve learned that with much difficulty…)
It’s been difficult to know that my own darkness is safe beneath the gentle light of moon, but what I am learning is how light upon real challenge or change or trouble is not the problem, it’s whether I face it or not that gets to decide that. And, the good news there is that we are never alone, The Face of God surrounds us, invites us, to grow gently within His light.
There must come a day that The Face is even in the face of those who hurt us, our “enemies”, and even the strangers we pass…it’s okay if we don’t see that now or soon or when we think we need to. But we can help each other be prepared for the day it is right for us to. Everytime we see one another, look upon each other with kindness, turn our faces toward one another, we are preparing the ground of each other’s hearts. This is a true story.
What mercy is upon any one of us who know that—it is also upon us to give it away. We cannot give unless we have been given to and we must know that we have been given to in order to give. And, the “small” multiplies only once we have given it away. This is the masterpiece we live within and the art is you. I see you.
Pass it on? We are a family in waiting, a song whose cadence and tone was always destined, listening for it with you…
“It is consoling that the ocean is the sister of the light that minds the night of the earth. The subtle light of the night draws the ocean into its own rhythm.” -John O’Donohue, Four Elements
One last thing: one night about a year and a half ago my husband and I gathered our children around the table for a story that was just beginning. The unfolding of that story and its author, C.T. Giles, have been an incomparable friend to me and my family. Now I’d like to share both with you this weekend.
I believe with all my heart that this story belongs in the world, that it will be a friend to many others who have need of it as much as I have. Would you consider taking a look at, When God was a Boy, a coming of age story about the young messiah told from the perspective of his adoptive father, Joseph? If you see and feel the same Presence…Face…that I did when reading it, there’s an opportunity for you to turn your face in another’s direction at the end of the first chapter…or simply to not be alone in the peering into…imagining things in the heavens with me tonight…as a prayer for them to be so on earth.
Thank you for considering this, and as always always always, thank you for journeying with me.
One could ask, (I do) why does this matter? I could say these are just things I do as me, I write because it helps me, because sometimes I hear that it helps others. There is a place within writing, though an often very solitary act, for togetherness. There is a time for facing east, west, north, and south, a time for beginnings, a time for endings, a time for knowing we’re together—even when we’re between the darkenings.
P.S. as always, please share the love (and this post) far and wide? Thank you, thank you, for all the times you have. It means so much.
P.P.S. If I didn’t convince you to go read the first chapter yet, you can watch a video HERE.