As I write this, it is a beautiful, warm summer day, with blue skies and an occasional cloud. Sparrows and robins are playing in my back yard. The sun is shining and it is Sunday, a day of rest from the usual labors. For many of us in Northeast Ohio, this is the sort of day we cherish, because it seems so often our climate affords us only cloudy grayness and rain or snow. It almost seems hard to imagine that that is true as I type this, but we all know it is true. Like many people, I tend to feel more relaxed and hopeful on sunny days.
I often finding myself with a longing for times like this to last. Why does summer have to slip away and winter take over? As silly as it sounds, there are many things that I just don't want to go away. Something in me resists change. It may be something as simple as having to throw away a favorite item of clothing because it is worn out. Or it might be a moment of beauty slipping by, like seeing the red rose drenched in glistening rain drops that will soon dry (as in the picture in my last posting). It could be shared moments of love with family or friends, the joy of hugs or the comfortable sharing of thoughts, that I have to pull away from long before I am ready. Or it could be a truly sacred moment, where a greater Love seems to fill my soul, inviting it to greater heights - but then it is time to eat breakfast and attend to the day's work. As much as I want to hold on, each passes and I cannot stop it from slipping through my fingers.
It seems like there is something etched inside of me that longs for a permanence, for an eternity where I don't have to give up my heart's desire when it feels like I have just started to discover what it is.
On the other hand, there are a great many other things that I am glad do not last. I am so glad that showers came and freed us from last week's stifling heat and humidity. I am grateful that migraines and head colds and stomach viruses do not last. If moments didn't pass, my troublesome emotions and worries and memories would always be in my mind - without relief. And even if I could stop the people I love from ever dying, I would be condemning them to a forever of this life, something I could never wish for anyone.
It also seems that there is something etched inside of me that longs for change, for newness and relief from the old. I want to experience new moments and feel new joys. I long to see new blossoms on the trees, but I also love to watch them be replaced by fresh fruits that can only grow once the blossoms fade and die. I want to grow too and my spirit can only grow by letting go of what has been and being open to whatever comes.
How can I have it both ways?
Over thirty years ago, I was flying in an airplane and I wrote down a few thoughts in a small notebook I carried with me. I still have that notebook, though it is quite tattered and the pencil jottings barely legible. I wrote:
Never forget how relative your perceptions of things are. Your vision is so limited that, unless you are willing to live on faith, you will find yourself living much below your capacities.
From my observation point on earth, it appears that on some days the sky is blue, on some days it is cloudy gray. I fly in an airplane above the clouds to find that the sky is always blue. The appearance of clouds is only a temporary obstacle that prevents me from seeing what is the reality.
This is quite a simple and obvious truth in an age where air flight is so common. Yet how many more things there may be for which this is true. There are those underlying realities which we are at times unable to see because of "clouds". But through our faith, we are enable to penetrate the clouds in our consciousness - to live our lives in terms of realities and not appearances.
If I can live, knowing that the sky is always blue, despite how it momentarily appears, what does this mean for my life? It means, quite simply, that all my words, actions and thoughts are rooted in eternal joy, constant hope and complete assurance. Thus, clouds, although they may cast occasional shadows, ultimately have no power over me. I know them for what they truly are: temporary obstacles.
I can take this even a step further. With this faith-understanding, I can live with the inner certainty that there is no absolute evil. I know that evils are only temporary appearances and therefore I do not believe in their significance. I can then learn to live without any fear.
Indeed, eventually, my consciousness can grow to know the blueness of the sky in every living moment. In less metaphorical terms, I then know in every moment that my life is eternal. I know every moment that I am in the presence of God. There is then no anxiousness or waiting, for I know the reality of my life's fulfillment now.
While re-reading this and typing it, I found myself wanting to edit - or at least make footnotes. Having lived 30 plus years since I wrote it, I still find some truth in it. However, I have also experienced and witnessed a lot more now than I had then. There are not just clouds that keep me from seeing the sun. There are, at times, raging storms. I have had my share of fears over the years and certainly have not felt "complete assurance" or "eternal joy". However, many years ago, during one of those storms, my therapist said to me an interesting thing. He said that he had a feeling that, down deep, I knew that ultimately I would be all right. As miserable as I was at that moment, I had to admit that this was true. Something in me knew that there was indeed a sky that was always blue, even though I could not see it.
And so I believe in the Eternal. The Eternal I cannot see. I caught a glimpse of it a few weeks ago while flying in an airplane, high above the clouds. I know that, if I could go back to that same spot in the sky, what I saw would now look different. But that would just be appearances. In each experience of truth, beauty, love, there is a reality that endures, no matter how different it may look to my human eyes. But my heart knows. My soul knows.
I invite you to see what I saw - not because showing you a picture can make it your moment, but because in showing the picture, you may come to believe that such moments are possible.
(photo taken from my airplane window)