With a soft blanket wrapped around my shoulders, I step barefoot out onto the deck where it’s wet, dark, and quiet. I need to connect with the Divine.
I felt drawn from my bed where I lay sleepless and restless, trying to pray and not sure if the muddled thoughts in my mind were prayer so much as desperation—sometimes the two are really the same. Because that thing was hard, and this thing is hard, and that thing I see on the horizon, yeah it will be hard too, and my mind is awhirl with all of them. I can’t walk out the steps of these days on my own.
I remembered a night this past summer when my granddaughter and I lay wrapped in blankets on the deck, gazing at stars, overcome with awe, and I thought I could use some of that. I thought of the rain the day prior and the forecast for more of the same, and wondered if clouds might prevent me from seeing the stars but I had to try, anyway. So, I pushed back the covers, grabbed my blanket, and answered the call to come out to the deck.
Now I’m here and, sure enough, it’s cloudy. There’s neither a light nor a sparkle in the sky. I feel alone—even more than I felt lying awake in my bed—and I’m disappointed on top of all that. God, where are you? Through the presence of absence comes the answer and I whisper in response. You’re not out there; you’re here.
If I believed God was out there and it was possible for clouds or anything else to keep me from the holy presence, I couldn’t go on. The truth doesn’t fix any of the things that disturbed my rest but the silent, dark deck turns into holy ground as I stand barefoot and breathe in the grace.
I rest my arms on the cold, wet railing and look down the valley toward the light of the city. Then east where it’s darker, across the ridge where fog snakes through the valley, and up, where there’s nothing but cloud. I stand for a while in the holy presence and realize the call wasn’t to look in awe at the stars after all. It was to remember the Divine isn’t constrained by place or time or anything at all. You’re everywhere. You’re here.
I tiptoe back to the bedroom and crawl into bed. I pray the words God’s only begotten taught us to pray, slowly and meditatively, swirling them around like fine wine on my palate. On earth as it is in heaven. I think of that person I need to forgive, how we’re all so achingly fragile, and how Buechner, that wise man with a poet-heart, told us it’s all so beautiful and terrible. Thine is the kingdom.
And that thing still stings and that thing I see out there in the distance still scares me more than I want to admit, but I rest in understanding that the smoke and mirrors of clouds, restlessness, and anything else that bumps in the night can’t block out the light of grace. Forever and ever. Amen.
The grace of God means something like: “Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are, because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you.”
There’s only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you’ll reach out and take it.
Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.”
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking