On Lamps and Paths”
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved
Hiking a trail at night—
High Sierra, 8,000 feet,
bright moon on granite,
Sounds come from the shadows
and I sense a presence,
and a waiting…
And I wonder,
and I know you know how I feel,
my thin flesh holding in my life, and
an unknown hunger, not mine,
lurking tree to tree, rock to rock
patiently waiting for my slip,
should it come,
and a feast.
And I wonder,
Are not we all on a night-trail,
having a spotty light with which to see,
and stalked by a hunger that
desires the meat on our bones?
Preached August 14, 2011
There will be some who read this poem and think of paranoia and dysfunction, and they may be right, but not really. Of course, I should say that if you are hiking alone in the High Sierra, as I did for years, you should be just a little paranoid. It just could save your life. But, and you actually know this, I am thinking in metaphor when I write of being stalked by a hunger.
We all have something that wants the flesh off our bones. The question is, What is the hunger that stalks you?
For some the hunger is an addiction. This could be alcohol, drugs, a hobby gone berserk, something that steals from the person you are—fear of something real or imagined, tangible, virtual, but palpable.
It could be that we have fought our way to the top of the dog pile and have a temporary victory, but the little dogs are already snapping hungrily at us. It might be that it is our own perfectionism that is tearing at our flesh, and we are destroying our own peace and well being through trading satisfaction in work well done for discontent. There is a possibility that we have been so profoundly betrayed by another that our entire world has not only been re-arranged, but destroyed as we know it, and we have taken on their betrayal, disaffection, abandonment, and dysfunction, as caused by our own imperfection, and assumed the fault.
It truth, it doesn’t actually matter what the cause, the effects are all of a kind—they are painful, harmful to us, disastrous for our future, they steal our joy and well being, and they can set us up for futures that are bleak and arid renditions of our once lush, verdant selves. Any one of the above examples can make us feel deep shame and do great damage to our spiritual selves.
What do we do about it? Well, the first suggestion I want to offer is the scripture on which I have based this meditation, Psalm 119:105-112, “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.” This is actually worth some consideration on our part.
The word to which I believe the Psalmist is referring is not simply a text or two of scripture, but the entire spirit of God that is reflected in its words. For us this is what I refer to as the Gospel of Jesus—the hope and promise found in the stories of his actions. We are loved by God. We are cared for by God. We are offered comfort in our times of need. Most importantly, we are judged by God as persons worthy of God’s most intimate fellowship, and good enough to be loved by Jesus, and an invitation to life in the community of believers we know as Christ’s church, and a life in the Spirit of God.
We need to develop a trust in God’s word that we are basically good enough for God’s love. If we can do that, we can learn the one lesson Jesus learned that he based his entire ministry upon–FORGIVENESS! I am writing here about learning to love God enough that we can learn to forgive ourselves for whatever we think we need to forgive ourselves.
The alternative to this is a pale life that has most of its joy wrung out by our self-judgment, and self-recrimination. We develop a loss of courage and pluck, an overall spiritual malaise takes over our lives. We develop a lack of vigor and an unwillingness to try new things and take risks, and worst of all, many times we develop a deep abiding anger and rage that ruins our physical well being as well.
Give it up, people! Learn to love yourselves as God does, as Jesus does. Learn to hold yourselves in love. This is a matter of spiritual life and death. Give in to the love of God. There is a presence within us that is not God, that would tear the spiritual flesh off our very bones, and it is us. Accept this, and trust that the love God is greater than this self-destroying presence, and offers us self-love as well as God’s love. It is this self-love generated in us that heals, renews, and restores our wholeness. It works like this: God loves us; we learn to love God; as we learn to love God, we learn to love ourselves; as we learn to love ourselves, healing begins; then we truly begin to love God.