In a meditation group I attend, the facilitator read that gorgeous poem by Mary Oliver, When I Am Among the Trees, and one line really caught my attention. She writes that the trees give off “such hints of gladness. I would almost say that they save me, and daily." How simple. How beautiful. I would love to manifest this kind of gentle generosity.
However, I am a person who tries, or worse, a person who tries to try. There is something in me that believes we are meant to make a difference. To fix things. To make a better world. I have spent quite a lot of time considering what I am meant to do or regretting what I didn’t do. When I'm not trying, I don't quite know who I am.
This well-intentioned striving, accompanied by the guilt and exhaustion that follow from my failure to save the world, have not helped me “give off hints of gladness” and I no longer think it’s because I didn’t accomplish some particular task. I know that I was created to “be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.” [Matthew 5:14, The Message] so I shouldn’t hide my light under a basket. But I am also becoming aware of the ways in which my search for purpose is the basket.
Later in the poem, the trees tell the poet that “it's simple. . .you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.” Simple? Really? For me, more like the work of a lifetime.
Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” [Matthew 11:28-30]
To me, that sounds like “Go easy.” And summer offers an invitation to play with that idea. How might you go easy through July and August? What will you need to let go off? Perhaps there are “obligations” that aren’t really. Could you set some of those aside? Just for now? How about those big, desolating ideas about what you “should” be doing? Could any of those go? I invite you to join me in holding some of those “have-to’s” and “shoulds” up to God’s clear light to see what they’re made of.
I also invite you to consider the healing properties of going easy. We have all been through an unprecedented time of anxiety. As things begin to open up, consider giving yourself permission to slow down, to rest and to simply spend time being with God without accomplishing anything. I suspect therein lies the way toward becoming one who “gives off hints of gladness.”