My best friend from high school married her high school sweetheart and apparently the marriage flourished and recently we've all reconnected on Facebook. Don and I never got to know each other well enough to truly be friends but I liked him even though he was something of an acquired taste ... very bright, creative, witty, somewhat sarcastic and a touch pompous. He could easily overwhelm me in a conversation or debate and still tosses around names, facts and French phrases in a way that makes my head spin.
Don went on to become a minister and the church was central to their lives. Our spiritual journeys took different paths yet I wonder if all of us who sincerely seek wind up at the same place. Today he sent me a message ... a poem from Rob Bell, the Founding Pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI. I can imagine that Don was a very powerful minister for even though our connection has been stretched across four decades and now exists on the thinnest of electronic means, he still managed to send me a message that feels like it was written just for me. Of course, I know that it also fits many... if not all ... of us because it is so true and so universal. Every one of us experiences suffering and hurt ... this poem is a powerful reminder to find the art in the agony. Don ends many of his messages with this phrase, "Do not grow weary of well doing." I like that and I truly appreciate this poem from Rob Bell.
We plot, we plan, we assume things are going to go
A certain way and then they don’t and we find ourselves
In a new place, a place we haven’t been before, a place
We never would have imagined on our own,
And so it was difficult and unexpected and maybe even
Tragic and yet it opened us up and freed us to see
Things in a whole new way
Suffering does that—
But it also creates.
How many of the most significant moments in your
Life came not because it all went right, but because
It all fell apart?
It’s strange how there can be art in the agony…
I am taking two online art classes and today a woman I've only met online posted a poem to accompany her beautiful rainy day painting of Venice. The poem is by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, never one of my favorite poets, although I must confess I still thrill to parts of "The Song of Hiawatha" (stanza below). I was struck by the common theme in these poems and wonder at the unique and playful way the Universe delivers its messages.
The Rainy Day
The day is cold, and dark, and dreary
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldr'ng wall,
But at ev'ry gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.
My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary.
My thoughts still cling to the mould'ring Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.
Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.
About the image: On a cold, rainy day on my recent trip to Asheville, NC, I discovered this accordion player on the streets standing near a big sculture of a flat iron. I was so taken with his face that I posted it on this blog on Oct. 16. His face continued to haunt me and showed up in this painting, "Asheville Moment." The house is Thomas Wolfe's boyhood home and "You Can't Go Home Again" is one of his novels.
The Song of Hiawatha (partial)
By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis,
Dark behind it rose the forest,
Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,
Rose the firs with cones upon them;
Bright before it beat the water,
Beat the clear and sunny water,
Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water.