A steady center holding

Gate open 06“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, God’s mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, as sure as the sunrise.” Those words from Lamentations are part of my first prayer every morning when, after night has offered a buffer of rest between yesterday and today, the world is made new.

Morning is a reminder of other transitions in life. Some are subtle, like the slow shift from one season of life to another as we grow older. Others are abrupt, punctuating life with jolts or turns, stops and new starts – a graduation from school, a significant birthday, an illness, a job change, a marriage, a death, the birth of a child – each with its mix of gains and losses. All transitions, whatever form they take, are part of the natural order of life, and each of them has something to teach. Each is a doorway into a deeper experience and appreciation of life.

Recently my transition to a new position in ministry was punctuated by my decision to jettison my old sermon files, the product of nearly thirty years spent trying to say something sensible about life to myself as much as to others. There were a few good things in there, I suppose, but I’m confident everyone is better off for my having dumped them. It’s a humbling thing, at this stage of life and knowing what I know now, to be confronted with words I wrote years ago. It’s time to cut them loose and move on so I can say something new about my relationship with the God who makes all things new. Part of growing up, I guess.

We have to move on from all kinds of things, good and bad. We have to cut loose from experiences and relationships that limit who we are so we can grow into the person God is creating us to be. Sometimes life does the cutting for us, and we’re forced to leave behind some very good experiences and relationships. Recently I came across a poem by William Stafford that speaks to such times. Here are a few of its lines: “Arbitrary, a sound comes, a reminder / that a steady center is holding / all else. If you listen, that sound / will tell you where it is and you / can slide your way past trouble” (“Cutting Loose,” from Dancing with Joy: 99 Poems, ed. Roger Housden).

There’s an art to handling change, especially difficult change, an art to seizing the mercies of God that are new every morning. It has to do with staying close to the steady center that holds all else, listening for the deep sound – the music of the spheres? – that helps us slide our way past trouble and loss and grief to something new and graceful. I don’t know if there’s always an advantage in cutting loose, or being cut loose, from familiar anchors that steady us. But sometimes there is, as new possibilities and opportunities are opened to us.

The passage from Lamentations that I use every morning ends with these words: “Good comes to those who wait for the Lord, to the soul that seeks God. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” May we all be blessed in our waiting for the new thing God is doing with us.

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