In these days of prolonged pandemic anxieties and longer, colder nights, I find myself being called to sink deeply into who I am as a beloved creature made in God’s image. It is not always easy to live in the present, especially when the past is heavy with grief, and the future is weighted with worry about when – or if – life as we’ve known it will get back to “normal” (however we understand this word). God is calling me to an Advent season of reflective rootedness, in the rich blackness of life-giving soil. I’m being called to dig deep this winter, and find rest, renewal, and growth. Maybe you are, too.
22 Thus says the Lord God:
I myself will take a sprig
from the lofty top of a cedar;
I will set it out.
I will break off a tender one
from the topmost of its young twigs;
I myself will plant it
on a high and lofty mountain.
23 On the mountain height of Israel
I will plant it,
in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit,
and become a noble cedar.
Under it every kind of bird will live;
in the shade of its branches will nest
winged creatures of every kind.
24 All the trees of the field shall know
that I am the Lord.
I bring low the high tree,
I make high the low tree;
I dry up the green tree
and make the dry tree flourish.
I the Lord have spoken;
I will accomplish it.
— Ezekiel 17: 22-24 (NRSV)
Can You Imagine?
by Mary Oliver
For example, what the trees do
not only in lightning storms
or the watery dark of a summer’s night
or under the white nets of winter
but now, and now, and now—whenever
we’re not looking. Surely you can’t imagine
they don’t dance, from the root up, wishing
to travel a little, not cramped so much as wanting
a better view, or more sun, or just as avidly
more shade—surely you can’t imagine they just
stand there loving every
minute of it, the birds or the emptiness, the dark rings
of the years slowly and without a sound
thickening, and nothing different unless the wind,
and then only in its own mood, comes
to visit, surely you can’t imagine
patience, and happiness, like that.
(From Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver. Penguin Press, 2017.)
Guided Prayer: Sit comfortably, breathing deeply between each line.
Like a creature in the dead of winter seeking warmth, burrow down deep, into the generative darkness of yourself, your roots.
Dig deep to the place, not of yesterday or of tomorrow, but of right now.
Find the place of warmth and organic growth that is not coerced or forced, but gentle,
Find the image of God in yourself in that place of deep, restful
Make that place your dwelling place where snow or wind or rain don’t chill you,
or make you afraid.
Draw nourishment from that dark soil of your being: God-breathed, beloved.
And when you’re ready, ever-so-gently: grow. Amen.
—Rev. Whitney Wilkinson Arreche
Rev. Whitney Wilkinson Arreche is a minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), who serves as Vice-Chairperson of the General Assembly Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations, and on the organizing team of Liberating Church, a project drawing wisdom from the antebellum hush harbors. She is a Doctor of Theology student at Duke University, researching decolonial and antiracist theologies. She lives in Texas.