I taught this past Sunday on suffering.
It is a daunting thing to think one has anything to say to a room full of people, many of whom have suffered far longer and far deeper than I ever have.
I felt like a kindergartener getting up to teach a college-level Physics class.
As I was doing some reflecting on that teaching this morning, I came across this poem I read during an especially hard time in my life a decade or so ago.
Accept it as a gift today:
Reluctant Pilgrim - by Jennifer Lynn Woodruff
"This is the longest season of my years,
a never-ending summer without pause
where heat and draining sunshine without cause
pursue relentlessly despite my fears;
and yet it is the darkest of my days,
though light is all around along the road;
only the heat, the pain, the heavy load,
no clarity beneath that burning gaze.
How for one moment of cool relief,
or drenching rain to fall and set me free,
one place to rest the burdens and to be
something that would at last transcend my grief ---
How for all that I pray, and wonder why the road leads on across this desert still;
how empty must I be before you fill
this broken vessel?
How much more must die before the green rejoicing springs to birth?
And yet the sun is purging in its pain,
and yet I know to walk this road again
as, carrying a cross, you walked on the earth, once for all the burden-bearing One,
the struggler in the desert, parched and dry.
The living water that will satisfy flows only from your wounds;
and once begun
forever I return into the stream
of grace that flows although I cannot feel,
of all that is mysterious yet real;
Forever I am leaving off the dream
that I could ever walk this road alone ---
or struggle in my own imperfect strength
against the breadth and depth and height and length
of all that darkness claims me for its own.
Yet though I know all this, the road looks long;
no cloud of deep refreshing gathers yet.
In faith all I can do is not forget
that there is still the promise of a song;
parched lips shall raise through pain their sweetest praise,
and journeying down this road because I must,
I know that with each step of desperate trust
I turn a quiet corner of your grace."
I pray, my fellow strugglers,
for one moment of cool relief,
for one drenching rain to fall and set you free.