by April McClure Stewart
The other day, it was hot and humid. It seemed like one of those summer days that would be, well...bothersome from morning to night with no breeze and mosquitos biting and the sun bearing down. I prepared to be in the air conditioning all day long.
But around dinner-time, something changed. A little breeze picked up and the humidity dropped as the sun began to move towards the horizon. The light turned golden and the temperature settled into a very comfortable upper-70s. The mosquitos became occupied elsewhere. In short, it was a perfect late summer night.
I have been having some issues with anxious feelings and worry lately. We found out a couple of weeks ago that the baby we are expecting is a little girl. We are happy and excited! And at the same time, knowing who this little one is means that we have a deeper love for her and a greater hope for her life. As those who have lost an infant late in pregnancy, it is hard to just rest in the positive feelings of love and hope. I find myself dwelling in the “what-if” and “maybe” and trying to prepare myself for whatever may come, even if that is hard...or terrible.
For some reason, this late-summer season has been ministering to me in my anxiety. A drive through the country reveals the fields ripening for harvest, the sumac turning red, and the sedges deepening with their dark rust-colored feathery plumes. The birds flit and float and the insects hum and the smell of warm earth and grass is everywhere. Peace enters my soul. Everything is so beautifully designed, so wonderfully fit together. The words of the psalmist come to mind, “When I look at...the work of your fingers...what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” (Ps. 8).
And I think of Wendell Berry’s incredible poem, The Peace of Wild Things.
"When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound,
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light.
For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free."
Is it possible that God designed us to be ministered-to by “The Wild Things?” I think so.
Here, in this verdant, fertile, beauty-filled place that is the river valley of Illinois, I see the magnitude of God’s provision, the grace of a creation filled with goodness, and the turning of the seasons in an unending cycle of birth, life, death, and new creation. I see, if only for a moment, our temporal nature, and feel awe and gratitude that those I love are created by the same God who put together the scarlet, umber, and ochre of this late-summer season. We are put here in God’s care and kindness and I know, again- if only for a moment, that somehow, someday, eventually - all will be well.
And for a time, the Peace of The Wild Things enters me. I rest in the grace of the world God has made, and am free.
Adam Stark is a contemporary theologian & thinker.