Date: Thursday, Mar 23
Contributor: Gayle Marsh
They’re back! A few skyward honks bring to remembrance Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese”.
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”
Her poem corrects the rigors of approaching Lent as a program for self-improvement. The poem invites us to lay aside journeys of self-punishment in hope of divine reward. Her words caution
against giving something up only to grasp it back “after Lent”.
Christianity has been plagued for centuries with dualism. Something is dualistic if the “spiritual” is preferred to the “physical body”. This evolves the idea that the MIND/ THOUGHT is GOOD, and BODY is CORRUPT and needs punishment. It is past time for this plague to depart.
“The soft animal of my body,” is the tender, instinctual, deeply human part of you and me that loves; the part that of Ash Wednesday’s gospel (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21) that Jesus calls heart.
What do we devote focused attention towards? What do we really cherish? Where are my treasures? Jesus reminds us that heart and treasure cannot be separated. “For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). The heart follows one’s treasures. When I name my treasures then I find my heart, that “soft animal” that loves.
When we face ourselves, acknowledging the treasures we invest our life energy toward and the subsequent directions that follow, then we are free. It will be easier for the wings of goodness to soar. It will be less painful than inflicting the grueling “walk on [my] knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.”
Repenting changes the autopilot responses of life, and that takes time to get used to. May we have wisdom to look at attachments we cling to and those that static-cling to us. Some treasures have eternal value and are worth clinging to. Other treasures are flimsy. Much of humanity still suffer from attachment to material gain, self-importance, and the urge to control or dominate others.
We are past the midway point in Lent. May our spirits soar as we return “home” knowing God’s approving gaze desires us to fly, to be uplifted in love and self care. Be tender with yourself, your family and friends, share your food. Honor the laughter that jiggles our “soft animal belly”. May we mount up with wings of geese, soaring in formation, with all grace.
Gayle Mardene Marsh
Fourth Thursday in Lent, March 23. (It just happens to be the 65th anniversary of my baptism).