There is nothing like the smell of a damp forest in the early morning. It is earthy, it is alive, making me feel, for a moment, the delight a dog has in sniffing around the neighborhood. Pine needles adorn the ground, tan fans strewn about. Beads of water suspend from the edge of every branch. It is foggy out, not raining. All is wet, and active. Birds of many species are foraging this morning. A jay hops on a branch, a large piece of bread in its mouth. Two mountain quail, which I have not seen before, ramble down the hillside. At first I see only one, a bright orange neck, brown body and long thin plume bobbing as it walks. It stands for while, content. Then another wanders over, its mate to be sure, and they continue on away. Then a crow flies over, silent, and a flicker hops from ground to branch. The squirrels are out as well, sitting on the side a tree, wandering over the dirt.
I realized this morning something which I already knew. At moments I look outward and inward, pondering the mysteries of my soul and life, wondering what all would be like if I just cast off this spiritual quest and lived a more carnal existence. Then it occurred to me. I sought that path, and feel the same inner drive I feel now, the same overwhelming demand that will not let me loose. In other fields I could not even begin to answer this call, so my soul turned into a knot, my heart exploded within me. I wandered, I quit jobs, I found not even a moment of peace. And so when I feel this same emotion driving me now I remember there is no answer in turning away. I tried that, and it makes things even louder, the cacophony expands within and without. The only way to calm and quiet is to embrace the void, taking hold of those deeper things.
The grass seems greener on the other side, and I spend too much time looking out over the fence saying how happier I would be if only there I could graze. The lushness is an illusion, for from that side I came to this. Those I know over there have no more delight, though they have more to show.
I walked down the other path, and was pulled, yanked to this one, one which I would not naturally pursue on my own. To run from this now is not just folly, it is death, for it is impossible to restore those “who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come.” Committed to service, I do not now choose how I serve. My vow is to the Lord, and at his whim I stop or go, engage or disengage, attack or retreat, look foolish or find greatness. Neither friend nor foe have more power over me than he. So, with this in mind, I must learn to orientate with the ways of the Kingdom, for they differ from the laws of this present world.
It is difficult, though, to see one world and live by the rules of another. More than acceding to the laws, it requires a radical change of my very eyes and soul, something which is not taught, and only mentioned in a cursory way. We are told we should, we are not told how, let loose on the field of battle like children facing a mighty army.
So, we must learn these paths anew, finding the ancient texts which speak of the way, embracing that which is beyond, no matter how others may disapprove. I am only useful for the kingdom if I gain the kingdom view. Bluster and swagger impresses each other, to be sure, only it has no real measure for the battle. If we seek to gain the prize we must do that which is our calling.
I remind myself of this today, knowing and not knowing, aware and blind, all at once. Fortunately, the One who came brings sight to the blind. This is my prayer. That and courage to continue to stand, alone if necessary, with company if possible.