Poet Mary Oliver died this past month and my soul sighed a bit. Like all good poetry, Oliver’s poems bring me comfort, challenge, surprise, and delight. My spiritual direction group spent time with her poem “Wild Geese” just the other month, turning the phrases of that radical, yet soft poem over and over until each of us in the group had words to use to describe the feelings her words elicited in our hearts. Oliver, who valued simplicity, once said that, “poetry, to be understood, must be clear. It mustn’t be fancy.” In this “Why Jesus?” season I believe that Mary Oliver’s values of simplicity have something to remind us about how we talk about our faith. We continue to answer “Because Jesus is….” with things like relationship, trustworthy, and love because we seek to be clear about why this word made flesh matters to us as individuals and to the world. Our belief that God comes in love for love is meant to be lived and understood, turned over and examined in our hearts until we have words to describe “Why Jesus?” for ourselves. When it comes down to it, our faith doesn’t have to be fancy and complicated to be life-giving. And we don’t have to understand it completely before our lives can reflect God’s love for the world.
In her poem, “Mysteries, Yes,” Oliver gives words to this reality: “Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous to be understood.” My invitation to you is to sit with poem for a while, while also continuing to ponder “Why Jesus?” Thanks for walking this journey of faith this season and doing the work of reflection.
Mysteries, Yes. by Mary Oliver
Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.
Peace be with you,