There are roads I know like I know the path my feet take from the pew to the table, maps my body returns to like the This do in remembrance carved into the wood.
I drive, I lean left and lean right, winding through trees I have known long enough to remember their stories, circles beneath the bark pressing them wider, higher, the seasons of their leaves like the cycles of the Psalms.
There are curves and windings through the back roads I know like I know metanoia, twists and turns like the confessions, doublings back but never quite the same road, Most merciful God, and elevations rising and descending like being held tight to a chest breathing, the bosom of the place.
There are roads which have traveled me.
There are views from the peaks which feel like absolution.
I climb up through the pines, sap and spring water incense, light and dark in a million facets on the trail, gnarled roots reaching for my feet to stumble me …my thoughts, my words, my deeds, what I have done, and what I have left undone…
I have not loved you with my whole heart,
and the Cooper’s Hawk high on the wind, soaring, saying with wings God have mercy on you. Be strong in all goodness. Be kept in life eternal.
There are silences I know like the Venite, their shouting for joy upon the rocks of my salvation.
No, further back than that even – silences I can sing by heart like the Sunday evening invitation hymns, softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, their verses rising with the spring plowing like arrowheads hundreds of years lost in the field by the river. (Where have they been all this time?) The stillness fills me with the resounding fullness of listening.
There are long walks, all ears attuned to the corn speaking, feet remembering the ruts of West Winn. (Some things never change, no matter how much gravel.) The dry yellowed leaves brush one another in the rows, crisp husks, brown silks as matted as my childhood head of hair, so wild, defiant of the comb, but the head underneath so bursting with kernels. I listen to the stalks rattle together. Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten. Give us this day our daily bread.
There are waters near the source, always living, always cold, tumbling down through the rhododendrons and laurels, over rocks, over sand, singing my soul all the way down. Create in us clean hearts, O God, and sustain us with your Spirit.
There are voices I know like the voices which knew me first, like the goldfinches and the chickadees, saying always the same things. You are beloved to me – a million ways to say this, all the words meaning one thing.
There are faces my eyes have traveled like the roads I know like the paths I take from the pew to the table, eyes which meet my confessions, arms which embrace me in absolution, invitations at the door, like come let us sing to the Lord.
There are hands which have cupped my hands, hands which cupped the bread before me or after me, hands which broke the bread and extended the cup and the words and the friendship and what else is there to say, but Lord I am not worthy?
And I am given such an awareness of your mercies, O God, that with truly thankful heart I hope desperately to show your praise, not only with my lips, but in my life, by giving up my self to your service. Let me walk before you.