(A view from my hammock, Oct. 5, 2011)
Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.
In just the few days between now and when I took this picture, most of the leaves on this tree have fallen. My back yard is mostly full of ash and maple trees, and in the leafy season they make a nice canopy of shade for lounging around in my hammock. But come fall, as the picture shows, the canopy starts to "open up" and more of the sky starts showing through, and at certain times of the day now, the light is getting in my eyes and annoying me a bit. I become wistful over the waning fall and the impending winter, and the distinct lack of time I will want to lie around in my hammock in the yard. Before long, I'll be bringing it in the garage for the winter.
In a way, it reminds me of the psalm. Now, it's clear God knows all about us--but I don't think we think about that much. Given the fact so much of our ability to perceive our relationship with God seems, at best, a little indirect, and at most, non-existent at times, it's a lot like that canopy of leaves. We can lie back, stare at the heavens, and feel a little shaded from it all. We may full well be enjoying the full protection of the "shade," but we also get to carry with us the delusion that we are somehow obscured from God. We like to be deluded with our notions of self, and that God neither sees nor really cares what we are up to. Not that most of the time, we're up to anything "bad." More like "we just want to pretend we are in control of it all."
Probably the most consistent thing that "hooks" me in the Bible are the dark/light images. From Genesis on, we see there is allegory in dark and light in terms of humans and the world. But we tend to forget with God, there's no distinction.
So as I was lying in my hammock, I was contemplating the "holes" in the picture above me, where I was seeing more sky peek in at me than usual. At a certain point in the afternoon, the sun streamed right in and it was--well, frankly--annoying.
People of faith don't always like to admit this, but sometimes God's annoying, too.
It's a real catch 22. Sometimes, we stretch, we reach, we ache, we yearn to see a glimpse of the intimacy of our union with God. Sometimes, we have that nice little open patch of sky--those little "gee whiz" moments where it feels really good, and we feel just close enough to God we can sit comfortably in in.
But then there's the time the light streams in so brightly, we squint and find ourselves annoyed...truly irritated, in fact. Now, I'm not talking about the times when we are anxious and that light is fearful. That's a different blog post for another time. But the light makes us squint. We shield our eyes. Worst of all, it makes us feel overheated.
I think though, that's part of the deal...often times that overheated feeling is, because a tiny part of us really wanted to change something or do something that we have an inkling we'd like to do differently in our service to God, or make a change in our lives, but we would rather have inched into it. Instead the sky opens and there it is.
But what my canopy of fall leaves over my head reminds me is that something usually has to die for the new open spot to be revealed.
Fall always fills me with a longing. I enjoy parts of the beauty of it immensely, but what I do not like about fall is the feeling of impending death and dormancy in the air, followed by cold and wet and gray. But by the same token, I think it is what causes me to see the beauty in the beautiful days of fall. The annoyance of the sun, I think, reminds me of how these things are not done on my time, that control is an illusion.
For now, though, I'll enjoy my ever opening piece of sky over my head--and put up with the glare.