The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Wendell Berry is a farmer, a writer, a social critic, and an environmental activist. He cares deeply about the world. He also seems to have a preternatural understanding of the healing that can happen when we live in right relationship with the world. The poem quoted above invites us to leave behind our despair and fear . . . so that we might experience rest and peace. According to Wendell Berry, that can happen if we are willing to "rest in the grace of the world."
Two images from Berry's poem grab hold of my heart.
First, I am completely undone by this phrase: "the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief."
It dawns on me that animals do not worry. For wild things, there is no "forethought of grief." Even my beloved dog (who is not technically "wild" - at least, not always) gives absolutely no thought to what might or might not happen tomorrow. He simply lives in this moment. What's more, he trusts me completely to take care of every need that he has. I know this lesson is simplistic, but I would be better off if I could approach life like my beloved Shadow! Imagine what it would be like to live with no "forethought of grief."
The second image of the poem that seizes me describes "the day-blind stars waiting with their light."
Forgive the elementary astronomy insight, but the poem reminds me that the stars are up in the sky all the time - even during the day! The language we use is so interesting! We talk about "the stars coming out." But the stars do not "come out" at all - they are there all the time. The light of the stars shines all the time - day and night. We don't see the light of the stars during the day because a greater light outshines them. But the stars haven't gone anywhere; to us, they are simply day-blind. And even during the day, the stars . . . wait with their light.
Consider this: we can finally see the stars only when the world grows dark.
Jesus tells us that we are "the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14). If that's true - and surely it is true - it is simply our nature to shine. We don't turn our light on and off. Just like the stars, we shine day and night. We shine day and night . . . simply because that is who we are.
And like the stars, I wonder if our light is most visible and most needed when the world grows dark.
It's not much of a stretch to argue that our world is fairly dark these days . . . which might mean that our light is needed now more than ever!
When the sun shines bright, the stars don't command attention. But they never stop shining.
And we do not always command attention . . . but we never stop shining.
But our light is essential these dark days. And to be light will not require any special activity on our part. As followers of Jesus, it is simply who we are. We are the light of the world.
The stars do not decide to shine. Instead, the stars simply do what stars do.
And, surely, the same thing is true for you and me!