In the beginning was the Verb, and the Verb was with God, and the Verb was God.John 1:1
When the visiting ex-bishop read this verse at Mass this morning, I couldn’t help but think of a translation of these famous words that characterizes the first earthly moments as not so much a statement, but an action. If we take the words literally, that God created us and all that surrounds us – the air we breathe, the trees and creatures, the mountains we hike – then it only stands to reason that she was working in collaboration with a life force, an entity that makes a ‘to-do’ list and follows through on what she’s set forth for herself. She is, in effect, movement incarnate.
That may be precisely why I like thinking of a verb as the opening line because it’s a springboard from which all else naturally follows, a leap into the unknown with a splendid running start. I like this God because I too am a person of action, a (very, very) long distance walker, a go-getter uncomfortable with sitting still, a doer who doesn’t even own a television. Let’s get this show on the road! is how I usually wake up each morning, or as Richard will tell you from eighteen Christmases ago when I wanted him to propose to me, Hurry up and go!
But I’m stopped in my tracks by today’s imagery of a helpless babe born in a “lowly manger” surrounded by barn animals. The message is less about conquering the world and more about slowing down and contemplating it. Lately there is no end to that idea as I jump headlong into career number three thinking all those years playing flute and speaking into a mic ought to add up to something of value in this world.
But I want to go fast, when all the steps it will take to become a successful as a voice artist/speaker/full time hiker will take thoughtfulness, strategy, practice, and heaps of patience. It will also take what my friend Karen pointed out to me not long ago – I need to be brave enough to suck at something new.
At the end of the most bad ass year of my life, I am back to square one. I knew this was what would happen when I came home, but it still feels like I’m smashing right into a wall, the Verb that animates all I am, hitting the beginners mind at 80 mph. Will it be alchemy or combustion?
The good news, I guess, is I have a lot of plates spinning, so the gotta-keep-goin’ part of me is occupied, and the one that tends to dwell in a maudlin pool of regret has plenty to distract her. But is that really how I want to throw myself into 2020?
As Christmas with Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass blares throughout our house on an unseasonably warm Christmas day, the streets filled with deep, slushy tire tracks in dirty melting ice, I think again of God as a verb and her call to not just do, but to achieve and accomplish. And yet, now may be more a time of preparing the ground, of sowing the seeds, of nurturing the fledgling life that is trying to become. My big brother, Eric, sent me this beautiful wisp of poetry he says he saw in his neighborhood.
Leaf litter reflects not death and decay, but nourishment of unending opportunity.
The sun disappears, the world goes cold, all that was alive and buzzing is still or at least moving a whole lot slower, and in this moment, we’re told, a child came into the world for the sole purpose of bringing us closer to God by literally becoming human, to be a light in our darkness. It was an action, the verb “to become,” that changed everything forever, an action decisive yet gentle.
So this Christmas-tide I play my flute, organize my pictures and writings into coherent presentations, practice tongue twisters and mark up scripts, build a professional studio (ok, help Richard build it) and point myself in the direction I want to go with intention, compassion and maybe just a hint of humor. I can do this because I take my cue from the universe that even at the lowest possible point, the spirit is with me.