I read a poem this morning. Mary Oliver. I imagine I will meet her one day in Heaven and thank her for speaking my language and offering her soul.
This poem was called "Great Moth Comes from His Papery Cage".
Maybe you aren't into poetry. That's okay. Just stick with me a minute.
Gone is the worm, that tunnel body. Gone is the mouth that loved
leaves and tomatoes.
Gone are the innumerable feet.
He is beautiful now and shivers into the air
as if he has always known how,
who crawled and crawled all summer.
He has wide wings, with a flare at the bottom.
The moon excites him. The heat of the night excites him.
But, where did the dance come from?
Surely not out of a simple winter's sleep.
Surely its more than ambition, this new architecture!
What could it be, that does it?
Let me look closer, and a long time, the next time
I see green blooded worm crawling and curling
hot day after hot day
among the leaves and the smooth, proud tomatoes.
I see my redemptive God in this. I doubt God thinks the worm any less beautiful than the moth, though He knew we would. Imagining how God must feel about the worm, his own creation, is comforting, since I feel so much like one these days. "Crawling and curling hot day after hot day". Not seeming to get very far, needing every bit of every leaf and tomato I can find.
I have had times of coming out of my "papery cage" as well. I have seen myself transform. Where I depart from the moth is that as far as I know the moth doesn't have a choice. It probably couldn't choose to stay a worm…I don't know. I can though. I choose to be the worm, or to let somehow, miraculously, the hot days of crawling turn into a shivering dance. The choosing is my part. The rest is God's. I cannot give myself wings. I can willingly crawl, and willingly wait as I am given a body better suited to my new and truest nature.
She asks the question - "What could it be, that does it?" - then leans toward an answer by saying she will look "closer, and a long time" when she sees the worm again. And I resonate - I say yes, it is this inching along that I'm doing.
Reading this was a distant reassurance marker for me today. A sign saying - you aren't super far away yet, but head back this way. The small moments and the deep places have been problematic for me lately. They are also usually somewhat unseen. And I feel unseen. Even by myself. Disconnected, lonely. Then the inching along feels like an insult. Like I've been put on an abandoned road by an uninterested, preoccupied God who expects more than I can give and punishes me when I stumble. Who's attitude is "do what I want, or leave me alone".
I can't tell you how many times I've called God a jerk since we moved here.
And something happens in that small moment. I clench my teeth and my fists and I replace my loneliness and sadness with rage and disappointment, and I harden. And I curse God for taking away my alcohol when he knew how it would help. And I turn the world inside out and turn even the gentle, kind, healing places into nothing more than things/people I am ashamed of ever needing so much that I deluded myself into believing they were real.
It is cruel. And I confess it because there are too many of you out there who have been gentle, kind and healing, and you are exquisitely real. Gifts I do not intend to throw away.
My confession is an inching. An aching, longing inch. I am crawling toward the day my papery cage opens for me again, and I emerge winged with my course set on the moon.