Between gratitude and despair

Pastoral Messages | April 30, 2015

Spring has sprung here in the Quad Cities. Buds and flowers burst from trees that were bare just days ago. The once brown grass is lush and green. Tulips and daffodils and lilacs bring the kind of color that help us forget our gray February. It’s the kind of beauty that draws a thank you from even the least appreciative of souls. Multiple times a day this week, I’ve prayed this poem by e.e. cummings:

I thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

And even with this prayer running through my head, it’s impossible to ignore that in other corners of this planet there is not such life and possibility. From Baltimore to Nepal to Syria violence and destruction seem to rule the day. Seismic shifts, born from both tectonic plates and from human injustice and violence shake our world.

It’s the kind of week when we are caught between gratitude and despair. We are reminded that our world is full of both great hope and great sorrow. We feel both lamentation and joy. It can be easy to get caught in one response to this world and forget about the other. And yet we somehow need both. Simply despairing, after all, would lead not only to great sorrow but also apathy. But knowing only our own delight would ignore the suffering of our brothers and sisters.

So perhaps we can take some clues from those last two lines of e. e. cumming’s poem. “(now the ears of my ears awake and now the eyes of my eyes are opened).” This may be just the way to live in our world full of great beauty and terrible injustice – to keep our ears awake and our eyes opened.

We can listen, really listen, to the hurting and brokenness of the world even as we keep our eyes open for glimpses of beauty and love. This may be our only chance to not only live a life full of gratitude and hope, but also to move toward the kind of transformative action that our world so desperately needs.


Sara Olson-Smith, associate pastor

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