"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

12 May 2008

Blue Skies

I have had several occasions this semester to remind students that we stand before God and not before man. There was the young woman who had to finish several incompletes, the result of illness last semester, and so fell behind and did poorly on her first essay for my lit class. "Did you do the best you could with what you had?" I asked her. When she nodded through her tears, I reminded her, "Then you can stand before God without shame and be unconcerned with your grade. His judgment of your character is far more important than your performance on this essay, or my evaluation of it." And with the incompletes out of the way, she went on to do well in the class; God did not let her fail because of circumstances beyond her control.

He may have done so, however. There was, too, the young woman pouring herself into her classes, valiently fighting freshman homesickness and discouragement, and yet -- despite her intelligence, understanding, and hard work -- somehow not making the grades she could have legitimately expected. "What might God be teaching you about trust?" I asked her when we talked about an assignment she had done poorly on. "Might He be inviting you to trust Him without seeing results, to know His love for you despite a less-than-stellar performance? Perhaps the struggle itself is His gift to you this semester?"

We can only ever do the best we can in any circumstances. We don't have any more. We have only the knowledge and the wisdom thus far gained, only the time and energy granted, only the desire to give enough, knowing that what we have may never be enough, not from man's perspective, and not in a broken world. And after that -- the results are His, and our job is to learn to accept them, not rail against them or despair over them when they aren't what we'd like . . .

On a Jorma CD, Stars in My Crown, that a dear friend sent me, my favorite song has become "Heart Temporary":

Blue skies in the morning,
Stars, they fill the night.
Fall wind rustling through the trees
Sings a song of great delight.
On such a day you think you'd say
Exactly what you mean.
But in God's perfection, things ain't always
Just the way they seem.

When the best you have to offer
Falls short of the mark,
Self-inflicted holes are piercin'
Deep within your heart.

Blue skies in the afternoon,
Breeze, it starts to still;
Two dogs sleepin' in the sun,
They lie upon that grassy hill.
At such a time you think you'd find
A way to share your heart,
But though you're reaching for her hand,
Still you walk apart.


Sun upon that old barn roof
Celebrates the day.
I hold this moment in my hand,
Follow it along my way.
The future flows; this feeling grows
Outside my window sill.
By letting go, I might escape
The prison of my will.


When the best you have to offer
Is all you have to give,
Enjoy the moment: God has granted
One more day to live.

Blue skies out my window
Said good-bye to early morning rain.

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