I work with Robin about every day. But not today, for Robin has gallivanted off to some beach somewhere, evidenced by a photo the rest of our team received via text of feet in sand. She’s gone, but in so many ways, she isn’t. Parts of her remain: her office, some books, notes with her writing on it. She is fully there, but the footprints—sandy or not—remain here all the same.
I’m thinking about this because today I went for a walk in the woods with a friend. Not in some metaphorical way. No, an actual friend and I met up and walked around the AM haze, before sun and rational people rose for the day. My friend does this on occasion, and part of the reason why is to “visit” his father. You see, his father left this earth some time back. He is fully there—wherever “there” actually is?—but some of him still lingers here somehow. His son feels that lingering in the cold, quiet woods and the sudden awakening of the birds.
What Robin is illustrating this week, my friend felt deeply this morning. And I think we all do. Sure, some of us believe that we live a handful of decades and then end up as worm food in some strange, inexplicable cycle, and that would be just fine, if not for the whispers of the trees. The subtle reminders. The stirrings of the heart. Sure, these are just feelings. Emotions. But why does everything else get to be real but feelings and emotions—the most important things really—don’t count? Who makes that rule? And why?
Okay. I’ll answer that last question, even though it was rhetorical. My answer is this: we’d rather know a cruel truth than have a warm unknown. But just because we proudly pump our chest as we reassure this and that reality doesn’t mean we know any old thing. It just means we’ve cajoled ourselves into believing what makes us feel most safe, in control. We’ve studied ourselves into a corner. We’ve surrounded ourselves with a chanting horde who echoes our reassurance. But try as we might, the feeling lingers.
I believe each person is made in the Image of God. They reflect the goodness of God, as Calvin would say, “they pour forth” his attributes into the earth. And God is good. The Bible claims it again and again. Also, He is eternal. So, what I would postulate, is goodness reverberates. Sure the bad in us finally gives way. It wobbles and falls in defeat. But the good stuff, well, that lives on. It is like its maker, eternal and pure and it walks about the woods, it sings out our names, it leads us, as a stream finds the river, to the source. The good is linked to the eternal Good.
If I were to really pursue it, I could find out precisely where Robin is. I am no stalker, so I won’t trouble myself. It doesn’t much matter. I’m glad she is happy and enjoying the ocean and the sand and family.
But what of the other? What if the shores of the soul is eternal? What if those who have gone before surround as a great cloud of witnesses, not just to comfort and hang with us, but in heartfelt hopes that we might find One better than them? That we might follow their path to Him? What if we content ourselves with their scribbles and goodness and memories and never drink deep from the clear, clean waters of the originator of theirs and every goodness?
Sitting on the beach and wandering the woods can become then eternal pursuits. We stand before an unseen greatness which yearns to envelope us, may we learn to discern its voice and walk from dark to morning light.