As you listen to this hymn for a second time, pay attention to the second and third verses.
I am particularly taken by the both/and quality of what Sleeth is saying. She is inviting us to ponder how and where there is light in darkness and doubt in believing. We can get so caught up in dualism and either/or thinking. This problem plagues us. We want to be able to classify and categorize everything, label and store it on a shelf. We want to do it quickly and would rather than admit if we make a mistake.
There is a great and ancient Chinese proverb about needing to trust in the slow work of the spirit rather than racing to define and distinguish everything it goes like this:
A farmer and his son had a beloved stallion who helped the family earn a living. One day, the horse ran away and their neighbors exclaimed, “Your horse ran away, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”
A few days later, the horse returned home, leading a few wild mares back to the farm as well. The neighbors shouted out, “Your horse has returned, and brought several horses home with him. What great luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”
Later that week, the farmer’s son was trying to break one of the mares and she threw him to the ground, breaking his leg. The villagers cried, “Your son broke his leg, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”
A few weeks later, soldiers from the national army marched through town, recruiting all the able-bodied boys for the army. They did not take the farmer’s son, still recovering from his injury. Friends shouted, “Your boy is spared, what tremendous luck!” To which the farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”
Trying to wait before we run head first in to something is not exactly seen as an important characteristic today. We would rather be first than right. Many have lost a job recently jumping to conclusions rather than trying to untangle/twist what has always been complex, complicated human moments.
Where have your already labeled something as good or bad with a sharpie? Where have you made up your mind and won't consider any further evidence? And I particularly mean in your own life? In your unfolding narrative are there places where the period has been placed, rather than a comma? Are there places you think the chapter ended and yet the character keeps re-appearing?
I invite you to know only trust in the slow work of the spirit this hymn invited, but also to hold lightly our opinions and understandings. After all back in 2008, I had never even been to Florida...that was a place of hurricanes and strange news. And now I actually live here.
So may the trace of God's grace lead us with the wisdom and love we need to take one step at a time.