Deadlines intimidate me, especially when writing’s involved. I’ve learned the wisdom of waiting for a wave of creativity to carry me and not try to struggle against the tide. But a deadline says: Get going. You’ve used up your quota of procrastination. Now is the time. Jump.
Thursday afternoon I plunge into cold water that is over my head. Will my sermon come together by Sunday? I feel this way every time I write one and God always comes through. Just the other day someone reminded me of this verse in Isaiah. “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.'” With a little more confidence, I begin to swim in the choppy sea of thoughts and words, until I am called to dinner. “I’ll be there in a minute,” I say. I’ve made some progress, but the shore doesn’t seem any closer.
Friday I face the page again. Which way is the current flowing today? I lift my hand to God and jump in. The word count hovers like a shiver of sharks. Big chunks have to go. I sigh and offer up one poetic bit, then another. I surface for lunch then dive back in. At three o’clock I get on my bike. Bruce Cockburn’s “Pacing the Cage” plays in my head as I ride and I wonder if the deadline is my friend.
After supper Fred relaxes with a book. Isn’t this what Friday nights are for? I return to the page and attend to what emerged during my ride. Then I put the PowerPoint together. Images drift in. I exchange one find for another, collect what I need.
Saturday morning I have a two-hour window to practice out loud and time myself. The clock frowns. I feed the sharks again, take a deep breath and start over. This time I catch a current of emotion when I hear myself talk about empathy. Word and image, and sound and meaning converge: solid ground under foot.
Saturday night I turn through the pages in my mind while I soak in the tub. Something’s wrong with the last section, but I can’t put my finger on it.
Three in the morning I’m awake floating on the page again, wondering if it’s a structural problem and what I should do. Then I see the connection under the surface and dive down to get it. Yes, that’s it. I reprint the page and go back to bed.
Sunday morning a few of us gather to pray before the service. After a moment of silence one fellow says, as he often does, “I have a word from the Lord for you.”
“You are up high and must jump into the cold water below. You are afraid to jump, but a feather floats down from heaven and carries you with it.”
And I remember a quote from Hildegard of Bingen that said, “I am a feather on the breath of God.”
“God will be with you,” he says.
“Listen: there was once a King sitting on his throne. Around him stood great and wonderfully beautiful columns ornamented with ivory, bearing the banners of the King with great honour. Then it pleased the King to raise a small feather from the ground and he commanded it to fly. The feather flew, not because of anything in itself but because the air bore it along. Thus am I a feather on the breath of God.” – Hildegard of Bingen
Questions for your Lenten pilgrimage:
- How was God with you today?
- How was it different from other times God helped you?