"Did you know that it rained at exactly the time you said it would?" The Beve asked me last night. I'd checked Accuweather during the day because weather is important to him this time of year. There are lawns to mow--over 40 of them and only 1 of him--and he's at the mercy of the sky and his schedule every single day. So I checked the weather on my computer and according to the hour-by-hour forecast rain was due to fall between 5 and 6, and that would be it. Sure enough, we had a downpour at 5, and he came in the door with his sweatshirt soaking at 6 pm, having tried to squeeze the last lawn out before the skies dumped.
So last night we debated the value of the various weather forecasters--The Weather Channel, Yahoo Weather, Accuweather--or me just looking out the window. But you know what's ironic? With all those great options, I don't generally take the extra time to consult the experts but instead simply try to guess. He'll call me up in the early afternoon from his windowless office at school and ask, "What's the weather like outside?"
And I'll say, glancing out the window, "Kind of cloudy. Maybe a crack of blue sky to the south."
"Well, I guess I'll try to mow," he'll answer. I might look down at the slate patio to see if it's wet, and mention that, or at the fence across the street, and I'll certainly tell him if it's pouring. But it hasn't been my custom to go to the experts. To find answers from folks who have spent years studying patterns of weather, who actually know what they're talking about.
I think perhaps in the church we're prone toward this as well. We look around and try to figure out what God might be doing and saying, rather than studying others who have more expertise than we do understanding Him. When I say this, I'm thinking of the value of commentaries, the value of scholars who have spent years studying scripture to try make sense of it. One of my favorite books is Eugene Peterson's Take and Read: Spiritual Reading: An Annotated List. I love this book because it gives Peterson's favorite commentaries, classics, books on prayer, the psalms, worship, spiritual formation and direction, etc. When I bought this book (1996) I tried to find every book he had annotated, and read it. I didn't succeed, certainly. But it helped me read more deliberately, more slowly and carefully. Lecto Divino, as monks would call it--Spiritual reading. Reading with an eye to God, reading so I'm paying attention to what He's about, so I'm reading the weather with the experts, not simply looking through my own window and hoping I get it right. My own eyes are not enough.
So, for now, two of my favorite books, one I absolutely must have by my bedside all the time:
Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God by Rainier Maria Rilke
And one of my favorite of his love poems--
I'm too alone in the world, yet not alone enough
to make each hour holy
I'm too small in the world, yet not small enough
to be simply in your presence, like a thing--
just as it is.
I want to know my own will
and to move with it.
And I want, in the hushed moments
when the nameless draws near,
to be among the wise ones---
I want to mirror your immensity.
I want never to be too weak or too old
to bear the heavy, lurching image of you.
I want to unfold.
Let no place in me hold itself closed,
for where I am closed, I am false.
I want to stay clear in your sight.
I would describe myself
like a landscape I've studied
at length, in detail;
like a word I'm coming to understand;
like a pitcher I pour from at mealtimes;
like my mother's face;
like a ship that carried me
when the waters raged.
The one other book is Martin Luther's Commentary on Romans. This may not the best commentary written now, but was the first one written and clearly central to our protestant understanding of salvation. I read it first at the behest (nice word, huh?) of the pastor I went to see when a relationship fell apart in college. Odd choice, at first blush, to send a young woman to reading Luther's take on Romans when her engagement has been broken. But it was perfect for me. Like looking up Accuweather for the weather. Back to someone who knows something, rather than just trying to make sense of my world from my own broken position, encouragement to stop staring out my window and trying to figure out what God was doing.
Accuweather and Lecto Divino--funny how these things connect.