I will mention them now,
I will not mention them again.
It is not lack of love
nor lack of sorrow.
But the iron thing they carried, I will not carry.
I give them—one, two, three, four—the kiss of courtesy,
of sweet thanks,
of anger, of good luck in the deep earth.
May they sleep well. May they soften.
But I will not give them the kiss of complicity.
I will not give them the responsibility for my life.
In her poem Oliver notes four people who cared inconsistently for her. Through their action or inaction Oliver was hurt. But she is not wedded to them; she declares that she will not carry “that iron thing” they carried, their bent, painful ways. She will bear the responsibility for her life. Oliver is ready to move on, to walk in her own power. How will she do that?
In the The Dark Night of the Soul: A Psychiatrist Explores the Connection Between Darkness and Spiritual Growth Gerald May says that we can come to the place where “we know who we are, what has been happening in the darkness and are awake to love” (182). In this state we experience growing freedom and energy liberated from attachments that restrained it (183). May goes on to say that we no longer pray to God, but find that we are keeping God company in what God is experiencing with us.
This is our new dawn and the brightness of this day may appear to us as a bright cloud. May tells us that “The reason of the obscurity” . . . .“is to keep us safe so we don’t stumble because we think we know where we’re going” (194-95). Have you ever had such an experience? I recall talking with Jesus about my future. I sensed Jesus standing at my back with his right hand on my left shoulder, showing me where to look. It was as if I were in a cloud. Sometimes I try to make out what is there.
Trusting in the power of the Passion of Christ, we are no longer trapped in old ways. We are free. But free for what? How does a former prisoner adapt to freedom? What does a responsible, grateful, joyful life look like?
In the 23rd Psalm we hear David announce that the Lord prepares a table for him in the presence of his enemies. Do we want this? What will it require of us to eat at that table knowing that those who have hurt us are present? Can I become part of a new compatible relationship with the one who wounded me? Gerald May encourages me when he says that true compassion is the essence of creation: if we remain free from our ego attachments, compassion will arise directly and spontaneously within every situation. (184) “Here actions and feelings flow from a bottomless source within us (185).
I believe that we are made for the story we are in and that there is more good than bad in everyone’s story. But we are not to spend too much time analyzing if I really have had more good than bad. Perhaps you have heard that “God writes straight with crooked lines.” So let us just know that as we attend to our story with our best effort and faith, God is alive, well and acting on our behalf.
We are to live in the moment, right? People tell us not to live in the past, nor to project our cares into the future. Live in the moment, only in this moment can I experience grace, or have faith, or move those mountains. But in order to live well in this moment, I do need to be aware of my context in order to respond and act with efficacy.
Sometimes a word comes to me as I am writing and I am not quite sure what it mean. This happened just now with “efficacy.” So I looked it up. Efficacy refers to the power of capacity to produce the desired effect. So efficacy does not just mean the ability to respond, but to respond in a way that I desire! Acting in this self-aware way requires that we be persons of agency, persons who are capable of exerting power on our behalf.