By The Rev. Margaret Emery Shaw
[“From the Rector’s Desk,” in the 2011 Summer newsletter of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Essex, NY.]
I have no idea where the past two years have gone. On one hand, it seems like only yesterday that Terry and I were in Indiana, madly packing our belongings in preparation for our move to Essex. On the other hand, we feel so comfortable here, it is as if we have lived here for many years. We attribute our comfort and sense of belonging to all of you. You continue to make being your friend and rector a delightful experience and we sincerely thank you.
There is no question that the North Country experienced a wild winter, and a very wet spring. Many of our neighbors have experienced great hardships that are not yet over because Lake Champlain and several rivers and tributaries are still overflowing their banks causing devastating damage. It has been truly difficult for people. As we celebrate the coming of summer and the return of many of our friends, we continue to pray that our area and communities will fully recover.
Yesterday, while I was doing a bit of gardening, I was acutely aware of what a privilege it is to work in God’s creation. Like many others, I find getting my hands in the soil to be very therapeutic, in that it brings me so quickly to a realization of what is real and what is not – what is necessary and what is not. Then, I become aware of how fragile God’s creation can be when we become over exuberant about how we want things to be, rather than working with the conditions with which we are presented. For me it is almost impossible not to feel a strong spiritual connection with nature.
Also, while gardening, my thoughts are often quite random. Yesterday, they went something like this: “It is easy to forget that we humans, also, are a magnificent part of God’s creation, a part of nature.” Although, this seems to be stating the obvious, frequently it is the obvious that eludes us and sometimes confuses us.
We humans seem to be unique in that other species don’t appear to confuse themselves in the same way we do. Other species seem to know what they need in order to exist. But again, stating the obvious, we cannot really do anything about the fact we are human. In truth, we would really become wacky if we tried. Nevertheless, what if we lived our lives in as nonjudgmental away as other species? What if we tried to love as unconditionally as our favorite pets? What if we were as curious about everyone around us as a new puppy? What if we lived in the moment? What if we tried to bring as much beauty to the world as a flower in the garden? What if when we saw a precious person being choked out by weeds, we would be most gentle in trying to remove the weeds so that the person might remain intact with a strong sense of who they are so that they would be able to flower? What if we would truly recognize that the contrasts found in nature are apart of what makes it so fascinating and such a pleasing place to be? What if we regarded our fellow humans as endangered species needing our very best attention and understanding to ensure their survival, which in turn, would ensure our own?
What if we lived out God’s commandments:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).
Perhaps, God put us in God’s enchanting garden so we might learn more about who we are in relationship to God and to each other. May our summer be one that gives us time to ponder, pray and enjoy these things.