I haven’t written here for a long while. I have been working towards a deadline for submitting a book on refreshing the spiritual life of priests, and this - together with other commitments – has crowded out these reflections. Earlier in the week I went for a long walk in the woods and passing by a simple wooden bench in a clearing, sat down to breathe a while.
Gazing out I began to take in the detail of what was before me. At the heart of the clearing was a single oak tree. The top was blackened by lightning like a sharpened pencil, but below the branches stretched fresh and green. Fronds of bracken waved slowly in the breeze. A butterfly drifted through the air. Behind me a blackbird sang.
A clearing amidst the woods. A space to be and let be. Only in sitting there did I realise how much I needed this small pause of open ground amidst tall trees.
Clearings do as they say if we accept their invitation to sit and be. What is tangled, busy, anxious and self-preoccupied can be released into the space they offer. God begins to unravel us if only we allow the room. Clearings may gift us with greater clarity but they are not there for any product. If we let them draw us into their stillness they show us how weary we are of seeking to control and manage our lives without the grounding of a place of rest.
Wherever I have lived there have been clearings: a small public garden amidst tall buildings in London; a seat on the train when I put down my work and gaze out on the fields; a quiet 15 minutes when I can close the door on commitments and open the door to a resting place in God.
A small open space with a single oak tree and a simple wooden bench: a clearing that would take no more than a minute to walk through... and lose.
Sit...be...let fall...rest...receive this clearing so alive in its stillness.