The Darkness, The Dove, and The Daybreak

A dove is nesting near the stairs in the apartment building where I live.

Doves have long captured my attention. When I was a boy, doves would often nest in a hanging basket in the backyard of our house. From the back door, you could see them clearly, and you could hear them cooing during the day as you moved throughout the house. The doves always seemed so gentle, so peaceful, so patient as we watched them. I’m sure our presence made them nervous, but they remained fixed in spite of our movement.

As I passed the dove the other day, I noticed an egg next to her in the nest, a small sign of new life. At the close of a month filled with murder, mourning, and madness, a month when the world seemed to be coming undone all around us, the sight of this dove and her egg were a relief to my weary heart, a reminder that all is not lost. In a world steeped in death and darkness, new life still springs forth.

The scene reminded me of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem “God’s Grandeur” (see the link to the poem below). Hopkins begins his poem with a captivating assertion: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” The grandeur of God goes largely unnoticed, however. Men do not heed him, do not seem to respect his good creation. The constant plodding of the generations has desensitized us, wearing on our souls as well as on the earth itself. Hopkins recognizes that a world of grandeur has grown almost dreary. It isn’t difficult to understand his point. Our world feels hopelessly lost. We feel hopelessly lost.

But Hopkins finds hope in this world as well. “And for all this,” he writes, “nature is never spent.” No sear, blear, smear, smudge, or smell can kill the freshness of the Lord’s world. Every nightfall is soon followed by a daybreak. The Lord remains at work, bringing life and light to our death and darkness.

Admittedly, the death and the dark seem unconquerable at times. When our news feeds are filled with injustice after injustice, when our homes are invaded by sickness and sorrow, and when our souls are shaken by chaos and storm, we can lose sight of “the dearest freshness deep down things.” But, like the dove, “the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.” God has not forsaken his creation. The promise of redemption still stands. “The light shines in the darkness,” John writes, “and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). In spite of all appearances to the contrary, the daybreak will come.


Read the full poem here.

A Prayer During a Pandemic

chris-henry-RTICqZlyBtk-unsplash

Death’s shadow looms o’er us, but we fear not,
For with us walks the life, the light, of men,
Sov’reign o’er ev’ry plague, problem, and plot,
Perfect in power, faithful yet again.
You have been with us, will be with us still,
Though days be long and lonely in the land.
We feel the curse. So many are so ill.
God, this is not the future we had planned.
But you are e’er at work, and so we wait.
And we believe (but help our unbelief).
Let faith grow more than worry for our fate.
Let worship be our joy and our relief.
O Lord, you give. O Lord, you take away.
O let your name be blessed by us this day.


Photo by Chris Henry on Unsplash

The Smile

chmyphotography-qI5XixBb6TU-unsplash

There was a smile for years within the shadows.
I saw no eyes but knew it smiled at me.
It wore a glee like one who watched the gallows
To revel in death and depravity.
I lived for years in fear of its abuses;
Its haunting was oppressive in its scope.
It laughed at my defenses and excuses
And steadily eroded all my hope.
How can one contradict a stronger power?
How can one run from what cannot be found?
I felt its gaze upon me ev’ry hour
And knew it laughed e’en when it made no sound.
But something changed the day that I surrendered
And ceased to fear the smile to fear the crown.
I turned from dark to light, life was engendered,
And what once smiled at me began to frown.


Photo by chmyphotography on Unsplash

Atrocities

joel-in-t-veld-bDNw-UBrVrw-unsplash.jpg

You may have heard the analogy of the terrible car accident, an example of something you don’t want to see but you can’t help but watch. Some parts of Scripture seem fitting passages for such a comparison (think of the story of Lot’s daughters in Genesis 19 or of David’s adultery and murder in 2 Samuel 11). Horror movies also match the model with their fantastical depictions of the broken state of reality. But true crime stories, for many people, may serve as more poignant examples of evil in our world.

Continue reading

A Prayer to Abide

anjo-antony-1145152-unsplash.jpg

I want to walk with hope though there be sadness.
I want to be at peace though there be war.
I want to remain sober in the madness.
I want to trust, not knowing what’s in store.
I want my life to testify to blessings
Surpassing the self-pity that I feel.
I want to stand in spite of second-guessings.
I want my love to be alive and real.
I want my joy to show through circumstances,
Joy drawn not from my circumstance or sight.
I want my setbacks to serve your advances,
That, in the darkness, I reflect your light.


Photo by Anjo Antony on Unsplash

The Ache for Hope

saketh-garuda-349019-unsplash.jpg

My friend Atley and I watched Brightburn on Saturday (warning: spoilers ahead). We both enjoyed the movie, but we noticed that the movie left us feeling a bit gross. Granted, that’s not uncommon for horror movies, especially in an age when the horror genre seems to lean heavily on gratuitous violence or sexual content to capture attention. I typically don’t enjoy (or view) such movies. But Brightburn was different. While Atley and I pointed to a few instances of unnecessary gore in the movie, Brightburn left us uncomfortable not because of what it included but because of what it lacked.

Continue reading

The Christian at Work

christopher-burns-368617-unsplash.jpg

A number of my friends from seminary work in local churches, meaning their coworkers and bosses are fellow believers. A number of other friends, however, work in coffee shops, department stores, or in other non-religious occupations. One such friend recently asked how Christians in such positions can best represent Christ to their coworkers, specifically when lifestyles and ethical frameworks conflict. Today, I want to offer a few thoughts on the subject.

Continue reading