but there were
veined with grace…Christian Wiman
I love these opening stanzas from Christian Wiman’s poem, “Memory’s Mercies.” The speaker, as some difficulty shrouds his present, is trying to convince himself that there were, in fact, days once filled with grace.
I don’t know about you, but with the chill and dreariness of winter upon us and with COVID numbers continuing to soar, I’m struggling to remember the days of grace — “the deeds of the Lord…[his] miracles of long ago” (Psalm 77).
I feel very much like the Israelites. I have forgotten that I have been led out of slavery; I have forgotten that I have walked across dry land while the sea swallowed up my enemy; I have forgotten that bread miraculously littered the surface of the earth to nourish my withering bones; I have forgotten that the stone was struck to wet my cracked lips.
I have forgotten.
Christians are a people of memory, a people of remembrance. Our call to remembrance is not out of some mere sentimental nostalgia. We are not longing for the past to make itself manifest once again.
No, when we are steeped in the miracle of memory, we transcend the doldrums of the present, peak out of the pain and gaze into the past, so we know that the cloud and fire are still guiding us.
Even when we feel like it isn’t.
In remembering, the Spirit fills us with his courage to press on and keep walking when the path seems difficult or when our breath seems weak.
I’m grateful for a God who calls us to build altars in places where His goodness was once evident; I’m grateful for a patient God who reminds us of those altars and guides us back to them for our peace and his glory.
Specifically, I’m grateful for the times we get to gather outside as a church, albeit less frequently than normal, to consume the subsumed bread and wine; I’m grateful for the moments around the fire with my Link Group — a time saturated with laughter, joy, and prayer; I’m grateful for my adopted pup as she romps without abandon towards me or her stick in my new backyard; I’m grateful for a Chemex brew of coffee each morning.
Wiman ends his poem with a single exhale, a punctuation of sorts reminding himself that there has been grace in his life.
I pray that during this time my memory — your memories — are suffused with a light of the small and large miracles of God’s grace. Whether it be from a time pre-COVID or from one of those rare moments during the pandemic, may we all remember that God is in fact good.
I swear. Those memories are there.