August spilled across the sky at dawn; morning has broken…
Be comforted; the world is very old,
And generations pass, as they have passed,
A troop of shadows moving with the sun;
Thousands of times has the old tale been told;
The world belongs to those who come the last,
They will find hope and strength as we have done.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow “A Shadow”
The shadow’s the thing.
If I no longer see shadows as “dark marks,”
as do the newly sighted,
then I see them as making some sort of sense of the light.
They give the light distance;
they put it in its place.
They inform my eyes of my location here, here O Israel
,here in the world’s flawed sculpture,
here in the flickering shade of the nothingness
between me and the light.
~Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
A shadow is hard to seize by the throat and dash to the ground.
~Victor Hugo from Les Miserables
Grace comes into the soul, as the morning sun into the world; first a dawning; then a light; and at last the sun in his full and excellent brightness.
It starts as subtle glow around the edges so that dark appears darker with contrast that wasn’t there before. Illumination slowly reveals the hidden niches. As it progresses, more details stand out in relief, creating both portrait and landscape. Then the color flows, emerging and submerging, encompassing and enveloping.
What was murky and undefined is now revealed with backlighting, and brightly adorned.
What was depths of tomb and grave is now opened and freed.
From gloaming to dawning, our souls rise as well.
Every valley shall be exalted,
every mountain and hill made low;
the crooked straight,
and the rough places plain. Isaiah 40:4
Gazing out our kitchen window, we see the strong silhouette of Mt. Baker every morning, unchanging and unblinking as the clouds swirl past, the snow falls, or the sun shines. The peaks are just as impressive as they must have been for the coastal native populations centuries ago, with the river valleys at its feet just as green and lush.
As permanent as it seems, it is an active volcano, still steaming from its vent on the coldest of mornings, a plume visible from our farmhouse dozens of miles away. The lesson of Mount St. Helen taught us that the constancy of rocky peaks is illusory. In an instant it can be laid low, the valleys obliterated in a sea of lava, the rivers gorged and gushing with mud, the ragged geography covered and soon forgotten.
There is nothing permanent under the firmament. Every earthquake and tsunami, as happened in Japan only an hour ago just a couple hundred miles from where our son lives and teaches, proves that again and again.
All that is lasting is the kingdom of our God incarnate, who walked in living flesh on this impermanent earth, in order to bring His people to home everlasting.
Knowing this, we can be rough no more.