I arise today...
Through the stability of earth...
The Lorica of Saint Patrick (St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer)
One of the beautiful things about this series is the ability to simply listen to the Spirit and reflect on whatever comes immediately to my heart and mind without trying to dissect every thought through a grueling process of research and study. Study is important and I enjoy academic rigor, but there is something to be said for responding to “first thoughts” on a word, a phrase, a scripture passage, an image, an experience, or anything else God may speak through. I see it as the spiritual or written equivalent of the #nofilter hashtag often used in photography. Rather than an academic essay on Patrick’s Prayer, these reflections are more like journal entries, simply offering those “first thoughts” and reflections and allowing God to use them as the Spirit wills (#nofilter).
There are of course a few risks in this approach. I’m sure my reflections would not hold up to academic scrutiny and they are not refined to fit neatly into a particular theological framework. Yet despite the risk, this is also the joy… the freedom of the stream of consciousness, like dancing with the Spirit and allowing God to lead, rather than relying on my own reason and understanding.
Today, this approach ran me into a bit of a problem. I wrote an entire reflection on the stability of earth using the image of the solid rock on which we stand secure. I got to the bottom of the post and began to type the next line of the prayer… “I arise today through the firmness of rock.”
Oops. I got ahead of myself. And so I will post that reflection next week as it deals more with the firmness of rock than the stability of earth.
This of course leaves me in a bit of a bind. What to write for today about arising through the “stability of earth”?
Honestly, I’m not sure. When I think of the stability of earth, my mind immediately jumps to the image of rocks. Yet in this prayer, rock and earth remain two distinct images despite their many similarities.
When I think of earth as distinct from rock, stability is not the word that comes to mind. If not rock, earth generally implies soil, sand, clay, grass, peat, or some other softer substance. Earth tends to give a little under our feet. When it is wet it may wash out completely, like the sinking sand that quite literally washes out from under you as you stand on the beach. Have you ever tried to mow the grass after a good rain? As the tires spin in the mud, stability is the last word I would use to describe “earth.”
So now I wonder, is there another way to look at “earth?”
Earth is not only the ground, it is the entire planet which humanity inhabits. It is the Garden of Eden and it is Fallen Babylon. It is natural and it is man-made. It is forests and deserts and arctic tundra and it is villages, parks and cities. The earth is ecosystems and climate change and the food chain and the “circle of life.” Earth may very well represent all life as we know it. Of course science could easily demolish my working definition here, but I speak only metaphorically, even poetically if you will.
What if just for a moment we consider earth as less about the ground itself and more about the place of life, a habitat created by God for all whom God would create? Perhaps then it is more stable than we think. Yes, parts of the earth are destroyed by fire and floods and earthquakes and even unnatural human forces. Yes, species have gone extinct and the cycle of life and death never ends. Earth and all that is on it exists in a constant state of flux.
Despite all of this change, earth still spins on its axis. It maintains its orbit around the sun century after century and millennium after millennium, at least close enough to sustain life but not too close to destroy it. What if stability then, does not depend on keeping everything the same? What if stability is not the absence of change or the firmness of our foundations, but rather our ability to withstand an ever-changing reality and even grow and thrive from it? Just like a tall building must have a bit of give to withstand high winds or earthquakes, so the earth with all of its shifting sands, remains a stable sanctuary from which we can live and breath and sing the praises of our Creator.
1. What does stability mean to you, in light of all the shifts and changes in life?
2. How do you understand the “stability of earth” and how does your understanding resonate with your life right now?
3. Pick out a line from this prayer, or perhaps a word or phrase from a scripture you recently read, and allow your stream-of-consciousness to flow freely with it. What “first thoughts” is the Spirit laying on your heart? How is God calling you to respond? #nofilter
Our journey through St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer continues next week:
... I arise today,
Through the firmness of rock…