By Brooke Maffia Wang
I strap on the smelly hard hat equipped with headlamp standing along the creek in the crevice of the rolling hills littered with sheep and cattle in Waitomo, New Zealand. Memorized by the unique charm of the stalagmite and stalactite that entice us to wander slowly into the cave allowing 20 minutes for our eyes to adjust to the dark.
Eventually, in the pitch darkness of the cave,the 12 person sardine filled raft of chatty tourists pushes away toward the glowing blue.“Scuba”, our guide bangs the side of the raft with the paddle to make the worms think food is coming. Silence falls quickly over us as we watch the tiny blue lights brighten as if on a dimmer switch. We float toward the “living lights,” as the Māori people call them. In the darkness, you can feel jaws drop and breath seem to stop in a collective sense of awe in the presence of this unique beauty.
We float slowly and reverently as if we were in a cathedral. I think of the Thomas Merton quote I had serendipitously read that morning:
At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us.… It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely. Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1965, 1966), 140, 142.
Tiny, two inch worms, living in hammock type webs create this phenomenon. The glow attracts food in order to sustain itself for its short 2 month long life, most of which is spent in the larva stage. The more food they have the brighter they are. This experience felt dripping with metaphor, but for today I want to simply offer this:
We all have a “living light” within us. A spark.
Glow worms are largely unimpressive and easy to miss in natural light. Today, may you find the light and environments to help you see and follow the spark within you.
By Don Ferris
When I am Among the Trees
by Mary Oliver
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines, they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself, in which I have goodness, and discernment, and never hurry through the world but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, "It's simple," they say, "and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine."
I’ve struggled most of my Christian life “to go easy”. It’s the Evangelical church world I was born into, became a Christian, and served as a minister for fifty-one years. A local church was doing a series on the Fruit of the Spirit. The irony made me pause. Each sermon declared that it is the Fruit of the Spirit, and then preached it as something to achieve, strive for, and put into action.
Mary Oliver reminds me, of this amazing grace and who I am in relationship with God, my Loving Creator. I’m a branch, as Ignatius reminds us, “created of love, by love, and for love” for the blessing of the world. And, like the trees remind me, "It's simple," they say, "and you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine."
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius have been a wonderful guide for me to “go easy, be filled with light, and shine.” If you long for this simple freedom and a deeper intimacy with God, I invite you to join us for The Exercises, which begin September 16th.