Ok, I don't know where I am going with this, but I will try to stay open to thoughts as they come and try to organize them in a way that makes some sense or at least opens you, dear reader, to some new thoughts or even clarification of old thoughts.
Recently, I was on a road trip in Iowa with special friends from Madison. One of our destinations was Iowa City where longtime friends of one of us in the group live. They generously hosted us for a night and treated us to a tour of The Harvest Preserve, which is a large area of land our hosts purchased in order to preserve its beauty and sacredness as a spiritual sanctuary. http://www.harvestpreserve.org I am still processing all I saw and felt there, but one image seems to be following me: The Man on the Bench.
The Man on the Bench, a sculpture by Douglas Paul and J.B. Barnhouse, presides over the preserve and can be seen by anyone driving, walking, or biking along the preserve's borders. He is massive and can not be ignored. A benevolent presence? Yes, I think so. A Buddha of the Prairie, perhaps. As our group toured the preserve, experiencing one sacred place after another, I kept thinking about The Man on the Bench and felt him watching me, even wondering what I was going to do next. It seemed to me he was urging me to consider carefully my days ahead and how to live them authentically, encouraging exploration and commitment to the person I was created to be.
Last week on an early morning walk I found another sculpture of a
man on a bench--or at least the man's head. I was tempted to sit on the bench and listen to what this head had to say to me, just as I had been tempted to climb the hill and crawl onto The Man on the Bench's lap and lean my head into his massive chest and listen to his very heartbeat. I didn't do that nor did I sit on this bench in the yard of someone I don't know, but I felt the head watching me and reminding me to open my eyes and my ears and to not miss any opportunity to live life fully. At the same time I thought about how this was only a "head" and how often we live out of our heads and miss listening to our hearts and our bodies, but that's another topic. I think.
A third piece. The Gospel reading Sunday was the story of Nicodemus in dialogue with Jesus and Nicodemus asks him, "How can anyone be born after having grown old?" Jesus talks about being born of the Spirit. Once again I felt compelled to listen carefully to the measure of my days. Joan Chittister refers to this time of spiritual maturity when she says, "Down deep inside ourselves we know there is something different going on now. We are being transformed."
I agree, but we must be intentional. We must pay attention. We must listen for ways we are called to live authentically and fully. We are being watched, benevolently, but insistently, to finally allow Spirit to work in us in ways our zoom, zoom younger lives seemed to prevent us from doing. The Man on the Bench is not checking to see if I am perfect or if I always do the right and honorable thing or if I always do what I say I am going to do, such as meditating every day or getting in 10,000 steps daily or eating better or whatever. Instead, The Man on the Bench reminds me that now is the time of transformation. It is not too late, but if not now, when.
Where is your Man on the Bench and what is he gently pushing you to do or be or become? In what ways is this a time of transformation for you? I would love to know.