I recently picked up Speaking of Faith: Why Religion Matters—and How to Talk About It by Krista Tippett. I’ve long enjoyed listening to Tippett’s Speaking of Faith podcast from American Public Media and actually am quite jealous of her job—she gets to have long conversations about the Big Questions with thought leaders from all of the world’s major religions.
I didn’t get far. I’m discovering that life with Lily means that I tend to get to focus on things for about 10 minutes at a time. But in that 10 minutes I found this poem by Rainer Maria Rilke from Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God to ponder.
I’m not always moved to tears by poetry—post-partum hormones aside—but this poem resonated deeply. If this was all that I could teach Lily about life, about God, it seems enough.
God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
Then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
Go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like flame
And make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror:
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.
There’s this corny Chicken Soup for the Soul type story that I’ve heard before about parents bringing home a new baby (corny or not, it too makes me weep—a rather common occurrence these days). Their older child wants desperately to spend a few minutes alone with the new baby. Naturally they’re a bit worried about this request, having heard quite a few warning stories about sibling rivalry, but reason that they can leave the baby monitor on and quickly intervene if anything seems awry. After they leave, they rush to the other monitor to listen in. Their older child walks over to the baby’s crib and after a pause whispers urgently, “Quick, tell me what God is like. I’m beginning to forget.”
I know it’s corny, but I can’t help but wonder if Lily in her new, still half-spirit state could tell me what God is like if it wouldn’t be a lot like the picture in this poem. Maybe she’ll be the one teaching me about life and about God, since she’s still new enough to believe without caveats.