As seasons go, this season feels dissonant and out of sync. Our natural world displays the great rhythm of beauty that it brings for this time of year, but for most of us our hearts cannot keep time with it. Deep in our bones we now feel the tremors of creation’s groaning as a part of our own. We know this world is not as it should be. This year it is impossible to pretend otherwise.
When I first set the theme for this edition of Cultivating many months ago, I thought ‘entering fullness’ would mean an edition exploring entering into the rhythm of summer flush – the bright passage between the struggle and beauty of Spring to reach the shores of Autumn and harvest. I thought we would talk about letting go of the last vestiges of winter’s edge clinging to us, like old rose leaves that don’t want to leave the cane as the new leaves emerge. Historically, summer is a season of fullness, hard physical work but lush with natural beauty and enlarging summer crops. In that framework, I thought we would be talking about taking time with our families planning community gatherings, tending gardens, and listening to bright music played cheerfully on summer nights. I thought we would explore lighter fare for summer reading and explore recipes for summer events outside. Some of that we will still do in the weeks of summer ahead. And some of what I thought we might offer simply doesn’t match the needs of our times now. We will need to adapt and respond as fitting to the world we have at hand. In the northern hemispheres of our tiny globe, the natural pattern of summer still is unfolding. But even in this natural rhythm things are off-kilter, there is a twist in the fabric of the seasons that surrounds us everywhere though it is hard to pin point, like seeing autumn light in June. It is necessary for us to acknowledge that.
Yet, despite the many losses, hardships, and disappointments of this year, a gift is being given to us out of those ashes, if we will see it. We are given a quickened reminder of how much we need each other. The loneliness of this season in history is striking. It is amazing to me how much clearer I see individuals in this season where our pace is forced to be slower, we are compelled to keep distance, and how faces and hearts come into focus when I have time to look. I am reminded firmly but kindly that I must make time to see people and to hear them. Individually. Just like how much better food tastes after a day of work, this reminder helps us remember what it means to really see each other and that we really, truly need each other in order to fully live. We need to be able to accept and receive that we need each other. That can be hard to do for independent folks accustomed to getting by without acknowledging how interdependent we really are. Finding one another again in this strange season may be one of the most healing and redemptive aspects of this whole global experience. An unlooked for gift by a merciful God Who knows our needs and deep longings better than do.
Finding each other means seeing each other as we really are and choosing to be present as we really are. Being present with each other can be hard work. Let’s don’t pretend it isn’t. To be able to lean into our relationships (giving ourselves) will mean we need to admit our wrongdoing, our weaknesses, our flaws and needs, our deep longings, our secret hopes … every bit of this work requires us to be brave, humble, and vulnerable. Receiving each other in this effort also requires hard work. It can require forgiving hurts that seem easier to hold on to than to let go, looking full face and lingering when it is safer to settle for a side long glance, listening and honouring instead of framing justified comebacks and refuting arguments. It requires paying attention in both directions of the giving and the receiving.
To be present with each other requires a willingness to need and be needed. It is a cultivated grace.
When I first envisioned the Lighting Candles by Starlight series, I was thinking of the high and holy inspiration that we first derive as individuals encountering the presence of the Holy Spirit – receiving undimming light from a source high above our mortal troubles. That part is ever true. We see Light because God gives us light first. We love because He first loves us.
Somehow in the mysterious and beautiful way that Lord made the world and us in it, He made space for what is high and holy, and also for what is lowly and common. The mystery and beauty of this is especially wondrous in the way He made the common to also be holy. When our own little candle of common ways is lit by that high and beautiful Light, it is not meant to just twinkle as an isolated way of lighting our personal darkness. Light is meant to be shared. We are made from bone and soul to be in relationship with others. We are made to be like lanterns and candles gleaming brightly in the dark not only so we can see our own path home at night, but also to shine light on that path for those who are also traveling dark paths home.
Entering fullness in this way is not so much about entering abundance and overflow, as it is about fulfilling the purpose of our being, and entering deeper into fellowship with someone else, beginning with one person at a time. If we are blessed to have our candle lit, it is our blessing to extend that light to someone else who needs and welcomes theirs to be lit as well. It is right in this moment of exchange between the giving and the needing that we each enter fullness. And right in this moment with each other we are full.
The featured image titled “Lighting Candles by Starlight – Entering Fullness” is (c) Amy Grimes and used with her generous permission for Cultivating and The Cultivating Project.
Lancia E. Smith is an author, photographer, teacher, and business owner. A grateful lover of the Triune God, Lancia is the Founder & Executive Director of Cultivating & The Cultivating Project. She has served in executive management, church leadership, and numerous boards over 30 years. She & her husband Peter have parented 7 children, and have a flock of grandchildren. Lancia loves design, beautiful typography, gardens, being read aloud to by Peter, & every book she ever read by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and George MacDonald.