As I walked along St. Blanche Church Road
At dusk, I saw a small bird
Hovering in air above a lamppost.
This, I thought, is how the soul
Makes its way in the world
Wondering and hesitant,
Not noticing the Deerfield River
To the west or the dragon-shaped clouds
Gathering in the purple hills of sky
Above, mistaking a lone unlit lamppost
On a winding country road
For the outstretched finger of God.
The Paris Review (Winter 2007)
Commentary: I’ve been thinking lately about the mystery of God’s will. This poem connects with that mystery. It’s true that we may mistake signs in the world for the promises of God. It’s also true that a lamppost may be God’s very word. Doesn’t the Psalmist say “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path”? Sometimes we think we have missed the mystery, but God’s invisible finger is still pointing out our way … and directing our eyes upward.
There is no denying that the process of discernment may be painful—as painful as a tired bird hovering in the wind, unable to find a place to rest.
Yet it seems to me … how can I say it? … the bones of our soul are not hollow, yet we can still take flight. We take refuge in the shadow of greater wings. Whatever the lamppost may mean, there is still a God who cares for us.