A Way Never Imagined
Mary Jo Loebig, O.C.D.
In another century, B.C. (Before Carmel), I once had a student by the name of Margaret, whom everyone called “Dinky.” Dinky had a very tall brother by the name of John. One afternoon, after school, John came into my homeroom, sat on top of the front desk and planted his feet firmly on the floor. He proceeded to tell me that he never got anything out of going to Mass on Sundays, but that he went anyway. “Do you know why I go?” he said. “I go because I think that at least once a week people should take time out to think about life.” I have never really forgotten this encounter. It came back to me again as the season of Lent approached this year. Although many people seem to prefer the Advent and Christmas season, for some strange reason people are also attracted to Lent. Maybe there is something in us that wants a season having to do with thinking about life.
The Best Way Out
In searching for a Lenten theme, I returned again to the poetry of Robert Frost. One theme that first emerged was Frost’s familiar quote: “The best way out is always through.”1 Our own Carmelite Saint Therese of Liseiux had her own three ways of dealing with the challenging events of life. The first option was to face the issue, squarely, and to deal with it up front. The second was to avoid the issue, completely. And the third was simply to walk around what was happening. However, there seems to be another way of dealing with life’s issues, akin to Therese’s first option. Sometimes, the best way out of a situation is to “go through” it. Truly, this could be a very apt project for Lent. Usually, there is a very special grace hidden in the process of “going through.” And, generally, “going through” ends up being a grace for the greater community and the world. However, choosing resistance is always a possibility. We know, though, that resistance does not really work in the long run. Life has a way of encouraging a still, small and persistent voice to keep on returning, until the call is heeded. So, the question is: What is it that keeps coming back to us in those quiet moments? All of this leads to resurrection, of course.
A second possible theme for Lent could be that of “Mending Walls.” Frost says that there is something in us that does not like a wall, and that springtime is mending-time for what has occurred over the winter. In actuality, there are many walls we do not even need. In the poem, “Mending Wall”2 Frost, himself, has an apple orchard; his neighbor has pine trees. He wonders why there is a need for a fence. Full of spring mischief, he questions: Will the apple trees cross over and eat the cones under the pines? He goes on to talk about wanting to know what it is that he is walling in and what he is walling out before he decides to build the wall. So, Lent is a time for thinking about walls. What am I walling in, and what am I walling out? Possibly, the best way to mend a wall is simply to take it down. That, of course, is scary.
Tree At My Window
Frost has another poem called “Tree at My Window,”3 in which he talks about the relationship he has with his “window tree.” Although he lowers the sash when night comes on, there is never a curtain drawn between them. During the day, he has seen his tree taken and blown by the wind. At night, Frost senses that the tree can see him through the shade as he tosses and turns. The tree has its outer weather to contend with. Frost has his inner weather.
It would appear that the best antidote for tossing and turning is wholeheartedness, another possible Lenten theme. Wholeheartedness means to be where we want to be and to be doing what we really would like to do. It means to make our outer world coincide with the place we have reached within, at the moment. There is a tendency to say that outside circumstances prevent our doing this. Just as creativity is the solution to impasse, so it is with arriving at wholeheartedness. There is one thing we know for sure: We are constantly called never to give up pursuing what leads to wholeheartedness and to keep on pursuing it with a passion.
We May Be Surprised
It is indeed comforting to know that we will never have to go it alone. If the call to wholeheartedness is there, the grace will be there. Since way leads to way,4 we are to believe that wholeheartedness can happen. Still, along the way, we may be surprised. St. John of the Cross says that in coming to who we are and where we are to be, we will be going a way we never imagined.
- 1 Robert Frost, “A Servant to Servants,” Quoted in Familiar Quotations , John Bartlett, Edited by Emily Morison Beck,
- (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1980), p.747(11)
- 2Robert Frost, "Menting Wall," Quoted in The Treasury of American Poetry, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday Direct, Inc., 1978) p.342.
- 3 Ibid., “Tree at My Window,” p.353.
- 4 Ibid., “The Road Not Taken,” p.341.