I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Adam Brooks Webber’s reflection and poem on kinship with creation and adventures with God.
The fourth point of the Monk Manifesto emphasizes our kinship with creation. That speaks to me strongly, because the earliest religious experiences of my childhood began with that sense of kinship. In the first such experience I can remember, I was about ten years old. I was sitting alone in a willow tree, when suddenly, unaccountably, I knew I was not alone. I could feel the life of the tree singing out from beneath the bark. I could feel my connection to it, to all living things, and to the God of life. And I could feel a tremendous yearning in that willow tree, a longing to which it responded continually, pouring itself up to God in one long breath.
The psalms speak often about the yearnings of living things: deer long for flowing streams (Psalm 42), and young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God (Psalm 104). All living things, from the simplest to the most complex, embody yearning and respond to it. Leaves grow toward sunshine, and roots toward water. Salmon swim upstream. Bees fly to find flowers; flowers blossom to bring bees. And in all this great dance of dynamic yearning I find affirmation of my kinship with creation. For I too yearn. I too strive. I too stretch out in the direction of the things I desire: food and drink, love and laughter, interesting questions and their answers, and God. And all the different things I do—as pastor and poet, singer and songwriter, husband and father—they are all responses to the longings of my heart.
I must not pretend to know what happens to us when we die. But I do have a belief about this, a sort of irresistible hunch, and I’ll share that hunch with you, my fellow monks in the world. I know that dynamic yearning is a property of life. I know that God “is God not of the dead, but of the living.” (Mark 12:27) I know that God’s love for us is stronger than anything. And so I believe that after death, our adventures with the God of life continue. Whatever it is to be with God, it must be life, and life is a dance of yearning and response.
That’s what was in my heart when I wrote the following poem, with which I leave you, dear reader. May all your yearnings be blessed!
Valhalla The window rattles in the frame. The old house shakes. I am looking out at the moonlight, the icy earthscape, the skeletal trees, snow slithering across snow. I shiver in the draft, undressed, and remember: I was going to bed. Between cold sheets I climb in quickly, smiling to myself, pulling the covers up over my head. Cocooned here, I will be warm soon. If there is life after death, there is cold. That most entrancing girl sits beside me on the sand. At the nape of her neck, in the warm breeze, fine hairs beckon. Her lips are full and slightly parted, the color of candy, caramel candy, her hair a savory apple-pie sweetness, her laughter the breathlessness of hot wine in the throat. She puts her head up and I put my head down and ah! If there is life after death, there is desire. I am playing badminton with my brother under the sun, hot as hell, lunging, laughing on the lawn, bodies sweating, rackets swinging, furious and futile. Exhausted finally, soaked with sweat, we limp into the house, into the kitchen. Ice cubes clink in the pitcher, in the lemonade Mom made us. If there is life after death, there is thirst, and heat, and weariness. And lemonade. And Mom.
When Adam Brooks Webber was a boy, he couldn’t wait to grow up so that he could A) move
away from small-town Illinois, and B) stop going to church. Consequently, he is now a pastor in
a small town in Illinois. He is also the author of an interfaith fantasy romance trilogy: The Pastor
and the Priestess, Storms Over Corwin, and Wolf at the Door.