An Ever Fixed Mark

I sat on a swing, holding my youngest daughter, watching the lines of trees, full of flowers, white veils, pink shrouds, coloring the world with swarms of blossoms. The green leaves are in their youngest stage, with pale green – almost yellow – canopies just covering the bare branches like a light, spring sweater.  Daffodils and forsythia, azaleas and cherry blossoms are splattered brilliantly across the newly green grass and freshly mulched gardens.  The world feels young again. For the moment.

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And I realized as I swung, back and forth, feeling the breeze and listening to the delighted squeals emitted by my swinging partner, that this is the last spring I will hold a baby.  A real, by definition, baby, who does not yet say connected words or walk for more than two steps at a time.  A baby who is squishy and cuddly, who waves haphazardly at me and grins in delight when I appear around a corner.  A baby who still needs me for most items relating to survival.  Last Spring, I was impatiently waiting for this baby to make her appearance.  This Spring I listen to her giggle.  The reality is that I will never have another baby to hold like this – unless of course, one appears on my doorstep, abandoned, which I think only happens in books.  There are a number of reasons why this is the right decision for our family.   But, there is something slightly sad and intensely powerful about holding a baby close and recognizing that life flits by too quickly, punctuated by seasons and human age categories.

 

I watch her. I feel like her first year has slipped like sand through my fingers in a flurry of life changes, job transitions, and schedule adjustments. I watch this tiny baby start moving forward with shaky steps and I wonder about her life. I wonder about the plan God has for her days.  Some people are waiting to meet babies.  I know that some people long for new babies.  Other mourn their babies.  Some worry about their babies, with good reason. Some people are saying goodbye.  Our lives change, constantly, each day different from the one before.

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Psalm 139 talks about how God searches out our paths and knows our ways before we ever speak a word.  He is behind and before, all around us, the beginning and the end.  I love verse 6.  “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.”  It makes our human heads hurt when we think that God has gone before us, and yet knows our ends and all the in betweens. He knows all the seasons, the times, the joys, the tears. He is the giver of life –  the one who wipes aways tears, through the giving of His life.  We cannot understand this plan to give us eternal life, to set love on us, to give His life to ruin death.  The knowing of this knowledge is too wonderful.

When I think about the season here now, I am happy.  I wonder what other seasons will hold. Perhaps they will be happy ones.  Perhaps they hold sadness.  But here is what I know.  There was a cross.  There was a sacrifice.  God had unfathomable love  to rescue us. He had unimaginable ability to know the beginning from the end, because He is the beginning and the end.  Shakespeare talks about love being an “ever fixed mark… that looks on tempests and is never shaken,” in Sonnet 116.  This can be true of human love, but ultimately this is the Cross. An ever fixed mark.  God is not shaken by our season changes.  He has always known about them.

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John Donne writes the last stanza of A Valediction Forbidding Mourning 

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
   Like th’ other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
   And makes me end where I begun.
The imagery is of a geometry compass.  The middle stays, ever fixed and holds the rest of the instrument in place.  Again, humans can only mirror love found in God.  “Thy firmness makes my circle just, and makes me end where I begun.”  The beginning and the end meet – in geometry, in the Cross, in God’s love, in our lives.
We might be wildly happy or soul crushingly sad.  We may have constant mental stimulation or be living in isolation.  Spring flowers may gather in bowers around our lives or growing briars may push on our hearts. The Cross remains an ever fixed mark that gives us a place to fall and rest. This knowledge keeps the wonder in every season of our lives.

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