Windows in Walls

When we beautify our gaze, the grace of hidden beauty becomes our joy and our sanctuary.

John O’Donohue

I have been reflecting quite a bit in recent days about worship spaces. What is a “sanctuary” in these days when so many are worshiping virtually. One thing I have noticed is the conspicuous presence of windows in our lives during this pandemic and the space they mark between us.

One news photo lingers in my heart’s eye, a blurry selfie of a grandchild’s small hand press to Grandpa’s wrinkled one with a nursing home window between them. I am also connecting with people through Zoom architecture–through windows in walls. Both of these realities and others like them exemplify the extent to which we are experiencing much of life from unfamiliar distances.

This poem-prayer expresses my hope that we “beautify our gaze” and hold the distance between us as sacred space where God’s radical beauty and grace are being revealed in new ways.

Windows frame
bits and pieces
of stories lived.

Through luminous panes, we see
fragments of lifetimes that
hope
plant
harvest
suffer
laugh
dance
weep
pray.

Give.

Indeed,
a bounded glass quadrangle
lures hearts to lean forward,
to see more,
to taste and hear
and be permeable to
the particles and sum of life
that wait
through the looking glass that wait
to astound and
change us–
when we look out beyond
into who we
have been
and are becoming
and already are.

Walls hold stories too
but do not frame
with words.
They keep in confidence
expectant moments
that course through them
across years.

“I do” and “I love you” whispered over there.
“Goodbye” mouthed across
a benedicting room.
A “grief observed.”
“Hope deferred.”
Justice made
real.
Hands held
or clasped
or lifted up to catch
the falling down,
swirling around Spirit
of that cloud of witnesses stowed away
by remembering walls
that tell without speaking–
God’s own truth.
“Preach, preacher. We need some good news.”

So we sojourn in this place
our feet touch floors
stained by Holy Communion wine
from years gone by,
littered with crumbs of remembering,
seasoned by age-old tears.
We gather here.
We listen.
We wait.
For God. For grace.

And now and then, here and there
a window materializes
in walls once thought impenetrable.
Light breaks through
and we see
a life–
a face
seeds sown into fertile soil
a home
and a path
that invites a step toward whatever
lies just beyond the frame.
Now and then, here and there
we become part of these gifts
given with such love.
They become part of us–
roots deepening,
our branches
exploring holy wildernesses
beyond all frames.
Our lives
windows in walls.

Yes, now and then, here and there,
windows thrown open wide,
Spirit winds rush in,
and we know—God was here.
God is here. In this place.

**Photo by Sheila G. Hunter. Used by permission. 

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