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Lavishly Answered

As I write this, it’s primary election day in Michigan.  I’ve been planning on writing about politics and civility and models of that that I’ve witnessed in the past.

Maybe next time. I just couldn’t do it today.

For now, like so many of us, whatever our political persuasion, I’m wondering how we’ve arrived at this ugly, uncivil–really hateful–place. I’ve read some excellent analysis. But that doesn’t make it all less depressing. Or less scary.

And then, I got to thinking about Mary Oliver’s lovely 1994 “Morning Poem.” It speaks of the hope of each new day, whatever we carry–“thorn” or otherwise. And it reassures us that we are “heard and answered lavishly.” Because that has never depended on us anyway.

Morning Poem
by Mary Oliver

Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches—
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead—
if it’s all you can do
to keep on trudging—

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted—

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.

Jennifer L. Holberg

I am professor and chair of the Calvin University English department, where I have taught a range of courses in literature and composition since 1998. An Army brat, I have come to love my adopted hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m also the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture. My book, Nourishing Narratives: The Power of Story to Shape Our Faith, was published in July 2023 by Intervarsity Press.

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