Mary Oliver’s poetry is life-giving.  I believe it can be especially life-giving for pastors.  We’re incurably committed to saving many souls.  We’re living out a messianic fantasy that we can change the world.  We beat ourselves up when we cannot fix or solve or cure or heal…and do it immediately.  We place an inordinate amount of weight on our “success.”  We compare and compete.  Our call to ministry, at times, is not even our own – it is our father’s, or our grandmother’s, or some youth pastor who saw something in us.  We’d barely recognize our own voice if we ever dared take the time to listen.

Enter Mary Oliver.  Feel the rest that comes with this invitation…     

One day you finally knew 
what you had to do, and began, 
though the voices around you 
kept shouting 
their bad advice—
though the whole house 
began to tremble 
and you felt the old tug 
at your ankles. 
“Mend my life!” 
each voice cried. 
But you didn’t stop. 
You knew what you had to do, 
though the wind pried 
with its stiff fingers 
at the very foundations, 
though their melancholy 
was terrible. 
It was already late 
enough, and a wild night, 
and the road full of fallen 
branches and stones. 
But little by little, 
as you left their voices behind, 
the stars began to burn 
through the sheets of clouds, 
and there was a new voice 
which you slowly 
recognized as your own, 
that kept you company 
as you strode deeper and deeper 
into the world 
determined to do 
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.


Photo by gyaban


One thought on “The (Pastor’s) Journey

Leave a Reply