These are the words of Rainer Maria Rilke, from his small book, “Letters to a Young Poet”. Maybe you know that he was a poet and mystic, deeply faithful and probing the big questions of life and also prone to depression and despair.
My own story is found on our DVD “Linnea Live@Epiphany”.
I once experienced a great loss.
After a short bit of time off, I made my way to a women’s event where I was to lead music. I thought to myself, “I could do worse than to be with women and to be making music.” So, I went and sang.
At the end of the event, we had a closing worship and we were instructed to come forward and receive communion and, on the way back to our seats, to take a small piece of paper out of a bowl back: an inspirational reading of sorts. I frowned and thought to myself: “I can do this. I can do this. It sounds like Christian fortune cookies to me but I can do this.”
So I went forward and I received communion and took the paper, sat down and read it, and – a coincidence – it turned out it was pretty much just exactly what I needed to read at that moment. It was a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke, who I didn’t know at the time. I folded it up and tucked it away, treasured it.
The next day, I met someone whose loss was far greater than my own and as I left her, I said, “You know what, I have this Christian fortune cook— I mean, inspirational reading - that I have found really helpful. Maybe you would find it helpful, too.” She took it away and I don’t know what she did with it.
So, I went back home after all this touring and there was a stack of mail thiiiis high. And I went through the whole thing until I came to the bottom where all the newsletters were. Remember when newsletters used to come on paper in the mail? It was a mailing from the big, wide Church, telling me all the things I could do, would do, should do…. until I came to the end. And there – wow, what a coincidence. It was the same reading by Rainer Maria Rilke, only more and better. I cut it out and taped it into my journal.
So, my friend writes to me from Dartmouth. She says, “My life is a mess. I have a million questions and only a couple of answers. Everything feels up in the air.” I wrote back to her and I said, “Here is an inspirational reading that has helped me! Maybe it will help you.” By return e-mail she wrote to me and said, “What a coincidence! My friend in Nepal just sent this to me!”
You know, sometimes the Word of God needs to be delivered with a jackhammer. I thought to myself: "I am being spoken to here!" In that one moment, a circuit had been made between me and the women of that event, the woman with the greater loss, the writer of the newsletter, my friend in Dartmouth and her friend in Nepal. I thought: "If I don’t do something with this poem, I’m going to keep finding it all over the place! I’m going to find it in the dentist's office and on the billboards of Penticton. I had better DO something."
Hence the song: Have Patience – a piece whose words and wisdom I have in no way mastered, but to which I aspire – prayerfully, thoughtfully – and which has been a gift I had to be repeatedly given.