Wendell Berry

How long does it take to make the woods?
As long as it takes to make the world.
The woods is present as the world is, the presence
of all its past and of all its time to come.
It is always finished, it is always being made, the act
of its making forever greater than the act of its destruction.
It is a part of eternity for its end and beginning
belong to the end and beginning of all things,
the beginning lost in the end, the end in the beginning.

What is the way to the woods, how do you go there?
By climbing up through the six days’ field,
kept in all the body’s years, the body’s
sorrow, weariness, and joy. By passing through
the narrow gate on the far side of that field
where the pasture grass of the body’s life gives way
to the high, original standing of the trees.
By coming into the shadow, the shadow
of the grace of the strait way’s ending,
the shadow of the mercy of light.

Why must the gate be narrow?
Because you cannot pass beyond it burdened.
To come into the woods you must leave behind
the six days’ world, all of it, all of its plans and hopes.
You must come without weapon or tool, alone,
expecting nothing, remembering nothing,
into the ease of sight, the brotherhood of eye and leaf.
If you are following the Wendell Berry Devotional, this is the poem for the third Sunday of Lent

Matthew 11:28-30
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.DEVOTIONThese words from Matthew, written so differently in the Message, a paraphrase by Eugene Peterson, came to me today after I read this poem by Wendell Berry.

I went for my regular, yearly physical check up yesterday. The Nurse Practitioner asked me how I was doing. And these words came out from somewhere inside of me: “I am over it…”. It was not until it was out, that I really realized what I just said. Like an unspoken truth was finally set free.

I am pretty sure that is how all of us feel. Over it… Over not being able to be together, over the loneliness, over zoom meetings (of which there is more in a day than I care for), not touching my face, washing my hands and always wearing a mask, or being nice and keeping my chin up, and smiling because we are all in this together.

And that is where Berry’s poem speaks to me… yes, about Lent, but also about COVID and our tiredness. Get to the woods, where, despite destruction, things are always made, always created. Where things all things are connected and part of eternity, where ends belongs to beginnings and beginnings to the end. Where God always care. I love the woods… and who knows where this is for you. The ocean, the river, the mountains, the desert…

And so, for Lent this year, let us lighten the load… let us give up our tiredness and worries, our stress, our sorrow. Let us give up our over-it-ness and loneliness and return-to-normalness. Let us let that go and turn to the place where we can recover life and take a real rest. Let us return to the place of the unforced rhythms of grace and where we can live freely and lightly. Let us lighten the load, pass through the narrow gate and return to the woods.

May it be so.

Prayer for the Week

May God bless you with discomfort,
At easy answers, half-truths,
And superficial relationships
So that you may live
Deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression,
And exploitation of people,
So that you may work for
Justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears,
To shed for those who suffer pain,
Rejection, hunger and war,
So that you may reach out your hand
To comfort them and
To turn their pain to joy

And may God bless you
With enough foolishness
To believe that you can
Make a difference in the world,
So that you can do
What others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness
To all our children and the poor.


– A Franciscan Blessing