Recovery of a Sense of Reverence

Photo: Barry Lopez on the McKenzie River, 1997 (Robert Kaiser) Oregonian/OregonLive

“If I have a subject, it is… the rediscovery of the manifold ways in which our lives can be shaped by the recovery of a sense of reverence for life.”

Barry Lopez

Orion Magazine recently captured the moving tributes of fellow authors to the late Barry Lopez who died on Christmas day, 2020. They are moving because Lopez appeared to have an imprint on the lives of so many.

“I am perfectly comfortable being in a state of ignorance before something incomprehensible. And it’s in that moment that you’re driven to your knees and you believe—I wouldn’t call it religious. It’s just what happens when you open up again to the extraordinary circumstances of being alive.” 

Barry Lopez

Kneeling before the Incomprehensible

There is a sense that reverence before the incomprehensible drives us to our knees – and – there is a sense that reverence before such beauty, so full of grace, also gives us the power to bring us up from our knees. The paradox is captured by fellow author Pam Houston:

“Barry said when we were teaching together at Pacific University, that we are pattern makers, that if our patterns are beautiful and full of grace, they will have the power to bring a person for whom the world has become chaotic and disorganized up from their knees and back to life.”

Pain metamorphosed into Compassion

“In 2013, when Barry told his story [of serial sexual abuse] in the heart-stopping essay, “Sliver of Sky,” I learned we had even more in common, that, as adults we had chosen remote homes bordered by rivers and ridgelines to keep us safe; that our childhood terror had, somewhere along the way, mostly metamorphosed into compassion; that, though the abuse had left us utterly disassembled, we had put ourselves back together, thanks to some of those patterns provided by grace

Look, he was always saying, listen, here are the ways you can still be in love with the world.”

To read the complete tributes go to Orion Magazine.

Artists and authors often have a way of creating a portal for us to see something not quite there, and not quite clear. I love the idea that we can be pattern makers, designed with grace. When we recognize beauty and other things that are incomprehensible, we must kneel – and it is this same beauty – this same incomprehensibleness – that can bring us up from our knees.

We are created to worship, to be in awe of beauty and to wonder at the creation of the incomprehensible. As Lopez confesses,

“It’s just what happens when you open up again to the extraordinary circumstances of being alive.”

Now may we recover a sense of reverence with and for the Incomprehensible One and all His unfathomable beauty – this Glorious One who forges splendour and transforms pain into compassion – the One who made us for Himself.

About R.H. (Rusty) Foerger

As I enter the third third of life, I am becoming aware of the role of elders today “to enlarge spiritual vision, being devoted to prayer, living in the face of death, as a living curriculum of the Christian life” (Dr. James M. Houston). I am a life long and life wide learner who seeks to: *decipher the enigma of our worth *rescue from the agony of prayerlessness *integrate spiritual friendship.
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