I had thought that when I turned 60 I would have fewer questions about life and more answers. But the exact opposite has happened. As my own mortality looms closer on the horizon of life, my field of vision has expanded the boundaries of life’s meaning and stretched me further than I could imagine. At times I’m more confused and doubtful about what I believe than I have ever been. My Lutheran upbringing taught me that faith embraces doubt, but the doubts that creep into my sometimes sleepless nights haunt me during the day. If I trust anything at all, I know that when the sighs seem too deep to bear, the Spirit will intercede and carry me forward.
I long for new eyes and ears so that I might see anew and hear with a new heart. I need a mentor, a teacher who will accompany me on my journey through these questions. As I drove along a winding rural road today, these verses from the Book of Job popped into my head: “But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being.” Job 12:7-10
And the verses wouldn’t go away. This lesson isn’t for me, a new lesson. I have heard it before. I recall what Dawn Adams, a Choctaw woman, said to me years ago. She told me to listen and learn from my Benedictine canine spiritual director. The Spirit of the verses revealed Herself to me in the joy I have when I read the words. The animals, the birds, the plants, and the fish teach me and guide me. All of those non-human creatures were, like me, breathed into being by the life of the Spirit.
I will attend the school of the creatures: great blue herons, bison, dogs, cattle, beetles, corn, sunflowers, hawks, walleye, black-footed ferret, sage, and bur oak trees. I will ask them my questions and learn from them. I’ll ask but also listen. Maybe I should listen first, and see what I can learn. Then my questions might change. The text doesn’t tell me what I should ask the creatures, but simply that I ask them to teach me. For now, I’ll leave my own doubts and questions aside and receive the wisdom that I will learn from all my fellow prairie creatures. Spirit invites me to let go of all my expectations and to wander into the classroom of Dakota to learn how I might see anew.