Eye of the Soul
I recently read an interesting article. Part of the interest was how much my own experience overlapped with the author, Joni Woelfel. Although she has written a few books, I have never heard of Woelfel. Now she is someone I want to meet and get to know. Books have a way of bringing people together. So I now have a new hope---to meet Joni Woelfel.
Woelfel’s article is graciously entitled, “seeing the past with the grateful eye of the soul.” I was drawn in by those words. I loved the phrase, “eye of the soul,” which is why I entitled this inspirational piece with those words. And the overall theme of her essay is focused on the past and on memory. Memory is seen through the eye of the soul. That would be very good in and of itself.
What she writes about is her growing up on a Minnesota farm. Of course, mine was an Indiana farm---but close enough! Neither has anything in common with New York City or any other urban area. She talks about grandfathers and that brought warm memories of my own grandfather, whom I saw nearly every day on our farm. Of course, he is long since dead, but the memories are still very sweet. And Woelfel’s grandfather is also long since dead, but the memories are what precipitated her essay.
But the essay is about more than her grandfather. It was about the farm and about a way of life that basically no longer exists. Her family farm is long since gone---as good as dead. And so is my family farm. But there are memories. And oddly, there is also a kind of hope. In a very real sense all of us as humans are situated squarely in the present---sandwiched between past and future, between memory and hope. That is where life is lived out.
Finally what riveted me in Woelfel’s essay was not her grandfather, but it was a tree. It is with the image of a tree that the author is able to coagulate all he memories of farm, grandfather and the rest. She talks about the last time she and her husband visited the old place. “A craggy tree still stands on the grassy, rolling hill of the pasture, overlooking what used to be our farm.” She then turns the image into a powerful metaphor for the enduring in the midst of the temporal---the passing into nothingness.
Her commentary is rich. She writes, “Yet year after year, like us, the tree persevered and each spring came back faithfully to witness the daily unfolding of life on the farm and our dreams and prayers drifting across the fields.” I was brought inside her thinking, enabled to participate fully in the unfolding of her teaching. She added one more piece about the tree. “It stood before God, alone, its roots sinking deep into the soil…” I felt finished.
But she had one more artful move. She moved from the tree to its metaphorical link to hope. She says, “That enduring tree serves as a metaphor of what it means to allow hope to wait as a sentinel with us as we experience this earthly mystery of transition.” I loved the idea of the tree linked to a “sentinel of hope.” As you know, a sentinel is a watchman.
The tree metaphorically watches the transition of time---a transition that is sweeping us along as surely as it swept her grandfather and the family farm along. I began to go further with her idea. Being swept along with time is not bad; it is just fact. The tree is our sentinel of hope. It has roots sunk deeply into the soil.
That suggests to me the same “tree-possibility” is our privilege, too. In fact, I call it a spiritual privilege. The tree-possibility as spiritual privilege brings us back to the soul. If the tree suggests hope, then the key is not the tree, but hope. And hope is a soulful thing for me. It is hope that is the sentinel, not the tree. And hope asks us to have eyes of the soul.
With eyes of the soul we can also look forward with hope. The transition does not only go backward to the past; it goes forward, too. Hope helps us transition hopefully to a good future. Especially, if we have our selves grounded with deep roots in the Holy One who is the soil of our soul. If we are rooted and grounded in God, then like the tree, we are able to weather the storms and embrace the good weather and good fortune that spiritually can come our way.
To have an eye of the soul is to have the ability to see things as they are. We gain an eye of the soul as we get to know ourselves as spiritual children of the God of love. This same God calls us into deep relationship and the relationship is the soil of our soul. Our soul, then, is given the discerning eye to see clearly what the future offers us and how we get there.
The future will be sure if what we desire is the will of God. The eye of the soul comes to see that will, desire it, know it, and finally, live it. If we do this, sweet memories will be ours.