"Whither shall I go from Thy spirit
Or whither shall I flee from thy presence
If I ascend up into heaven Thou are there
If I make my bed in hell Thou are there..."
- Adapted from Psalms 139
In Tuesday, July 28th's post (scroll down in you are interested in reading it) I referred to our camp tradition of counselors and staff singing "Whither" to campers at the end of the session. Thanks to Michael's thoughtfulness, we now have this beautiful tradition captured on film, posted on Youtube, and linked in this post...click on the title earlier in this paragraph.
This song runs so deeply through my life, that it is like an underground stream...with the onset of the smallest fissure it springs to the surface of thought providing living waters to the thirsty...me.
This was the case last March. The girls and I left straight from a Saturday morning soccer game, to drive almost two hours through the backroads of Missouri for the last day and a half of the Midwest Youth Summit. From the minute I pulled up in front of the Lodge, the girls were gathered up by chaperones and absorbed into the middle school program...laughing and running from here to there with a happy group of friends.
My day and evening were full and happy as well. A fresh approach to hymn singing, a variety show, conversations with friends I hadn't seen in years filled hours that felt like minutes. Sometime during the evening, the girls found me in a large gathering, to say goodnight before heading off with their friends for cabin-time and a good night's sleep.
And somehow, I too, finally made it back to my room around 2AM. After mentally reviewing a rich feast of conversations and dozens of reconnections with old friend, I prayed a prayer of deep gratitude, and softly fell off to sleep.
It couldn't have been more than about fifteen minutes when my cell phone beeped with a text message. It was one of our daughters. She was facing a difficult moment alone in the dark, everyone else (including the adult chaperones) was asleep, and she didn't know what to do...and she was fearful. I tried to text her back with encouragement and to tell her that I had gotten her message and would begin praying, but my phone repeatedly told me that I did not have enough of a signal to send a text message. I thought about calling, but I didn't want to wake the rest of her cabin.
We were in the middle of the woods in a very remote part of southern Missouri and there were few options at 3:30 in the morning. Her cabin was about a quarter of a mile from where my room was, but I pulled a wool sweater on over my nightgown, and slipped my feet into my flipflops and wandered into the dark without a flashlight picking my way across the gravel and rocks, stones and shale...up and down a long hill to the porch of her cabin. The door was locked, and all the lights were out. Not a sound.
I sat on the porch and prayed. I very gently tapped on the door, but it was a large cabin and I had no idea where her bed was in relation to the door. So I quickly gave up that plan.
Finally I decided to return to the main lodge and try standing on a rise in the hill, where I thought I might be able to get enough cell signal so that I could text her. But after fifteen minutes of trying...nothing. I went back into the lodge.
I didn't want to wake my roommate so I sat in the hallway and as I prayed, bing...another text came through from my daughter. She was still awake and unsettled. She didn't know what to do. She was praying, but was fearful. This situation was something that, at home, I would have gone to her immediately, snuggled under her quilts with her, whispered spiritual truths about her identity, and stroked her temples singing hymns to her until she felt well, and had fallen back asleep. But I couldn't get to her. I couldn't even get a text message to go through to her. It had me almost frantic...and yes, I was praying all the while.
That was when this song, "Whither," (I hope you enjoy this new link with my niece, Lily, performing it so beautifully) which my daughters have grown up singing at camp, and hearing throughout the year for inspiration, healing, and comfort, came to me as a new prayer.
I know it sounds simple, but something about these words completely lifted my concern for her. I remembered. Her Father-Mother God was already with her in her cabin, in the middle of the woods, in her narrow bunk. Her divine Parent was comforting her, assuring her, giving her all the ideas she needed to be at peace with the situation at hand, to rest upon God's wisdom and guidance, and to pray for herself a prayer of gratitude that she was dwelling in "the secret place of the Most High" where nothing could unsettle her joy.
Within moments I too was at peace. I remembered that I loved her...and that since there is no fear in love...I was NOT fearful. I couldn't be. Love and fear could not dwell in the same space...and my heart was filled with love for my daughters...I was sure of that.
I returned to my room, climbed into my bed and spent the rest of the night silently singing "Whither" to myself, listening for all the assurances from my own divine Parent. Assurances that I too was Her child and could trust all that I love, including my daughter, to Her care.
I thought of all the times when the girls were itty-bitties and I had to leave them with my mom, their grandmother, so that I could go where I was needed in caring for the spiritual needs of others. And as much as I missed being with them and holding their soft little bodies and cuddling with them, I never worried about them. I knew how my mother loved, I had experienced it as her daughter. I knew that she loved me, and my children, with an everlasting love...a love that was unfathomably deep and fiercely attentive.
But I also knew that as much as she loved us, God loved us more. This was enough.
I didn't fall asleep that night. I didn't want to...or need to. As Mary Baker Eddy states in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:
"The highest and sweetest rest, even from a human standpoint,
is in holy work."
And it is. The next morning I caught up with my daughters at breakfast in the lodge, and both girls were happy, rested, and ready for the workshops and activities that would fill their day.
I was too...happy, rested, and ready.
Here are the words to "Whither" in case you would like to sing along as you watch Michael's video:
"Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit
Or whither shall I flee from Thy presence
If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there.
If I make my bed in hell, Thou are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there shall Thy hand lead me,
And Thy right hand shall hold me.
Grace unto you
And peace from above.
Peace from on high,
From Thy Spirit.
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am God.
Peace has come,
Let it stay.
Peace has come,
Peace unto you...and and grace from above...
Kate Robertson, CS