“As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.”
A while back at 9,000 feet above sea level on the side of the San Francisco Peaks, I renewed an annual tradition: my first Spring hike in the high country. It was less of a “hike” and more a huffing, puffing, pulse-pounding slow waddle; hoping that with more waddling I might soon be able to easily traverse that mountain without sounding like a dying steam engine.
As I waddled, slowly huffing, I paused in a clearing where two trails crossed; it was now late in the day with shadows growing; a chill spring wind battering the field of last fall’s fescue.
Resting on a boulder where, four autumns ago I had rested with sixty pounds of freshly killed elk on my back, my thoughts turned to the wind-whipped grass; the winds were blowing old man winter away, but he was leaving with a chill in the air.
And there was a chill in my heart. I was feeling rather weary and small; after almost twenty years of fighting in courts to defend the sanctity of human life, religious freedom, and the institution of marriage between man and woman, I was feeling … small, and weary. Our culture is not well, nor are the courts which judge it.
I was weary of the endless assault on the natural family and our freedom; weary of illogic and emotion trumping reason and the rule of law; weary of judges dodging self-evident truth to pretend that two women can “marry,” or that two men can “procreate,” and decreeing that a baby is not a person no matter how self-evident it is that a baby is a baby.
Weary I was, as my gaze played over the grassy meadow before me; golden-brown fescue, glowing in the late-day sun.
Slowly, not sharply, but slowly, it struck me that that fescue was all that stood between the solid earth beneath my feet, and the galaxy-strewn abyss above my head. That’s all. A foot, or two, of grass, dividing bare-rock lifeless dirt from the universe….
Grass that is a metaphor for fleeting temporal life;
Grass that is fine, dry, and would disappear in a flash should some wayward spark happen by;
Grass that on a global scale is utterly insignificant but yet, here, in this meadow, it was all that stood between God’s green earth and God’s unbounded Universe.
This struck me as a bit scary, given the Psalmist’s use of it to denote fleeting life.
But then, I thought,
fleeting does not mean futile, nor unproductive, nor without purpose.
It seems easy to read the passage and hear “fleeting,” without ever noticing the “flourishing.”
After all, it is grass that roots down, and saves the soil from lashing rain that would otherwise erode that patch of earth to sterile, lifeless rock;
Grass that magically transmutes sun and water to food, food for elk, and elk for me and my family, and writ more broadly, food for all God’s children.
Grass that shares the rain that falls upon it; sipping a bit for its own purposes; infusing the rest gently into the soil, and thence to aquifer, and thence to well, and thence to me, and my family, and to all God’s children.
It is grass that hides the grouse egg from the hawk; grass that hides the stalking coyote from its dinnertime rabbit; grass that gives a home to the grub that feeds the bear;
Grass that dances in the dusky sunset; grass that glows as gold as the sun; I watched the grass dance in the dying day as my soul shed its weariness….
Am I but a blade of grass, fleeting in vigor, browning off to old age; ready to yield to the next generation? Yes, of course. The Bible tells me so….
But every blade of grass has a purpose; each blade works with the next to work in community, to the grassy ends that grass serves.
And it struck me that while we humans tower over grass, we “towering” creatures are no less fearfully small when juxtaposed between earth and the abyss;
that as grass-like men we are all that stand between God’s created earth and God himself. It is up to us to absorb what God gives us, and translate that to good works and good faith;
It is up to us frail men to serve together, to function as a cohesive community for the sake of the community, and the earth beneath it, and for the greater One above it.
Am I small?
Is my life fleeting, as is that of a grass blade? Yes!
Does this diminish the call, the duty, the need, the obligation, the opportunity, the hope, the call to community and service?
As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.