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Bright and Shining

Bryan Bliss

MICHIGAN BAND I finished revising my debut novel and graduated from an MFA program in the same month. I am tired. I don’t want to read. I don’t want to write. Of course, one of the first apocryphal rules you learn when you start writing is do it every day. Put that butt in the chair and fashion yourself after the Postal Service. Snow? Sleet? Debilitating fatigue? Doesn’t matter. Put those words down, son.

So when my friend Sara asked me what I was doing for Lent, I laughed. This was the first year in over ten where I wouldn’t be a church worker and I was sleeping in on Sundays like it was my job. While I appreciate the discipline of Lent – I’d taught it how many times? – I was on sabbatical from anything that wasn’t Mad Men or Game of Thrones. And that included God.

Thomas Merton went to Gethsemane to remove himself from the world, to seek God with integrity. As everyone knows, the world came knocking on the doors of his monastery in the way of literary fame. Merton was stuck between his desires for solitude and – this is my assumption – a calling to write. But then, on a routine trip to the doctor in Louisville, he had a vision. Him, being held up by (and inextricably connected to) the world he once hoped to spurn. He described the experience as inevitable, saying, “There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

I eventually texted Sara back and said, “I don’t know. Maybe I’ll say the Lord’s Prayer every night.” It was something I’d never done. And if I’m being honest – it was a discipline I had no real interest in keeping. But much like the pull I feel every time I walk past my laptop – like there is something I should be doing – once I was lying in bed I couldn’t escape words. Our Father… I don’t claim a Merton-like moment of transformation. Everything I learned was a lesson I already knew. Yet, sometimes it is good to be reminded that the work will always be there when you’re ready. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded that we are bright and shining.

(Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt)