from the spring/summer 2016 issue of Reflections magazine.
To read this article in PDF format Evening Walk article
By the Rev. Lera Tyler
Almost every evening, when the setting sun gets to the appropriate angle on the west end of our street, Henry — my middle-aged terrier — reminds me that it’s time for our evening walk. This spring our walks have been delightful. Grass lies freshly cut in neighborhood yards and pastures.
Down the road a bit is a street-side rose garden so heavily laden with fragrances that we smell it long before we pass by. Near the one end of the street, Interstate 10 crosses high over our heads. From April to September, swarms of swallows swoop under and around the bridge, like unleashed acrobats, and bats quietly roost, waiting for nightfall.
Less than 30 yards away, the Guadalupe River winds between tall cypress trees. The local water district has retention ponds just up the hill from our street. We frequently see herons and egrets flying overhead, seeking a meal from pond and river.
In the evenings, our quiet street hosts young people riding bikes and skateboards, multi-aged runners jogging quietly, and groups of older women out for a stroll.
Some people see the street merely as a short cut out of town, but they miss the details: the smell of roses, the squeals of children, and the teenager sailing over hurdles as she rides her beautiful mare. They drive by it all, unaware.
And the same can be true of grace.
We miss a lot of grace as we go about — driving, walking, dreaming, fretting, and worrying. We miss seeing the egrets, and roses, and faces of children playing their imaginary games. We miss the grace given in new and unexpected relationships and images and visions.
I know. Because on a bright, sun-filled day some 25 years ago, I almost missed it.
My husband and I were leading 45 Texans through southern England. We had been at it for 14 days: through historical sites, crowded restaurants, and many, many gift shops, and we had arrived at our last stop — Ely — home of one of the most magnificent cathedrals in Britain. But the August sun was hot in a country that did not consider air-conditioning a necessity, and I was exhausted.
Guides at this cathedral are especially enthusiastic about its 60-foot central lantern: a great octagonal tower framed with huge, oaken beams and faced with large glass windows filled with medieval tracery. My job, however, was to keep my eyes focused on our travelers, especially on one couple notorious for wandering off during lectures to visit souvenir shops.
On this occasion, when everyone else was on their way to the bus, they had again disappeared.
Looking for them and at my watch a third or fourth time, I thought resentfully, they’ve run off again! Why do they NOT follow our instructions?
So, I stood near the middle of the cathedral, frowning and straining, looking into one tourist cluster after another — first along the walls, then in the aisles, at the entrance, in the choir. My feet were tired; my head hurt. I was exhausted from two weeks of shepherding care-less sheep.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone in a dusky brown robe coming my way. He stopped directly in front of me and looked me straight in the eyes. I thought irritably, he’s going to tell me to move because I am standing some place I shouldn’t be!
Instead, he raised his arms shoulder-high, turned his palms up, looked up first and then directly into my eyes, and calmly but emphatically said, “Smile, my child. You are in the house of the LORD!”
I was indignant. He didn’t know what I was dealing with! Nonetheless, my eyes involuntarily followed where his eyes had gone. We stood underneath the great lantern of Ely.
Even now, I can gather up the details. From 150 feet above us, a deluge of golden sunlight flooded onto the warm stones at our feet. My eyes followed sun-stream downward — through the lacy tracery, down the delicate carving on the columns, over the altar linen, and onto the polished stone and marble floor at my feet. The brightness illuminated ground that had been crossed by men and women seeking refuge, holiness, and peace for almost 900 years.
And just then, nothing mattered, nothing at all, but that enormous light bathing me in its brilliant glory and peace.
I’ve learned that we bypass so much grace. We fall into arrogance, or indifference, or self-focus and don’t see that we are living surrounded by God’s bright grace, flooding down upon us. And if we don’t acknowledge this truth, we miss out on the relationship that God wants with us. We are absorbed with self-focus, self-interest, and our arrogance in thinking that we provide what we need, that we must “make it” or “do it” ourselves! We forget that every blessing, every ray of light, and every wise word we receive comes from some source other than ourselves.
Ely wasn’t the only time I needed such a reminder. I still do. And in this rich spring, when Henry and I walk up and down our street, breathe its fragrances, hear its sounds, and wave to those we meet, I am reminded: the grace of God streams into the world around us. And when we are attentive, we can see its bright presence flooding upon us.
The Rev. Lera Tyler is vicar of St. Boniface Episcopal Church in Comfort, Texas Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further reflection
Do you regularly set aside time to slow down and become more aware of God’s grace around you?
Have there been moments in your life when you experienced grace as clearly as the great light in Ely Cathedral?
If you took a walk through your neighborhood, what might you see that would awaken you to the presence of God?
To read the entire spring/summer issue, or to read more article from the issue, go here.