The poem I am sharing this week was not very well-known until it was quoted by King George VI in his address to the British Empire in 1939. As his country, on the brink of war, faced an unknown future, this poem offered his anxious listeners comfort and hope. As we face our own uncertain future, this poem can offer us that same comfort and hope. This poem, sometimes known by the title “The Gate of the Year,” is an invitation to go through the gate in trust, not with a light to face the darkness, but with something better: an invitation to put our hand “into the Hand of God.”
This same theme of trust can be found in this week’s psalm, Psalm 23, and in Jesus’s own words in John 10, where he reminds us that he is the shepherd, and that he is also the gate. We are invited to enter into the safety of the sheepfold through the gate who is Jesus, and we are reminded that we have a loving shepherd who promises to guide us through the darkest of valleys.
My desire as I put together and share these “Poem, Prayer, Psalm, and Promise” devotions is to invite a sort-of “conversation” between the scripture passage, psalm and poem, a conversation that opens up for all of us (beginning with me) new depths of meaning. My closing prayer brings this conversation to God. And, with that said, here is this week’s devotion:
Opening Psalm: Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
Scripture Reading: John 10:7-9
Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep … Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.”
Silence for reflection and prayer.
Devotional Poem: “God Knows” by Minnie Louise Haskins
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.” So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East. So heart be still: What need our little life Our human life to know, If God hath comprehension? In all the dizzy strife Of things both high and low, God hideth His intention. God knows. His will Is best. The stretch of years Which wind ahead, so dim To our imperfect vision, Are clear to God. Our fears Are premature; In Him, All time hath full provision. Then rest: until God moves to lift the veil From our impatient eyes, When, as the sweeter features Of Life’s stern face we hail, Fair beyond all surmise God’s thought around His creatures Our mind shall fill.
O Lord, we join with all generations in our desire for certainty, for safety, and for a light to take with us into the unknown. And yet, we join with those same generations in hearing your invitation to go out into the darkness and put our hands into the Hand of God. Your hand is so much better than light, and so much safer than “a known way,” but it asks us to trust you in ways that we admit scare us. We know that we need not fear the darkest valleys when we are with you, but the valleys seem so dark, and our faith seems so small! So help us, Lord, to believe, and to trust, and to walk into the unknown with the confidence that only your presence can give us. And when we should not walk through the gate, Lord – for surely there are times when we should not – send your son to once again be our gate, placing himself between our longings and the dangers that surround us. And when the time finally comes, Lord, for us to rest our weary eyes one last time, welcome us to the pasture promised by your son, where we shall dwell with you forever. Amen