Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

John 12:24-25

Sabbaths 1993 I by Wendell Berry

No, no, there is no going back. 
Less and less you are
that possibility you were.
More and more you have become
those lives and deaths
that have belonged to you.
You have become a sort of grave
containing much that was
and is no more in time, beloved
then, now, and always.
And so you have become a sort of tree
standing over a grave.
Now more than ever you can be
generous toward each day
that comes, young, to disappear
forever, and yet remain
unaging in the mind.
Every day you have less reason
not to give yourself away.

By my calculations, Wendell Berry was 58 years old when he wrote this poem. I am a month shy of 57. Perhaps that is one of the (many) reasons this poem resonates with me so deeply. This poem is for those in the second half of life, the “back nine,” to use another sports metaphor. I am now at an age where I am realizing that I am less and less the possibility that I once was, and that is okay with me. It needs to be. That is part of the challenge and call of this season of life – to be okay with where we are. There is no going back.

In Berry’s language, I have now had many lives and deaths that have belonged to me. Experiences in my own life, and the lives of those I have been blessed to know and to love. My life experiences – the joys and sorrows, the happiness, the struggles, the grief – all have become part of the soil beneath me. Just as the people that I have known who have gone ahead of me have become part of the soil beneath me. I am now a sort of tree standing over these things, nourished by them as they provide the nutrients for the roots that support me. I am thankful for them, for all that was “and is no more in time.” More and more I can be generous now, in response to the gift of each day. I have less and less reason not to give myself away. 

Eventually, I, too, will go the way of the earth, and become part of the soil beneath others, as will we all. What now? Give myself away. Lose my life, for Jesus’ sake and the sake of the gospel. Love my life by losing it. Love Jesus by losing my life, by letting it fall into the ground, by giving myself away. Each and every day. Remembering that I have less and less reason not to give myself to Him by giving myself away. There is no going back. Nor would I want to.

Straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14

10 thoughts on “No, No, There Is No Going Back by Wendell Berry

  1. This really hit home with me today – that’s exactly where I find myself these days. Nice to hear a perspective that embraces rather than mourns. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The LORD has been speaking the same thing to me this past week! Philippians 3 has been front and centre for me as well! Love this confirming and encouraging post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wendell Berry and Mary Oliver are my two go-to poets as of late. So much wisdom and depth. I had not read this poem before, so thank you for sharing and providing your own thoughtful commentary. You have brought necessary perspective that even a 44 year-old needs to hear and put into practice. AMEN! There’s no going back, and, I agree, I don’t want to either!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love this poem (and poet). Maybe it is because I am in my early 50s and thinking ahead, thinking back, but it is your reference that “all have become part of the soil beneath me” that resonates most for me. Thanks for blessing my soul today.

    Liked by 1 person

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