For the past few years, our church youth group has made an annual pilgrimage to the Borderlands Education and Spiritual Center in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Along with hikes and ceremonies to help them encounter God in nature, the teens learn about Christian settlers’ oppression of the Native Americans, and potential spiritual common ground between the two cultures today.
Last week we heard about their transformative journey in a Sunday morning service that incorporated Lakota music and prayers. This poem was read in place of a psalm. I particularly like how it strikes a balance between personal tranquility and concern for the wider world (“help me find compassion without empathy overwhelming me”).
Oh, Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the winds.
And whose breath gives life to all the world.
Hear me! I am small and weak.
I need your strength and wisdom.
Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes
Ever hold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have made.
My ears sharp to hear your voice.
Make me wise so that I may understand
The things you might teach me.
Let me learn the lessons you have hidden
In every leaf and rock.
I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother.
But to fight my greatest enemy, myself.
Make me always ready to come to you
With clear hands and straight eyes.
So when life fades, as the fading sunset.
My spirit may come to you without shame.