“I had always found comfort in the leaves, in their silence. They were like a parchment that holds words of wisdom. Simply holding them in my hand gave me some of the peace a tree possesses. To be like that-to just be-that’s the most noble thing of all.”

― Silas House, A Parchment of Leaves


Soften, Open, Let Go

And to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge…  

 For the past month or so, I’ve been reading Ephesians 3: 14-21 as a prayer for my daughter who is getting married in two weeks. The plan was to support her and actually to keep my mind on what matters instead of all the little things that I am concerned about that don’t matter. And as usually happens, it has turned into a prayer for all of us, her dad, her brother, her soon to be husband, and me.

For several days, the words about knowing God’s love that surpasses knowledge have seemed really important. I’m struggling with knowing how all the things going on in my life right now are going to turn out.

Henri Nouwen’s idea to change the question is worth pondering.

For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life – pray always, work for others, read the scriptures—and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair.

Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be know by God?” And, finally, the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home. In all three parables which Jesus tells in response to the question of why he eats with sinners, he puts the emphasis on God’s initiative. God is the shepherd who goes looking for his lost sheep. God is the woman who lights a lamp, sweeps out the house, and searches everywhere for her lost coin until she has found it. God is the father who watches and waits for his children, runs out to meet them, embraces them, pleads with them, begs and urges them to come home…

I am beginning now to see how radically the character of my spiritual journey will change when I no longer think of God as hiding out and making it as difficult as possible for me to find him, but, instead, as the one who is looking for me while I am doing the hiding. When I look through God’s eyes at my lost self and discover God’s joy at my coming home, then my life may become less anguished and more trusting.         Return of the Prodigal Son (pp. 106-107).

I’m here, in this moment. God is here. I wonder what will happen next.

A way to meet God?

That is what really happens —a moment by moment unfolding of our lives that really isn’t dependent or even remotely related to fretting and striving and knowing.

Letting myself be loved by God in the unknowing.

Fidelity Remix

I’m still thinking about fidelity. And the questions about our lives will always be questions for me—not certainties.  When I consider God’s presence with me, it is wavy, if that can be a descriptor, rather than straight to the point. However, part of that tenuousness is the result of my own wavering and being distracted by wishes and what-ifs. Whenever I think about good things that happen or could happen, I want to think God is part of that; but what about what didn’t happen, for me or someone else? It’s a tricky business, trying to pin someone down to be in control.

Walter Brueggemann,old testament scholar, whom I ‘ve been listening to lately, says,

We all have a hunger for certitude. The problem is the Gospel is not about certitude, it’s about fidelity. So, what we all want to do, if we can, is immediately transpose fidelity into certitude, because fidelity is a relational category, and certitude is a flat mechanical category.

Not certitudes but relationship and mystery.

A few weeks ago we made an offer on a house. It was a house we’d looked at before on a previous house-hunting trip and many times online. Since we live more than 400 miles away from the location right now, I imagined what life would be life in several houses simply from looking at pictures on my computer. From one, I imagined walking just a couple of blocks to work and new friends joining me on the wrap around porch to sit a spell. From another, I imagined the expansive views out the large windows from every room, with the house perched high up on the mountain and expansive spaces for everyone. And then the one we had actually experienced in person; that we eventually decided upon, seemed so right even though it didn’t have a screened in porch or expansive views nor could I walk to work from there.

When we saw all three houses in person, my perceptions changed a bit. I realize (now) that when I was looking at the pictures of the houses online, I imagined what was really not there— the grand conversation on the porches, my family and friends enjoying expansive views and space. The idyllic porches belied the rusty pipes, gold fixtures, and layout that wouldn’t work for our everyday living. The mountain top views distracted me from the grossly outdated bathrooms, 70’s wood paneling, and the winding road that would be treacherous in rain or snow or for walking anywhere.

You have to be there, in that moment, to experience the place more than once to “see” the real house. You have to imagine eating, and cooking, and watching TV, and needing your own space when you are really there and walking around the neighborhood. And even then, there are things you are not sure about; there are things you cannot know about like the sounds you will hear in the morning, which window you will want to look out to see the first light of day, where you will sit when you need to be reflective about that day or get work done.

However the process works (and somehow it does), we made a decision and I wonder how it seems right. And yes, there are fleeting moments when I wonder if it is right.

God works in ways I don’t understand in my life and it is not how I imagine. Or maybe it is someplace inbetween. There is a vague sense of something beyond or even in the midst of my own sensibility, knowledge, and even striking out into the unknown.

This may seem like an unlikely connection, but Buechner’s words about Job and his friends’ assumptions and finding God in the world made me consider how I struggle with where or how God is present.

God is absent also from all Job’s words about God, and from the words of his comforters, because they are words without knowledge that obscure the issue of God by trying to define him as present in ways and places where he is not present, to define him as moral order, as the best answer man can give to the problem of his life. God is not answer man can give, God says. He gives himself…

 So, back to Brueggemann. God is a relationship that sustains and propels us into our lives, not the certainty of a “right” answer. I don’t know how this works or even makes sense—the fidelity of God.

And while these ideas seem paradoxical to me, Brueggemann says,

It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of imagination, to keep on conjuring and proposing futures alternative to the single one the king wants to urge as the only thinkable one.                                                                ― The Prophetic Imagination

There is a place between the real and the imagined where our lives unfold. And God is there to sit on the porch with me for a spell.