Travelling Light

Why is light given to one who cannot see the way, whom God has fenced in? (Job 3:23)

 

Night brings the light from stars already dead and day is but old light too.

And between the dead and the living, a dark expanse which only light can travel.

 

There is a storm outside my window and it has been there for days.

When you live next to a body of water, you can expect months of white and low grey skies. Roads closed in every direction and eventually you start to feel like there’s no way out. Like the earth has conspired to hedge you in.

This isn’t somewhere to be when there’s already a storm inside you too. When there’s churning and cold and you have to squint to see anything at all. It’s dark for days, sometimes weeks. Or longer.

 

No wonder you start to crave light and people are overjoyed when they begin to notice that come mid-afternoon it’s not dark yet. There’s still some light.

I find myself craving it about now. A light eternal, unlike stars or sun. A light without fire that consumes and turns all things to dust but rather encourages new growth. A light you can walk in, even if you only ever see the next step in front of you and not the end of the road.

There is meaning in the Light and I know this and turn toward it.

 

The storm breaks, just briefly, and a light streams in through clear window panes.

I open my palm to it, the cold in my bones dissipates. This Light, which cannot be held yet holds us all, reminds me that the dark is not all there is so long as there is Light to travel with in darkness.

 

 

Vignette: Morning

I left early with the intention of sitting quietly in a back pew, going over my devotional reading for the day. Having been away from the church for the past month, I wanted to get back into the rhythm of morning mass. But more than that, I needed to be in the presence of strangers, to be alone in a community. To feel awed and small and protected. I needed the stone columns and arch ways, to see them holding it all up over us.

I needed to know that there is something larger, more solid than myself right now.

But the doors were locked: closed for construction this week.

Everything had shifted next door to the elementary school but I wouldn’t go in. Today, I needed to see to believe.

And that wasn’t going to happen in a gymnasium.

 

My favourite Franciscan writes that “[w]hen we are nothing we are in a fine position to receive everything from God.

The trick is to keep ourselves open, like cupped hands, ready to receive whatever He gives and when we want to close ourselves up tightly, to protect our vulnerable selves, we must pray that He will teach us how to unclench. To unfold, and allow ourselves to be filled: this is how we learn the habit of grace.

 

Instead, I walked home, taking the long way.

Down the busiest streets where the sound of traffic and tires on wet snow were almost enough drown out His voice in my prayers.

 

Not All, But Closer Than Before

Sitting on the floor of my parent’s living room, rummaging through shelves for something to read. I was looking for something light but found a bible instead.

It was something of a surprise to find a bible amidst old paperbacks, mostly sci-fi, and a few over-sized art books. A scrap of paper was tucked into the opening pages of Leviticus and I remembered that my father had been reading the Old Testament the year he began to convert to Judaism. Neither his conversion nor his reading progressed very far.

Regardless.

I took the bible upstairs, thumbed through it, and stopped at Philippians.

 

The anticipation of Advent had been palpable this year. There was an overwhelming sense of something about to change, a coming of sorts. Something both bigger and smaller than the child in the manger. Bigger because it felt immediate, like something about to enter my everyday life. Yet smaller because what is quite so large or extravagant as the Incarnation?

And then, as sometimes happens, everything began to unravel and all I could do was weep.

And complain. Bitterly.

 

There was no reason why I stopped at this particular letter. It seemed as good a place as any to stop and explore this translation.

Sometimes I want to live, and sometimes I long to go and be with Christ.

Oh.

How had I missed this before?

This short letter, written in Rome, has an honesty that makes me ashamed.

For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.

Was my complaining, my whining, my seemingly relentless tears testifying to my lack of faith? Sometimes all you can do is lament and that is good and as it should be. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise: the pain is real, uniquely yours, and sacred because of this. Platitudes, like this too shall pass, can devalue what you’re experiencing. But the line between lamentation and whining is sometimes thin and vague.

I am still not all I should be…

Someone recently said they were amenable to the idea of purgatory because it is an opportunity for all that is contrary to what God wants us to be to finally be burned away.

I wonder if maybe, just maybe, there are times when purgatory is here and now. What if those times when the hardships pile up are not tests of faith but moments pregnant with the possibility of transfiguration? Because none of us are all that we should be and why should we wait until we have shuffled out of our skin?

In His time here I see a life lived fully and a life given freely. And I am doing neither. I have closed myself off from the grace and peace here in the present moment. A grace and peace so powerful as to not only forgive but burn away all that you are and are not; all you have done and failed to do. And it’s not available later, or only later, but right now.

The letter writer knew it then and I know it now. 

This is the peace I am clinging to and the grace I am longing to be shaped by.

Lord, I am still not all I should be. Amen.

 

 

Open

What makes a heart open? What light begs its delicate petals to unfurl?

Lately, when I think of my husband, I think of the peony bush by the back door. One day there were small, tightly closed buds and then it was in bloom. It all felt so sudden though I know it didn’t really happen over night -I just didn’t notice until all that beauty was right before me.

So when he said he would like to read that book, the one about God’s relentless love for us, I was shocked. I wanted to ask why and why now but really, it doesn’t matter. Still, I began to reflect on how he’s changed: it’s like there’s more of him give these days. Not just time and money, but himself. That goodness and generosity was always there but like the peony, it seemed smaller, a bit more closed than now.

The book -we’re reading it together. Him, for the first time. Me, for the first time with him. And the conversations are slow, some days we say nothing about the pages read. We talk, instead, about our days and lives together. But this is a start.

 

It was New Year’s Day and we and a friend were out driving. He prompts me suddenly to tell the man sitting behind me about the book and the author and the message of his words, the Word itself. I did not expect to find myself evangelizing but there I was and there we were. Talking about God on the first day of the new year.

Like before, the conversation came in fits. There was utter shock in the voice behind me but also disagreement. Me, a cradle Catholic, now somewhere in the middle. Him, born and raised conservatively, evangelically, and thoroughly Protestant. So it drifted from one thing to another. The book. Scripture. Jesus. And both our pasts and present circumstances affected how we came to it all.

It wasn’t the kind of dialogue you’d hear in a stadium full of people or even on a street corner. But that conversation, like the one before it, was a place to start out from.

 

Sure, you can ask others if they’ve heard or where they’re going after that last breath, the last beat of their fragile hearts. And I can worry that I should be out there, in dusty lands, digging wells and helping the Living Water to flow. But to what end?

I find it almost as unexpectedly, a passage underlined the week before and I remember marking it, not really knowing why.

There, in Mark 7, is a deaf man. “Be opened,” says Jesus and so he was. Ears to hear and a tongue to speak with, plainly. And it didn’t happen in front of a multitude. No stage or lights. No microphone to project. Rather, he took him aside in private, away from the crowd.

This has me considering other ways, quiet ways.
Listening as well as speaking.
Words and silences alike.

Maybe it’s not always about what we say. The conversation in the car was as much about God as when my husband and I discuss our day. Because God’s story is our story. What we talk about when we talk about God is really the story of us wrapped up in Him.

The conversation in the car wasn’t a success any more than our daily conversations are a failure because God isn’t explicitly mentioned.

And all those seemingly mundane things in our lives are important, too. Indeed, our lives may be the greatest testament we ever give.

 

So this is what I’m meditating on and praying over.

That we are opened to God not only through burning bushes and thunderous voices but quiet breezes and wings on air.

That this opening is both private and public because our lives need both witnesses and lonely places in which to grow.

And that we find peace in however, wherever it happens.