I walk early down a muddied fire road on the flank of the mountain. Facing east as I turn toward home in the predawn dark, only the softest light has begun to pearl the horizon.
I am perplexed by the tiny flickers of light going off, like matches being lit and blown out, that I see near the ground. After a moment I realize that these are the glimmer of birds’ wings as they flit from bush to bush, hop up and down from the ground. Dawn is still so full of night that I cannot detect the birds until they spread their wings. Then the palest light catches the edge backlit and shows me the briefest flash illumined, not the bird, but the outspread wing.
‘How can this be?’
Gabriel greeted her:
You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,
Beautiful inside and out!
God be with you.
She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you … “
(Luke 1. 28-33 The Message)
I was extremely fortunate to have a Dad who, from when I was very young, encouraged me to “question everything” in order to develop a strong faith that was my own, not just a set of beliefs inherited from my parents by tradition or social convention. In her book The Gift of Wonder, Christine Aroney-Sine discusses the art of spiritual questioning as a form of exploration rather than as an expression of doubt, or a challenge to orthodoxy. She repeats John Stott’s comment that, “the answers we get depend on the questions we ask”, and goes on:
Passive questions that expect God to do something without my active engagement are destructive, not constructive. When I blame God, I don’t need to respond. “Why does God allow suffering?” sidesteps my responsibility and sometimes culpability in the situation I am struggling with. Now I replace it with “What does God ask me to do when I am confronted with suffering?” Or “Where is God in the midst of this suffering?” (p81)
Yet it is true that my mind can race if I ask too many questions, often as a reaction to my fears. Depending on the pace at which I ask the question “How can this be?” I may not allow enough time and space for it to sink in. I might miss the amazement, the heartbeat that allows the Spirit to rush in and alight my mind with the faintest glimmers of Possibility’s wings.
What would I do if I were not afraid?
What pace might I choose to follow Light?
What if I believe God has a surprise in store for me today?
We pray for another way of being:
another way of knowing.
Across the difficult terrain of our existence
we have attempted to build a highway
and in so doing have lost our footpath.
God lead us to our footpath:
Lead us there where in simplicity
we may move at the speed of natural creatures
and feel the earth’s love beneath our feet.
Lead us there where step-by-step we may feel
the movement of creation in our hearts.
And lead us there where side-by-side
we may feel the embrace of the common soul.
Nothing can be loved at speed.
God lead us to the slow path; to the joyous insights
of the pilgrim; another way of knowing: another way of being.
‘step by step prayer’
a slow revealing. Canon 7D. f13. 1/125. ISO 1000.