whole: day 16

If God is right there in the midst of our struggle, then our aim is to stay there.  We are to remain in the cell, to stay on the road, not to forego the journey or forget the darkness.  It is all too easy for us to overlook the importance of struggle, preferring instead to secure peace and rest, or presuming to reach the stage of love prematurely.  It is always easier to allow things to pass by, to go on without examination and effort.  Yet, struggling means living.  It is a way of fully living life and not merely observing it.  It takes much time and a great effort to unite the disparate, disjointed, and divided parts of the self into an integrated whole.  During this time and in this effort, the virtue of struggle was one of the non-negotiables in the spiritual way of the desert.  The Desert Mothers and Fathers speak to us with authority, because they are in fact our fellow travellers.  They never claim to have arrived, they never indicate having completed the journey.

from In the Heart of the Desert, John Chryssavgis

struggling means living

‘Struggling means living’, is a phrase of peculiar comfort to me.  I experience much of my life as struggle, no matter how many times a day I try to pray for a more accepting spirit.  Yet perhaps that is the point. If I arrive too easily at acceptance, perhaps I do so by imposing a false way of thinking. Why do I presume that peace and rest is always the ‘good’ answer to any problem? 

The question John Chryssavgis asks is a profound one.  If I really do believe that God is in all ‘this’ with me, then why wouldn’t I want to stay where God is, rather than rushing away to peace?  What if God can use my struggles as the opportunity for me to know more of God?  

If the Living Light is in the midst of my mess, can I learn to be still enough to sit in the middle of it on the off chance I might hear of God, rather than squirming uncomfortably and complaining noisily how everything needs to change, immediately?

For what the Whole is trying to help me to do is to live; and to live fully, fulfilled, no matter what situations or circumstances I find myself in.  There is no life to be found away from the Whole, away from the Holy.

No matter how or where I am, God is with me, present, because that is the nature of God, and because I am known by God.  In The Luminous Web Barbara Brown Taylor writes of the need for a radical cultural, social, theological, mind shift if we are to live interconnectedly, to live in growing awareness of the presence of God, to live holistically:

The new science requires a radical change in how we conceive the world.  It is no longer possible to see it as a collection of autonomous parts, as Newton did, existing separately while interacting.  The deeper revelation is one of undivided wholeness, in which the observer is not separable from what is observed.  Or, in Heisenberg’s words, “the common division of the world into subject and object, inner world and outer world, body and soul is no longer adequate.”

Is this physics or theology, science or religion?  At the very least, it is poetry.  As far back as the thirteenth century, the Sufi poet Jelaluddin Rumi wrote, “You think because you understand one you must also understand two, because one and one make two.  But you must also understand and.

(The Luminous Web, Barbara Brown Taylor (51) original emphases)

God and me makes … ?

You break the scales.

You strain at the seams of our understanding.

That the heavens you have made can house you,

is too much to fathom.

When we know our place as less than nothing, 

dust on the scales, or vapours rising, 

gone by noon.

We wonder then, the reason for anything.

We look at the moon, 

the whirling solar systems,

the measurements we’ve learned,

and earth too small for a pin’s head.

We wonder then, 

how small a thing must be,

before your attention’s diverted.

And yet you came, 

in obscurity, in such vulnerability,

and utter nothingness,

that power became a thing small and hidden, 

to cross barriers.

And even in death, you would find a means still

to be with us,

that the heart might hold in the smallest seed, 

the one who established the heavens.

Yes, you have broken all the scales,

and torn to shreds the seams,

that there are no laws or means 

to explain you.

And yet, we all soften,

no words needed,

as one beholding a child at the breast,

the symbiotic mystery of mother and son.

The Christ Child who laid down his crown

to cross light years,

and yet travel less than a hands-breadth distance, 

from a Father whose not drawn his eyes from us.

‘Scales’

Ana Lisa de Jong

Living Tree Poetry

December 2019

still. (on the off chance). Canon 7D. f8. 1/125. ISO 400.

Published by Kate Kennington Steer

writer, photographer and visual artist

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