What is it about snowflakes – which are water and cold in motion – that stirs a recollection of ancient stillness? Falling slow and sparse this morning, precursors to the storm still half a day or so away. Deep in the woods, I could hear each flake sifting through pine trees – susurration, softness – and also smell stove smoke that was thirty years old. In the black distance a train moaned, one that I followed years ago when getting away seemed desirable.
Dreams of conflict, dreams of imprisonment. Lay in bed for a few minutes wondering if I could muster the courage to walk, but by the time the snowflakes were settling on me, fear was forgotten, shined away by . . . what? What are you waiting for, I asked the older dog who, rather than walk this morning, simply laid down in the early part of the field. He scampered up at my return, his answer simple and obvious: you.
Talking in circles while talking of God gets confusing indeed, especially when you feel compelled to assure everyone that your God isn’t homophobic, anti-semitic, mysogynistic, etc. When what you’re really saying is, Please, love me. Please, heal me.
Thomas Merton feels instructive, as here, from the thirteenth chapter in Contemplative Prayer:
We will have to face fears and doubts. We will have to call into question the whole structure of our spiritual life. We will have to make a new evaluation of our motives for belief, for love, for self-commitment to the invisible God. And at this moment, precisely, all spiritual light is darkened, all values lose their shape and reality, and we remain, so to speak, suspended in the void.
The most crucial aspect of this experience is precisely the temptation to doubt God himself. We must not minimize the fact that this is a genuine risk. For here we are advancing beyond the stage where God made himself accessible to our minds in simple and primitive images. We are entering the night in which he is present without any image, invisible, inscrutable, and beyond any satisfactory mental representation.
Yet I cannot shake the desire to use words to shape experience, make a record, bear witness . . . I do, I keep looking around, expecting at any moment to see an angel with prismatic wings bestowing on me some obscure but lovely blessing.