the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts
to human hearts
the blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming,
but in this world of sin,
where meeks souls will
receive him still
the dear Christ enters in.
—Phillips Brooks, 1868
A couple summers ago, I wrote “On waiting and squirming” about “periods during which I have difficulty finding God’s reassuring silence in the midst of my own emotional noise.” A pivotal passage described an opening which came to me in waiting worship:
An image comes of kayaking on a turbulent river, overly intent upon keeping my balance. If I don’t manage this, I’ll fall over and drown in the river.
But—the thought comes—God is the river.
Maybe we don’t get hold of self-discipline as a way of receiving grace. Maybe self-discipline is a gift of grace.
Not seeking silence, but surrendering because we are unable to become silent.
This morning around 2:30 am, I awoke in the dark to the sound of the night’s heavy rain, still dripping and splashing around our bedroom…and to the inner sound of Sarah McLachlan‘s poignant rendition of “O little town of Bethlehem” singing in memory.
The word “longing” came to mind. Not longing in the distressed and painful way I was experiencing it two summers hence, but simple longing for what one knows can be, should be.
I recognized a maturing of notes and themes which have been singing through my reading and meditation for years, catching my attention as I gradually sweep way the noise of my decades-long argument with “Christianity.”
Imagine the gentleness of simply sitting with someone with whom you need to exchange no proofs of love—or, as was the case when I awoke this morning, lying cuddled in sleep with the partner with the whom you have shared such love for decades.
In all the billions of lives, many cannot imagine this. Many have never experienced it. Many have had it torn from them—by the natural losses of life or by the unnatural cruelties of other people.
Yet the human heart has that possibility woven through its fibers. All life does. Whether we have experienced it or not, our bodies remember it.
In moments of awakening such as this morning’s, we simply listen to our hearts, to whatever song may sing there.
Every true religion has its images for this healing stillness. For me, when I have swept away the noise of my argument, the images are those which Jesus shared with his companions. Not images of “how to get that stillness.” Just images of the stillness itself.
In moments like that into which I awoke this morning, I know that this is all I am waiting for.
And so it is.