An agent of God in unusual form,
he came with intent and sailed into the storm.
He adorned those he chose with ineffable traits,
true kindness and patience, from good into great.
Slow movements could not veil the bright fire inside
as he gifted humility, freedom from pride.
While his wings were concealed from most human eyes,
for those who drew near we saw through the disguise.
- With eternal gratitude to N & love for his family
"God wants you to experience tribulations without comfort so you can fully surrender yourself to Him, and grow more humble through suffering. Those who suffer like Christ will feel in their hearts the passion of Christ. The Cross stands ready and waiting for you everywhere. You can't escape from it, wherever you go you take yourself with you and always find yourself. Look upwards or downwards, inwards or outwards and you will find the Cross everywhere. So, if you wish to attain inner peace and win the eternal crown, you must be patient in all things."
- Thomas á Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
In the land of his affliction
the wise man bows down low,
glad in humble posture
that the inner light will glow.
As darkness smothers senses,
so the heart must guide the way -
the furnace howls, the errors burn
the smoke of doubt holds sway.
Acquiesce? No, persevere
he turns within anew,
takes up the cross and drinks the cup,
walks like the faithful few.
On route he knows the refuge is
to share the gifted load -
in sorrow poured out prayerfully
a lighter yoke bestowed.
25th July 2021, Wiltshire, England.
is not found in acres,
nor bolstered by gathering and storing.
So I empty my shelves
of possession, pride and power,
making way for the end of self rule.
The days are so swift
I am pushed to surrender,
prostrate in the entropic rush.
As I cease to defend,
rigid thoughts turn to dross
and the old scaffold withers away.
To the sacred order
I make a simple plea:
in frailty may I know His strength.
Total lunar eclipse, 26th May 2021, Wiltshire, England.
Our peace in this present life should not depend on absence of adversity but on humble acceptance. Those who accept suffering will enjoy peace. Such a person is a conqueror of the self, a ruler of the world, a friend of Christ and an inheritor of heaven.
The astonishing spectacle of accelerating polarisations continues to be rich with truthful pickings. There is so much to take in. Some individuals seem to have welded themselves interminably shut. Others are cracking open. There is too much time alone and too little contact with others. There is excessive self-reflection and extravagant distraction. So many opposites within and without. As I negotiate my own delicate balancing act, I have been considering carefully what it means to have an open mind.
Closed mindedness inclines itself towards two expressions:
I don’t want to know
In both of these dismissive variants, the mind serves to keep things safe by keeping things the same. It acts to defend itself from the possibility that real questions will lead to real answers, and that real change will then be required. It ensures that the transformational power of truth is kept at bay.
"Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty,And before honour is humility.He who answers a matter before he hears it,It is folly and shame to him."
Prov 18: 12-13
The closed mind knows nothing but its own false boundaries. It chooses to defend the familiar confines of the fallen self. In doing this, it shuts the door to truth and becomes instead a ‘keeper of dogma’ (thank you NK). It cannot see, nor can it be receptive to reality.
"Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,And prudent in their own sight!" Isaiah 5:21
In contrast, the open mind takes the following stance:
I don’t know
I want to know
The open mind is willing to accept that it is wrong. This mind is not ‘made up’, and with grace and patience, it may observe itself. It will inevitably begin to uncover its own brokenness, ignorance and insufficiency. The more it knows, the more it becomes aware of what it doesn’t know. To keep seeking the truth, the mind has to open itself continually into the vulnerability of the unknown. It has to trust that it will be guided.
In choosing a posture of openness, we are led to our own fallibility. We are asked to identify where we really are and how far we have descended. We are asked to acknowledge how great our fall has been. From the lowliness of our true position, unreality empties out of us so that we can be filled with the reality of Spirit. This is the gift of cleansing humility. From here, we may know.
"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up."
CHRIST: My child, let My will be your guide. I know what is best for you. Your understanding is human and your judgement is affected by your personal concerns.
DISCIPLE: Lord, what You say is true. Your concern will order my life better than I can myself. Those who do not place their anxiety on You will be very insecure. Lord, keep my will steadfast and true to You. Do with me whatever you please, for everything is good which comes to me through Your will. If you want me to be in darkness, blessed be your name. If it is light, blessed be your name. If You grant me comfort, blessed be Your name. If You wish to test me, blessed be your name forever.
Wherever we have some sign of God’s will, we are obliged to conform to what that sign tells us. We should do so with pure intention, obeying God’s will because it is good in itself as well as good for us.
It takes more than an occasional act of faith to have such pure intention. It takes a whole life of faith, a total consecration to hidden values. It takes sustained moral courage and heroic confidence in the help of divine grace.
But above all it takes the humility and spiritual poverty to travel in darkness and uncertainty, where so often we have no light and see no sign at all.
The words presence and absence radiate strongly from my enquiries into these questions. In reaching for answers, I find myself embroiled in both of these qualities simultaneously. Approaching the divine enigma using the mechanism of language is an enterprise that continues to fascinate me, even in its inadequacies. The experience of God’s nearness comes wrapped in wonderful, tangled paradoxes. I’d like to share some of my rough cut paradoxes here.
I feel God’s nearness as a certainty within an absence. The quality of certainty turns the absence inside out – it negates it.
I experience God as a presence encompassed in an emptiness. ‘Emptiness’ is my brain’s best attempt at quantifying a temporal, bound perspective on the boundless and eternal.
The abyss into which I surrender is the presence of God.
The absence I feel is God.
How do I experience God in times of desolation?
In other words, how is God known and felt in challenging situations, when the drudgery of the mundane seems to blacken even the tiniest glimmer of the providential? The spiritually evolving individual understands that God’s perceived distance serves to test them. In stepping back, God is simply doing what all loving fathers do for their children: giving space for independent growth and learning. By not intervening, He offers us the free will choice to hone our skills, expand our capacity for love and deepen our wisdom – or not.
"For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another."
Above all, God wants to see if we continue to choose goodness and righteousness even when we feel that He is far away and we are standing alone on the most painful edge of solitary human experience. God gives us the gift of free will in honour of our potential, and the activation of this gift can only come through a journey of (perceived) separation.
It has turbo-charged my faith to understand that when God’s paternal presence is intangible, it is not an indicator of some great inadequacy on my part, but instead the sign of a loving manoeuvre made to aid my growth. When life is tough and I feel set adrift, I match these trials with a greater determination to cultivate humility and demonstrate my trustworthiness to our maker. Within this energy of perseverance and devotion, my faith flourishes.
"And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple."
On the other hand, when the external setting surrounds me with joy and happiness, the efforts I make towards bettering my faith are naturally more light-hearted. In contentment and bliss, faith blossoms with minimal grit and enterprise on my part. Whatever the outer circumstances bring, I keep doing the work of seeking Truth. Divine bribery is not required.
My perception of God as present or absent is not what matters. What matters is the grounding of faith within my heart. This is where God lives in my individual experience. He is always that close, and it is only ever my individual-self-in-pain-goggles that hinder my seeing of this.
The constantly broadening certainty of my faith serves to assist in cleaning the lenses of these self-goggles on a daily basis. Faith in the heart as the seat of my relationship with God has also given me a greater sense of stability – it brings the possibility of being content in my own actuality as it shifts from one moment to the next. Nonetheless, I continue to remind myself that all expectations are hurdles, and that one of the more noble of these hurdles comes in striving to ‘achieve’ the feeling that God is close to me at all times.