NOTE: After the tragic and horrible shooting in Ottawa, I needed to change the title of this post. My prayers go out to my home away from home and my loved ones in Canada.
So we're on the grieving/reflecting road again today: first for some quiet time to get rest and perspective; and second to celebrate my father's life with family in Maryland. Both are essential - for body and soul. The weather already befits this pilgrimage - grey and damp - and I sense that is where I'm being called to dwell for a spell. When I spoke to my sister this morning on the phone, and we noted how we were both weary, she asked, "I wonder how long this will last?" To which my wife later replied, "About two years - and then sporadically without notice afterwards." I gasped - but know she's right.
Two of my favorite writers, Parker Palmer and Richard Rohr, posted things today that resonate with my life. The first is a poem by Ron Wallace that uses humor to point out that even in hard times there are also blessings.
I wonder if the only way that conversion, enlightenment, and transformation ever happen is by a kind of divine ambush. We have to be caught off guard. As long as you are in control, you are going to keep trying to steer the ship by your previous experience of being in charge. The only way you will let yourself be ambushed is by trusting the “Ambusher,” and learning to trust that the darkness of intimacy will lead to depth, safety, freedom, and love.
Any use of fear techniques or trying to shame people into the spiritual journey is inherently counter- productive. It simply makes you more defensive and protective of your boundaries, but now at an unconscious level (I am afraid this is true of a high percentage of Christians, who were largely raised on fear of “hell” and social pressure). We need spiritual teachers like John of the Cross to help us see the patterns of the spiritual journey that actually work, so we can be a bit less defended, a bit less boundaried, with ourselves and with God. Only then can God do the soul forming work of seduction and union.
God needs to catch us by surprise because our very limited preexistingnotions keep us and our understanding of God small. We are still trying to remain in control and we still want to “look good”! God tries to bring us into a bigger world where by definition we are not in control and no longer need to look good. A terrible lust for certitude and social order has characterized the last 500 years of Western Christianity, and it has simply not served the soul well at all. Once we lost a spirituality of darkness as its own kind of light, there just wasn’t much room for growth in faith, hope, and love. So God has to come indirectly, catching us off guard and out of control, when we are empty instead of full of ourselves.
Now it is time to pack and hit the road: I wonder what ambush awaits us on this pilgrimage?
(photos: Dianne De Mott)