a clarity beyond knowledge...

Three quotes have resonated with something deep within in the past few days and they are worthy of sharing. The first comes from M. Craig Barnes:

I've been working on a writing project about gravitas, which describes a soul that's weighty enough to attract others. Most of us know people who a gravitational pull on our lives. We go to them when we're confused, hurt, or spiritually dry. They aren't therapists or even spiritual directors. They may not be leaders, but we don't trust leaders without gravitas. Most people with these weighty souls are scarred up a bit, and that's part of what makes them attractive. But I'm trying to figure out how gravitas is developed beyond being wounded by life.

This quest of Barnes' is vital.  Being wounded is essential, of course, but it is by no means a 
guarantee that gravitas will ripen and bear fruit within and beyond our lives. We all know too many broken souls who remain the walking wounded or even bitter, mean-spirited beings because of the harsh realities and anguish they have endured. No, there clearly is more to attractive wisdom than pain.

A clue comes from the second quote that grabbed my attention. Christine Valters Painters, the abbess of the on-line Abbey of the Arts (www.AbbeyoftheArts.com) recently wrote in an article entitled, "The Soul's Migration" that:

Autumn is the time of transition, of the earth's turning, with the balance of light and dark in the northern hemisphere tilting toward the dark season and the invitation to release the excess we carry and rest into growing Mystery. It is a season of initiating these great movements across the globe of birds, fish, and mammals following an instinctual call. I am taken with the mysteries of migration, the inner knowing that rises up in them to embark on a journey, the impulse to swim and fly across great expanses of earth and sea in search of a feeling of rightness that season. think of the ancient desert monks who each knew that one day they would have to leave behind the familiar and venture out into the wilderness to seek a space of radical encounter with God. Or the Irish monks who felt called to a particular kind of journey called peregrinatio, which was a pilgrimage for the love of Christ without a destination in mind. The practice was to step into a small boat called a coracle, without oar or rudder, and let the current carry them to the place of their resurrection.

Truth be told, my soul feels much like it is on a migration - and oddly I have no real need to try and control it. I rather cherish the rudderlessness of this current pilgrimage towards resurrection. Now that I have announced my retirement - and we are stumbling together into a transition of sorts - I am free to wait. And wander. Or create in new ways as the Spirit stirs within. Dr. Painters adds:

In the Book of Isaiah (48:6-7) we read: "Now I am revealing new things to you, things hidden and unknown to you, created just now, this very moment. Of these things you have heard nothing until now so that you cannot say, Oh yes, I knew this." In the Christian contemplative tradition, we are invited to rest more deeply in the Great Mystery, to lay aside our images and symbols, and let the divine current carry us deeper, without knowing where, only to trust the impulse within to follow a longing. As autumn tilts us toward the season of growing darkness, consider this an invitation to yield to the mystery of your own heart's desires. You do not need a map or agenda, simply a willingness to swim in the waters carrying you back home again.


Which leads me to the third quote, this one from Walter Brueggemann in his recent book of essays, Deep Memory, Exuberant Hope, concerning the importance the challenge of being a person of faith in the 21st century. He opens his reflections noting that once, perhaps 250 years ago, the Christian preacher "could count on the shaped premises of the listening community." Now the prevailing wisdom of the hour not only assumes a-theism, but denigrates faith as naive in a realm where only might makes right. I certainly affirm the ambiguity encountered in the "dangerous task of reimagining the world with Yahweh as its key player." Then, in a delightfully paradoxical way, Brueggemann offers these words as bread for the journey:

...in the midst of (various) evidences and testimonies, what the preacher has (to go to) is this old text - the Hebrew Old Testament - so remote, so difficult, so misleading, so problematic, so unintimidated. It is the enduring sound of a thousand unclear witnesses offering a cacophony of truthfulness, the script for our own dangerous, primitive reimagining... It is in Hebrew, not Latin... and Hebrew, even for those who know it much better than do I, is endlessly imprecise and unclear. It lacks the connecting words; it denotes rather than connotes; it points and opens and suggests, but it does not conclude or define. That means it is a wondrous vehicle for what is suggested but hidden, what is filled with imprecision and inference and innuendo, a vehicle for contradiction, hyperbole, incongruity, disputation. Now the reason this may be important is that in a society of technological control and precision, we are seduced into thinking if we know the codes, we can pin down all meaning, get all mysteries right and have our own way, without surprise, without deception, without amazement, without gift, without miracle, without address, without absence, without anything that signals mystery or risk. In such a society as that, the church and its preachers practice another mode of speech, so that the way we imagine is congruent with who it is we imagine.

Ain't that just IT!?!? We need guides who open and take us deep without insisting upon a one size fits all answer to each and every problem. I know I do. Maybe that is why at the near close of full-time ministry I have fallen in love again with the Hebrew text. It holds such nuance and possibility for our pilgrimage.  Lady Wisdom can be, for example, a master craftsperson or a delightful playmate in life - or maybe both!  The trees wave and sing. The rhythm of creation keeps breaking into the tragedies born of human greed and violence with flowers beyond anxiety and the steadfast love of the Lord that endures forever. I need such primal mystery to be a part of my head and heart these days, not just because autumn has arrived, but also because I am entering a new wilderness of creativity that needs encouragement and gravitas more than prefigured answers.
 

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