Thursday, January 24, 2013

I sat still under it and let it alone...

I have been trying to make sense of what has been happening over the last few weeks. This is hard going. The traditional language of Christian spirituality is so easy for me to use - I have become so fluent in it that it trips off the keyboard without a second thought - that I use it without a thought for those for whom it might be not only impenetrable, but even misleading.

What worries me though, is to what extent am I failing myself, pulling the wool over my own eyes over the whole question of faith, simply because I am so fluent in the language? Am I simply saying stuff because it sounds so good, so resonant and profound, but at the same time substituting this fluency for real thought, real feeling, for it is hard to know things without the language to describe them to oneself? It used not to be so. Maybe it isn’t, still - but the thought worries me.

Pam Lunn says (Quaker Faith & Practice 26.76):
There are those who can comfortably talk in Christian language, because they experience it deeply as expressing truth and reality as they perceive it. For them it is not ‘just a language’; it is the truth. The words used are inseparable from the underlying truths, the stories, the tradition, the nature of God as revealed in Jesus.
How can I try to find an authentic voice for the extraordinary events that are taking place within the area of me that I have become used to describing as “my faith”? Truly my experience of God, of who he is in Christ, and who Christ is in me (John 17.20, 25-26), is being simultaneously confirmed and deepened beyond anything I could have imagined even a few months ago, and turned upside down in a way that makes me feel deeply vertiginous.

Stillness and non-interference seems at the moment to be the answer:
My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me...

Psalm 131.1 NIV
These words, too, from more than 360 years ago, seem to speak to my (much happier, though) condition more closely than most things I’ve read recently:
After this I returned into Nottinghamshire again and went into the Vale of Beavor... And one morning, as I was sitting by the fire, a great cloud came over me and a temptation beset me; but I sat still. And it was said, ‘All things come by nature’; and the elements and stars came over me so that I was in a manner quite clouded with it. But inasmuch as I sat, still and silent, the people of the house perceived nothing. And as I sat still under it and let it alone, a living hope arose in me and a true voice, which said, ‘There is a living God who made all things’. And immediately the cloud and temptation vanished away, and life rose over it all, and my heart was glad, and I praised the living God.
George Fox, 1648


  1. Is perhaps the difficulty in that your prayer life was previously about seeking or asking or doing? And now this pervasive stillness and natural rest seems strange in contrast? It seems to be a very natural transition, and a natural disorientation. Effort was always such a part of prayer or meditation, even in small ways, even if not intended. But suddenly grace is the active ingredient, and effort seems to interfere or not fit at all. One knocks and asks, and then the door opens, and then what??? One has been so used to knocking and asking, and now it doesn't really make sense anymore. Not sure that's helpful, but I suppose to try to offer the consolation that your experience is very normal.

  2. Yes, I see your point, Ona. I was not conscious that my "old" prayer life was particularly about asking and doing, but seeking, yes, definitely...

    I love what you say about, "One knocks and asks, and then the door opens, and then what???" Very clearly that is true, and you understand and describe very much how I'm feeling at the moment.

    Thank you!

  3. Someone said,Learn to think in Scripture. But as Christ is the object it helps us not to have an other object even when praying.