Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Encounter


What was your greatest encounter with God?

28 comments:

mister tumnus said...

to date i suppose it has to be the birthing thing. but that also counts as my greatest encounter with myself.

what about you?

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

Exactly the same, the birth of Samuel and Hannah:

Sometimes our paradigm of thought is forced to change; moments of grace re-shape our thinking and experience, allowing the spiral of discovery to throw us deeper into the radiant mystery of Christ. Of late I have been moved by a poem of Stewart Henderson’s titled ‘Everything in Heaven comes apart.’ Within this work Stewart talks of a day where all the complexities of life – the mysteries, the paradoxes, the difficulties, the questions and frustrations – one day come apart to reveal the naked truth of what our pilgrimage means. “The words that smart, the damming phrase, the leper’s soul, the withered heart, the things the dead would like to say, the blank gaze of the destitute, the questions that we meant to ask, and the plans we had but couldn’t start.” All these things, he explains, that are chained, locked and bound will one day come apart.

Rabbi Abraham Heschel suggests that in ‘every mind there is an enormous store of not- knowing, of being puzzled, of wonder, of radical amazement.’ When my son Samuel and daughter Hannah were born, and as they lay on my chest just a few minutes old I remembered some words of my late Grandma; that I should savour the sweet moments of life, whilst being acutely aware of love and small pleasures. In those momens I found an intimate resting far beyond anything I had felt before.

The older I get the more I realise the wise person is not the one pontificating personal opinion, but the one who quietly listens to people needing to spill their stories. We are all constantly looking for a place where we can ‘hold together’ – to go to our own lament and wait for the voice of God – the eternal present.

Unfortunately most of the time we have to live in the ordinary daily ritual and it was here that my fascination with the poem held its genesis. Sometimes we have to trust that which we do not know – be guided by a hand we cannot hold. When we begin to embrace this mystery our soul paradoxically becomes sure of something it does not know, and heaven it seems is not so far away. The winter trees somehow become spring like, and maybe we begin to leave the apparent darkness behind. Yet the buds of spring open at their own pace, much like a human heart – something we Christians would do well to remember.

It was Marcel Proust who said that ‘the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes.’ I do not understand grace with my head or my heart – I only know that if we look through vulnerable eyes it meets us where we are but it does not leave us where it found us. Within this landscape of the soul we encounter the hidden God, the God who dwells in our darkness, just as he has promised. For many years I missed grace, because within the faith I was raised in there was no room for things hidden. The truth is where there is no room for things hidden there is no room for faith either. Buechner says that faith ‘is less a position on than a movement toward.’ I keep walking because I believe in the pilgrimage, in the things that come apart, that a God who is wise, strong and loving enough to create a world with such beauty and grace will be faithful in restoring it to what it was meant to be.

In recent days I have realised the importance of recapturing the element of delight in seeing through different eyes. God has invested us with existence, and on the days my children were born earth stood still whilst, in the words of the poem, everything in heaven came apart, explained itself and showed its complex ways, to see at last was to be free from a complicated maze.

Awareness said...

I read your question early this morning and have thought about it on and off since. To pick out one encounter was difficult, though I did automatically return to the joyful speechless relief I felt when my son and daughter were born.

There are two concepts that filter through any moments I would recognize as encounters with God. Grace and intimacy. By intimacy I mean something that is a special glimpse of shared naked truth. Though it doesnt often occur during a counselling session, when it does it is very powerful. In fact, I can recall the four or five times in the past year that not only was I meant to meet a certain individual (and they me) our session transcended to a place not of our own doing.
I also remember one evening when my son was only an infant......too young to talk yet. He had been feverish for a couple of days and I was very frightened that I didn't seem to have any control over his virus. So, I had him right beside me on the bed to keep a vigilant eye on his situation. I had just woken him up to give him some Tylenol and he was so hot........as I wiped his little forehead I was nervously wondering if I needed to take him to the hospital (though we had already been that day). All of a sudden, he spoke out..........and said...."Help me Mommy." Clear as day!!
Intimate.........grace......... I kissed him all over his face and told him that I would never leave him.......reassured him that by morning he would feel better. They were lies........I knew he would. God had visited.

God encounters definately give us a new set of eyes. It has been these half dozen encounters (and reading Buechner and Nouwen this year) that have alter my vision.

Awareness said...

One should always proofread......
I meant to write that they weren't lies...!!

BTW........My son's fever broke about 2 hours after this encounter. He was fine by morning. Also, that night brought us closer than ever. At 9 years of age, he continues to melt my heart and trusts me with all of his.

Wobbler! said...

There are certainly moments that stick out in my memory such as childbirth, interceptions at the right moment by the right people when both my family and I have needed them.

However, having thought about your question today, daily there are encounters with God, all of which are great if I only think more deeply about them. That glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel when I thought only darkness was ahead, the beauty of my kids, the profound words they offer when me the adult can't make sense of anything and as you have posted in pictures recently the beauty of the sunrise - all encounters from God, with God, for all of us to experience if only we look for them.

mister tumnus said...

wow. paul.

'I keep walking because I believe in the pilgrimage, in the things that come apart, that a God who is wise, strong and loving enough to create a world with such beauty and grace will be faithful in restoring it to what it was meant to be.'

somehow at this point it is enough that there are people who believe in this god even if i'm not quite one of them. it might happen. i hope it will again. somehow words like this are letting me down through the roof. maybe there's a healer underneath. i hope so.

hey, thanks.

urbanmonk said...

Two immediately come to mind..

At 16, hitchhiking along a lonely road with no hope of a lift. and feeling very alone in the world. I felt like the sun and the sky were inside me, comforting me. An inaudible voice seemed to be soothing me. I had been raised in a very fundementalist, "devil gonna getyou" home. So when i felt that comfort, my mind imediately raced to all the things i did and liked to do, that God hated, saying to the voice, but what about those? Im not ready to give them up yet.. The inaudible voice didnt condemn me for my honesty, but I think just waited

the second was a similar sense of being alone in the world, but this time I wasa a few years older and living in a beach side suburb of Melbourne, I was watching the sun set, and suddenly had an overwhelming sense of Gods realness, which prompted me to say out loud, You are real, arent you?

Julie said...

having children was amazing...
enjoying the dawn...
the marvel of creation....

but there was a day when, during the most difficult yet blessed 10 minutes i have ever had, i heard His voice....just like he was standing next to me. And the next day...in the middle of a clear sky... there was a rainbow...

for me that was the ultimate

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

an interesting bunch of encounters with both the birth of children and creation being the common dnominators

awareness,
great story. tell me, i'm intruiged as to whether your boy continued to speak after this remarkable incident, or whether it took him some time after his cry for help?

wobbler,
i think i too sense/encounter god in the 'small' things, which are i suppose much 'bigger' than we realise - i guess we might be guilty of familiarality and so as a consequence lose the wonder...?

Shirley,
I know, i surprise myself sometimes with the odd inspired paragraph! love your comment about my words lowering you through roof - i hope for all our sakes there's a healer waiting

Urban,
"An inaudible voice seemed to be soothing me" - i love it; and again their seems to be an unspoken, silent, but deafening voice of god through creation that can't be equalled (maybe)

Julie,
wow!!! what did the voice sound like?

Awareness said...

You know......I can't remember whether he continued to talk after that, but he was so close to talking that he may have. He was about 16 months old at the time......and was very quick to pick up language and math concepts before the age of 2.

I actually told Max the story last night. He was quite intrigued.

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

sounds like a great kid...i look at my two and wonder what will become of them, what hand they will be dealt and what curve balls will come their way

a world of love and fear comes rushing in when you become a parent...

hopes and dreams...

Niki said...

Did all of you mums and dads not find it a terrifying prospect to be awaiting a child? My head would be full of thoughts of unworthiness and trepidation. I don't think I could ever do right by another human, I look at how I've turned out and am filled with dread at the thought of creating another with my DNA pattern.

As for my encounter. damn bell rang. i'll be back.

Awareness said...

The depth and range of emotion I sometimes feel for my children frightens me at times. Like you, I often wonder what will become of them. There is such an urge to overprotect, but that always does more harm than good.
My husband and I try our best to instill the values and beliefs important to us........the ones we were brought up with....... so that our kids will have the foundation to reach into when needed.
We are blessed. I can honestly say that my children are thoughtful, intuitive and confident individuals. God gave them temperments that have always allowed them to be perceptive of others around them. They are kind kids.
NOW.....I write this today......my daughter just entered the teenage years and we'll just see how hormonal storms will affect her!
In the meantime, their births did allow me to begin to believe in God again.........as Proust stated.....
"to see with new eyes....."

Niki said...

awareness thanks, you gave me such a good insight there.

Right so my encounter would have to be waking up in hospital, age 16, attatched to all sorts of stuff after making an attempt on my life. everyone i loved and loved me was around my bed then i smiled and my grandad said; 'we missed you nik'

Awareness said...

Hey Niki.

Could it be that your deep pain provided an opportunity to see with "new eyes" that you are unconditionally loved? It seems to me that God was allowing you to "see" that you will always matter........always.

I send you a big hug, Niki.....because you sent me one with your words and testimony. I felt it all the way over the "pond"

Enjoy your day.

Niki said...

awareness, thank you for touching my soul today *huge hug*

Mata H said...

My greatest moments of encounter seem to be the smallest ones -- those simple times in the day when I am reminded of His love and grace -- looking out a window, making the bed, driving along a road...and suddenly I get a still and small sense of God. It is enough and more than all.

The Harbour of Ourselves said...
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The Harbour of Ourselves said...

you know, i guess we all have a path of consequence. all parents yearn for an image of love and nurturing and of life and promise. every parent wants to keep their children from all harm, its such a primal thing, i was shocked when i felt it so deep inside myself

...the world awaits us all. niki and awareness, glad you connected.... mata, as always a joy, always

mister tumnus said...

hey paul it's off topic slightly, but last night i dreamt i met you and nick cave.

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

dare i ask what hapened?

mister tumnus said...

i can't remember much. i was living in a flat about a shop (like a Spar or something). you were tall and thin with very curly hair and i remember you said something funny and then i realised that you were paul-chambers-off-the-internet and i was so pleased to meet you that ran up and hugged you!

and the other part of the dream i remember was leaning out the window of my flat throwing my clothes at nick cave and then realising i had no clothes. so i had to put a towel round me and ask him is he wouldn't mind climbing up on the shop roof to reach my clothes to me through the window, which he duly did. what a gent!

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

thats made me laugh, thanks

just remember to have clothes when you actually met nick cave

mister tumnus said...

well of course! what would i have to throw at him otherwise?

;)

mister tumnus said...

(apologies for lowering the tone...)

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

lightened, not lowered - no apologies needed

mister tumnus said...

well thanks, although i am noticing a pattern these days where conversations that begin about worthy subjects (such as encounters with god) take a turning into some murky path (such as throwing your keks at nick cave) when i am involved... I am clearly depraved and in need of prayer....

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

my prayers are with you...