Wednesday, May 09, 2007

In a dark time...disappointment with God


In truth I am unsure as to what has spawned this pondering – some nights I am kept awake by my thoughts, struggles, guilt, pain, and at times, if I'm honest, what seems my joke of a life.

I guess for Centuries we humans have been haunted by fundamental questions. Who are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going? Is there a God? And more importantly if there is, how do we connect with that God? Theodore Roethke suggests to us that in a dark time the eye begins to see. For many of us the world may feel remarkably dark at the moment, and the idea that some deity may be ‘out there’ holding the ‘royal flush’ hand of life for us may seem a little distant. But in the same way a map never just shows you where you are, where you want to go, and how you get there, faith is more than just communicating verbally with a transcendent God. Faith evokes travel, exotic places and the allure of the unknown. The big question it seems is; do we deny ourselves the chance to hide from this?

Hope it seems is, in some sense, about how we invest universal spiritual acts and truths with particular meanings. In his painting, ‘Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?’ the artist Paul Gauguin seems to be wrestling between the often disorientating nature of human life and nihilistic despair. There is a wanderlust and disappointment in his questions which many of us will relate to. But here’s the thing. No-one truly understands ‘hope’ found in the light until they have had to remember it in the darkness. If the gospel is hope then it has to start reaching into those dark places we would rather not visit. Not just the geographic dark places; but those dark places of the soul where our resident demons and Pharisees cause havoc.

For within our humanity something Divine is at stake. It seems to me that God is hiding in our world and our task is to let the Divine emerge from our actions. Is it not true that all of us, at some time, have experienced moments in which we have sensed a mysterious ‘waiting’ for us? Maybe meaning is found in sensing that demand and responding to it in some way. This type of faith is essential for daily living. It is the courage and tenacity to move forward despite both darkness and disappointment. Leonard Cohn frames this concept beautifully when he suggests that, ‘there are cracks, cracks in everything; that’s how the light gets in.’ Rabbi Niles Elliott Goldstein even goes as far as to suggest that ‘if God doesn’t exist in the shadows as well as in the light, then God doesn’t exist.’ And if that makes us feel uncomfortable then I suggest we return to the Psalms, particularly 139.

The truth is there are no easy answers when it comes to explaining dark times and disappointment – there may in fact be no answers at all, and the last thing I want is to dampen anyone’s faith, but I fear we may be missing the point. For if we yearn for the power of the prophets - their signs and wonders – then we yearn for the wrong thing. For if the prophets teach us anything, they teach us how to articulate aloud our disappointments, our big questions, when we feel abandoned by God. For in essence they deal with the apparent silence of God, and within that they also include God’s response to their own disappointment from dark times.

Philip Yancey says that faith means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse. So emphasising that in fact we don’t love God because of what God gives, but rather for whom God is, and the darkness is a defining part of that.

Just maybe we need to spend less time thinking about what we see, and more time thinking about why we see it that way…

14 comments:

The Father said...

hey lulu ..... I hear what your saying ..... two tings spring too mind .... CS Lewis I think said that doubt was the shadow cast by faith .... you cant have one without the other - I've always found that comforting in escaping the world of the evangelical certainties I'm meant to have. In the celtic tradition we talk about a thin place - somewhere where the boundaries between us and the mysterious divine other world are more porous and easier to get through. One of the areas where this was most common was at twilight - the time between times - when you are somewhere between light and darkness - its dark but the darkness has not completely overwhelmed you . ITs here that we sometimes break through into the divine. Come visit and we will discuss more over some black stuff .

Awareness said...

full of thoughts, i am, i am.....from what you have written and the beautiful comment left by the father.

i love the visual the father shares of the thin porous line......and was actually thinking while reading your post, Paul of the moment when the middle of the night transitions into early morning...have written about this myself, trying to understand it. Twilight, predawn....where insight hovers?

Your piece conjures up other visuals for me as well.......the most predominant?

Perhaps our lives are one endless game of hide and seek. Remember how fun and yet scary it was to play (oooo especially at twilight) As the seeker, you would be left all alone counting while others hid and as you counted the neighbourhood would become more and more silent.....all alone in search of the hiding people....they tucked in dark places with just bits of them showing. Anxiety wondering if you're ever going to find them, excitement when you did....full burst of energy when you ran to "homebase" to tag them out?

The person hiding....remember how you tried to find the best hiding place...away from all eyes...in the dark.....tucked away.....all you could hear was your own breathing and a little pounding of your heart within the silence? Will I be found? Will the seeker find me as I meditatively wait?

I think God loves this game, and He's very good at it. But then again, He's had time and eternity to learn where the best deepest darkest hiding spots are (and I think He has the ability to transform and change colours and blend in WAY better than us mere mortals!!)

I guess the key is to continue drinking from the cup for sustenance and understanding...in order to continue playing the game of hide and seek...with God and all of his buddies down the street. Because, then we will not only be a part of the neighbourhood, we will learn LOTS about hiding and seeking.....at twilight......and every now and then, we need to step out from the shadow of doubt to be found......

hmmmmm.......I wonder at the end of our lives, our last words should be a great big cry of "HOME FREE!!"

mister tumnus said...

i want to thank you all for these posts. i think i have waited my whole life for conversations like this. i know i've said this before but i spent years and years in church willing the speaker to tell me how to be a better person, wishing they could explain what happens after you know all the answers and still feel utterly screwed. blessed ignorance. i am glad i lost the answers i had. if there's going to be black stuff, i'm buying.

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

dear father....i am half celt and i like the half light...

i must visit soon...

dana, the father is indeed wise - porous and thin - the twighlight - it's the time when i am most afraid and so maybe at my most alert...maybe fear really is the beginning of wisdom.... drink on friend, drink on

mr t
there will always be black stuff
thank you for your kind remarks, glad my nonescence helps - hope i get to be in the fast bel soon....blessings and beer dear friend

Anna said...

I passed the link to your site to my friend who is suffering Paul...I sure hope she is reading all this.

Very powerful post...as always. And I love the image with it....captiviating.

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

thanks anna - hope your friend finds the ramblings cathartic

the tree is an old beech i passed the other day, the sun was giving up her fight and the light was beautiful...

bjk said...

Philip Yancey says that faith means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse. So emphasising that in fact we don’t love God because of what God gives, but rather for whom God is, and the darkness is a defining part of that.

pondering this deeply.....to want what God wants MORE than anything.....

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

bjk
i ponder that deply too - have met mr yancey on a couple of occasions and gound him to be a deeply sincere humble man

i think he would say the very fact you desire that pleases God no end....

maggi said...

hang in there, Paulus, as Mother Julian said while pondering the darkness, "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well." see you soon x

Suzanna said...

I am equally amazed by those humans who may feel all these things and have no words to articulate it. I can never know this for certain, but could there be people who simply never bother to wrestle with such matters?
It's not so much the questions that are painful, but the disconnect they cause with the ones I need the most.
Which brings more questions.
I am leaning on grace heavily these days to give me breathing space...

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

maggie, ah yes dear julian - was talking to a prominant charasmatic leader on the island ages back and he thought julian was a bloke - funny and worrying.... when do you and your boy get here?

suzanna, great new pic, i think there are such people - i am not one of them - i sometimes wish i didn't think so much though. my head hurts. great look on your blog

Mog said...

There's a haiku for you over at Mog's Blog Paul. Hopefully see you on a visit over here soon.

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

very thoughtful and kind - a moment of grace given great poet, thank you

bluemountainmama said...

"This type of faith is essential for daily living. It is the courage and tenacity to move forward despite both darkness and disappointment"....... beautiful, beautiful words that spoke to my heart this morning, harbour....after several nights in a row of sleeplesness, restlessness, struggle in my soul. i am finding less and less comfort in those "evangelical certainties" as the father said.

thank you for talking about the hard things, the questions, the dark places.........and shedding some "light" into them.......