To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact , you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in a casket or a coffin…But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from the perturbations of Love is Hell.— C.S. Lewis
Often when we begin to listen and pay attention to what is going on right in front of us, chaos floods our lives, swamps our schedules, and leaves us gasping for breath.
Even to ask a simple question, like from Day One of this series—What do I hear in this moment?–might open us up to hearing and seeing and feeling what we’d rather not. The reason for this is that our carefully constructed walls that protect us from confusion and uncertainty and pain begin to shudder and crack with such a question. Chaos seeps in.
Questions about what we love and what we hope can bring a cascade of joy, but the same questions can bring into stark relief our heartaches and disappointment. They can lead to more questions.
We begin to ask: What do I do now?
One response to this is to simply stop paying attention. The chaos or grief or even joy is scary. It’s too much. The present moment is too much.
I will be exploring the many creative ways we erect barricades against contemplative attention as this series continues. I will also be sharing some practices from the lives of Christians who have gone before us. While they lived in different ages, their joys and struggles and griefs were not so different from our own.
But what about today? Now?
Keep listening. Keep paying attention.
Why? Because I believe the only way into a deeper connection with life, those around us, and with God (at least on our part), is through, dealing with what we hear and see and feel directly.
Jesus shows us this path by becoming one of us: The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. (John 1:14 MSG) He lived through everything that it means to be human.
Many of you who have followed my blog the past few years have read about my experiences in graduate school and the toll that it took on my love of prayer, theology, writing, even life. This past year I’ve spent with God, wrestling through the experience, what it meant (and continues to mean) as I enter my 7th year (shudder!). Everything from slowly regaining my ability to write without panic attacks to (gently and with a lot of running away) facing that I will never bear children to the overwhelming joy of becoming a photographer. In the dogged determination to walk through, rather than build barriers against, the present moment, I’ve tasted more joy than I’ve ever experienced and experienced more deeply the cherishing love of God.
Words of wisdom that have helped me are from the poet in Rainer Maria Rilke:
Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
Live your questions today.
I would add, Pray your questions today.
Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God,who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:34-39)
The beauty of our Lord is that he stands before the throne of God interceding for us, and he will patiently walk with us through the questions to the answers.