It is at this time of year that many of us long to ‘escape’ or dream of somewhere different, other: a holiday. Yet now it’s normal to hear the stress of booking some time away (both in the UK and overseas). Costs are high, guidance is ever changing, and uncertainty looms large over our idea’s jotter.
But what is it like to live with a hope that is rooted not in the physical details of our lives? What must it be like to give over one’s whole self; has anyone except Mary truly surrendered their control to the divine so completely? I consider this because I awoke this morning to find myself tired of being swayed by emotional responses to physical or practical realities. The road outside my house is being dug up again and I am bothered by the noise: I want calm, I need space to just be! But what if there was another way to find contentment that stands totally apart from our circumstance…
In Lamentations 3: 28,29 we hear a clear directive: sit in silence and wait for hope.
‘When life is heavy and hard to take,
go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions:
Wait for hope to appear.’ (MSG)
Solitude is a portal: a gateway to the essence of all love. Most of life is consumed with searching for joy, peace, even hope in the darkness, but few grasp the true way of love: It’s beauty, character, or countenance. Upon finding a dimly lit version we satiate our desire for acceptance with the immediacy (and utter loveliness) of reciprocal adoration. Human connections can limit the depth of our encounters with the creator if we use them not as a steppingstone or way marker, but instead a defining moment to declare we have reached our destination! I consider this ‘more’ that we are missing deep within our souls the root of so much uneasiness within the world and ourselves. But where do solitude and silence fit in – so many of the answers we seek in prayer or conversation attempt to seek out God’s heart and ask for favour for ourselves, our loves ones, or a global concern.
In a way we already have that, built into our humanity: we now know that our DNA was crafted from the stars1, yet even before time began, we were called into communion (relationship) with God. We hear in 1 John 4: 12:
‘No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us’. (NRSV)
and we find that we seek what we already possess. We yearn for a fulfilling encounter that we harbour in our very souls, Christ, as flesh-made man.
What is the best way to find this inner well of healing and light?
A good start is to place yourself somewhere separate, quiet, and alone. I take myself to the beach (away from the roadworks and all the banging and thudding) to sit on the pebbles that have soaked up the warmth of the day. I find there is a voice, at first mine, turning over thoughts and prayers until my mind can settle. Stepping beyond my fidgeting and distractions, there comes another voice, faintly, speaking through all that is around me. I start to look at the seaweed differently: I imagine the journey, the growing habit, the multiple culinary uses, but then suddenly stop. I want to appreciate it, well, just because. Not dependent upon looks, or performance or use. I want to behold it, to take in the light of Christ within and marvel at colour, texture, and form. I am (perplexed) but overcome with joy, for I know I am connecting with God. I am glimpsing something of the kaleidoscope that always was and is and is to come! And so even when the light fades, the warmth of my encounter remains and there in the fresh air on damp sand God has met me in the sanctuary. I make my own altar of pebbles before I leave as a reminder of:
An encounter with God
An encounter with creation
An encounter with self
I realise, they are all the same.