Tag Archives: Faith

“My Bright Abyss”: beautiful truth

Christian Wiman’s book My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer had me wanting to do something terrible: I wanted to highlight and underline my library book! That is what happens when a poet writes about those moments in life that are inexplicable, those soul moments that make time stop. Wiman is able to put into words the experiences that seem to transcend words.

51HHyokYLPL
Source: http://www.booksandculture.com/articles/2013/marapr/edge-of-all-i-know.html

He has genius moments of clarity: “Be careful. Be certain that your expressions of regret about your inability to rest in God do not have a tinge of self-satisfaction, even self-exaltation to them, that your complaints about your anxieties are not merely a manifestation of your dependence on them. There is nothing more difficult to outgrow than anxieties that have become useful to us, whether as explanations for a life that never quite finds its true force or direction, or as fuel for ambition, or as a kind of reflexive secular religion that, paradoxically, unites us with others in a shared sense of complete isolation: you feel at home in the world only by never feeling at home in the world” (pg 9-10).

For me, he is able to see through all of the smoke and mirrors, and is able to speak the truth with grace.

One of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much was that it wasn’t just reflections on his life, he also challenges himself, and his readers, along the way. He realizes that “you must not swerve from the engagements God offers you. These will occur in the most unlikely places, and with people for whom your first instinct may be aversion” (21). Beautiful reminders that have me believing that there could actually be some universal truths.

After writing about belief, doubt, death, and life, Wiman writes about faith: “But faith is not a new life in this sense; it is the old life newly seen” (pg 108). And then after writing about his horrible experiences with cancer, he is able to write, “The temptation is to make an idol of our own experience, to assume our pain is more singular than it is. Even here, in some of the entries above, I see that I have fallen prey to it. In truth, experience means nothing if it does not mean beyond itself: we mean nothing unless and until our hard-won meanings are internalized and catalyzed within the lives of others” (Pg 162).

Wiman’s book is beautiful and challenging and heartbreaking all at the same time because it is full of clarity and honesty. He begins and ends with a stanza from one of his unfinished poems:

My God my bright abyss
into which all my longing will not go
once more I come to the edge of all I know
and believing nothing believe in this:


Source: http://www.mbird.com/2013/10/mondays-with-mandelstam-rough-draft-1937/

“Human imagination is not simply our means of reaching out to God but God’s means of manifesting himself to us” (Christian Wiman).

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

TRUTH-2
Source: http://nicolettelodge.com/truth-2/

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“Half of a Yellow Sun”: unshakeable love

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was fantastic. I think I would not be cliche in calling it an epic saga. Adichie writes about Nigeria in the 1960’s, a time in Nigeria’s history where the country separated into Nigeria and Biafra.

This book was no summer breezy delight. It was more like a large steak meal that had to be savoured for the subtle details and difficult subject matter, chewed thoroughly because it was impossible to binge read, and prolonged because the characters were so real that I didn’t want the book to ever end.

yellowsun
Source: http://onelittlelibrary.com/2013/11/03/half-of-a-yellow-sun/

I am grateful for my Book Club because without them I would never have found this novel. I am a lover of history, so this novel was such a wonderful surprise. Over the years I have enjoyed Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massey and Exodus by Leon Uris and Half of a Yellow Sun seemed to be the best of both: it had such minute details about politics and history of Nigeria and it also had such beautifully written characters that I am convinced they actually exist.

The premise of the novel is that two sisters, twins, live through Biafra’s push to be independent of Nigeria and the heartbreaking struggles they endure and the people who surround them. From the start to the surprising end, both women have faith in their ideals and their beliefs and it allows them to survive all kinds of horrors of war. Conscription, starvation, bombings, mass killings, torture, rape.

life
Source: http://www.lifemagazineconnection.com/LIFE-Magazines-1960s/LIFE-Magazines-1968/1968-July-12-LIFE-Magazine-Biafra-War-Of-Extinction-Africa

My favourite character in the novel is Olanna, one of the sisters. She is an educated woman who is not afraid to assert her power or declare her ideas. She creates a community with those around her by loving them and seeing every person as a human being. From the start of the war to the end of the war, Olanna survives and does not become bitter; she continues to love those around her and work for a better future. As we learn more about Olanna, we see that she has a fierce love for her family, even when they hurt her. She especially has a deep love for her twin sister Kainene. In a discussion about reincarnation, Olanna states, “When I come back in my next life, Kainene will be my sister” (pg 541). The strength of her love in the midst of so much hurt and sorrow and pain shows the capacity of humanity to forgive each other and see our faults as part of who we are, not all of who we are.

loveabove
Source: http://www.tattoo.com/design/love-above-all-else

In the midst of chaos, confusion, and devastation, Olanna remains constant. Constant in her love, but also in her beliefs. She refuses to marry her boyfriend because she does not want to change what they have; she does not want their relationship to slowly drift. In the middle of deciding whether to marry her boyfriend Odenigbo she has a conversation with her Aunty Ifeka and her aunt’s advice is this: “‘You must never behave as if your life belongs to a man. Do you hear me?’ Aunty Ifeka said. ‘Your life belongs to you and you alone'” (pg 283). This advice strengthens Olanna and allows her to love Odenigbo yet not lose herself in the process. She becomes partners with Odenigbo and they talk and share their ideas as equals.

All this being said, Olanna is capable of doubt and fear, yet she channels that fear into action. Her experiences of unexpected bomb raids force her to see herself in the big picture and her realization motivates and mobilizes her: “The war would continue without them. Olanna exhaled, filled with a frothy rage. It was the very sense of being inconsequential that pushed her from extreme fear to extreme fury. She had to matter. She would no longer exist limply, waiting to die. Until Biafra won, the vandals would no longer dictate the terms of her life” (pg 351). Throughout her time in refugee camps, in cramping housing, and everywhere in between, she strives to make a difference. She shares, she offers advice, she remains faithful in the movement, and she listens to others. Her kindness is never destroyed by the bombs or the bullets. She chooses love over hate.

strength
Source: http://www.lacybella.com/motivational/every-true-strength-is-gained-through-struggle/

Adichie’s novel is full of characters who will undoubtedly worm their way into your hearts, to the point where you hold your breath waiting for them to make their way through something horrible. The emotional reaction to this novel is important because it tells the story of so many Igbo people who survived, and who did not survive, the fight for independence from British-influenced Nigeria. Not all stories end happily and the people of Biafra were not successful and were accessioned back into Nigeria after three destructive and deadly years.

As a post-colonial look at Africa, this novel was a fascinating glimpse into the aftereffects of the “Scramble for Africa,” and a history I knew nothing about. I am interested to hear what the other members of my Book Club will have to say.

Igbowedding
Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/4717608.stm

“I am drawn, as a reader, to detail-drenched stories about human lives affected as much by the internal as by the external, the kind of fiction that Jane Smiley nicely describes as ‘first and foremost about how individuals fit, or don’t fit, into their social worlds.” (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

“And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

Biafran Coat of ArmFlag
Source: http://restorebiafra.blogspot.ca/2014_05_01_archive.html

“God Loves Hair”: growing up

Here is another young adult book on my summer reading list. It is actually a collection of short short stories by Vivek Shraya.

hair
Source: http://vivekshraya.com/books/god-loves-hair

In this collection, Vivek Shraya moves from childhood into adolescence and all of the shocking and confusing and inspiring things that come along with becoming an adult. In this case, Vivek explores “sexuality, gender, racial politics, religion, and belonging” (from Vivek Shraya’s website). I cannot relate to wanting to shave my face, but I can certainly relate to wanting to shave my legs. The pain of being bullied in Junior High is very real in Shraya’s stories. I love his description of Junior High: “Junior High has marked the sudden death of sweat pants. They have been replaced by name-brand denim and name calling which will continue every day for the next six years” (55). Almost every one you talk to has similar memories of Junior High. It almost seems like a test: if you can survive Junior High then you can survive anything life throws at you.

Throughout the collection of stories I couldn’t help by think, YES! to some of his descriptions. When his friends tries to get him to dye his hair red, Shraya’s reaction is perfect: “This is my induction, my own episode of My So-Called Life. I am Angela Chase to her [Vicky’s] Rayanne Graff” (71). My favourite TV show!!

I went to England for a summer to stay with my cousins and aunt and uncle. While there, my cousin and I got into a routine: ham sandwiches, The Crystal Maze TV show, and always My So-Called Life. Then an ice cream sandwich. Glory days! What more could a 13-year-old girl and her cousin of the same age want?

angela
Source: http://www.thefrisky.com/photos/8-best-bff-costumes/angela_rayanne_101111_m/

My So-Called Life was an important show, especially if you were tired of Degrassi. My So-Called Life looked at so many issues that face teens and it never trivialized them. I feel like Shraya’s God Loves Hair is the same: it looks at growing up in an honest, humorous, yet respectful way. He writes about depression, suicide, gender identity, puberty, sexuality, faith, and just being human.

This is an important collections of stories for teens to read to know that it is ok to be different and to ask questions. Shaya’s ending is fabulous; after finding a picture of Ardhanaraeeshwara, a half male and half female deity, he writes: “I am not invisible anymore” (pg 110).

Every teenager needs that message: they are not invisible!

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

“This project [film What I Love About Being Queer] is about celebrating our resilience, that we find ways to love this part of ourselves in spite of—and sometime through—the struggle.” (Vivek Shraya interview)

queer
Source: http://vivekshraya.com/news/2012/06/12/what-do-you-love-about-being-queer-new-tumblr/

“Faith and Feminism”: authentic living

My thoughts on someone else’s thoughts about writers’ thoughts.

I picked up Helen LaKelly Hunt’s book Faith and Feminism: A Holy Alliance because of the last tag line in the title: “Five Spirited and Spiritual Women Throughout History.” Spirited women!

helen
Source: http://www.amazon.com/Faith-Feminism-A-Holy-Alliance/dp/0743483723

On the back of the book, the synopsis asks the question, “Why do so many women of faith have such a strong aversion to feminism? And why do so many feminists have an ardent mistrust of religion?” I resound with that second question. I do believe that my faith enriches my feminism. Helen LaKelly Hunt, through her thoughts on five females figures, is offering a challenge for a life of wholeness, to live a life that finds strength in vulnerability.

Stained Glass Depicting Jesus Christ March 4, 2004

Stained Glass Depicting Jesus Christ March 4, 2004


Source: http://www.living-consciously.com/2013/08/jesus-is-a-feminist.html

Throughout the book, Hunt looks at five different women and the contributions they have made to faith and feminism. She looks at five different areas of life and how these women provide insight into these five areas: pain, shadow, voice, action, communion.

I found the book inspiring and engaging, but I mostly enjoyed, or rather needed, the chapters on pain and shadow.

1.) Pain: Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
At some point in school or in life, everyone has read or seen one of Emily Dickinson’s poems. She was a transcendental poet. In it’s simplest form, transcendental poetry sought to show the good in humanity and in nature and the corruption of institutions. Some speculate that Dickinson had some horrible emotional experience at school that drove her to stay home, and some speculate that she lived with the crippling pain of rheumatoid arthritis. Either way, her pain was very real and stayed with her constantly. So why is it that Dickinson and her poetry is chosen by Hunt to show the pain of life? Hunt states that “Emily Dickinson’s life teaches us that embracing the pain in our lives can be the doorway to deeper meaning and purpose” (24). Furthermore, Hunt writes that “Emily did not allow . . . hopelessness to deaden her feelings. Instead, she used it to deepened her experience of grief . . . her poems become a celebration of feeling … Emily understood that pain and joy are eternally mixed–and that each can be access through the other” (34).

This paradox of joy and pain is true. Her poetry is able to see through the every-day busyness and see life for what it truly is, whether it be a dark, lonely night or a bird bathing in a puddle. As Hunt says, “Emily’s poetry charts an evolution from avoiding pain to claiming and being defined by it. Pain shapes us, breaking us open so that we can reconfigure ourselves in a way that more deeply mirrors our authentic self” (36). Pain allows us to cut away all of the trim and masks that we wear and to be our authentic, true selves. Pain cuts to the core, whether it be physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental. By having Dickinson as an example, women, and all humans, can see an example of how pain allows us to not only see ourselves more clearly, but to also see those around us more clearly. Pain creates empathy and understanding, something that Jesus was famous for during his time on earth.

I think that if Dickinson was alive today, she would appreciate the song “The Valley Song” by Jars of Clay: “I will sing of your mercy that leads me through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy.”
emily.1
Source: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/emily-dickinson

2.) Shadow: Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)
Ever since I read Barbara Brown Taylor’s book Learning to Walk in the Dark, I have had a new appreciation for shadows and darkness as a part of life. While in a Spanish convent, Teresa struggled with the desire to have a social life (something that was common in nunneries at the time because of the wealth and power of the church) and the desire to truly love God completely, away from distractions. In her struggles, she revolutionized how people pray and is still taught as a Doctor of the Catholic Church. The struggles she encountered trying to accept herself and then figuring out how to live a fulfilling life caused her to explore her shadows. She never shied away from admitting her flaws and owning her darkness. As Hunt writes, “Shadow characteristics can become detriments or assets. It depends on whether they remain hidden and examined or are accepted with vulnerability. Teresa’s story illuminates the path of courageous self-acceptance that leads to the open heart” (53).

Vulnerability yet determination to create change. Teresa was aware of herself, the bright and the dark. Knowing herself, she was able to find the confidence to create positive change while maintaining her belief that she should not forget her shadows and how they are a part of her true self.

teresa
Source: http://communio.stblogs.org/index.php/2015/03/saint-teresa-of-avila-at-500/

In the remaining chapters of the book, Hunt tells the story of Sojourner Truth, a former slave, who learned how to voice her opinions and sought equality for all people; Lucretia Mott, an influential leader within the Quakers and in the USA, who took action to ensure that women were treated equally, even down to her marriage which was a true partnership during a time when most wives were repressed; and Dorothy Day, whose relationship with God came through her humanitarian work, who valued community and communion with others. All of these women were heroes of faith and feminism who inspired Hunt and I appreciated reading Hunt’s own journey to wholeness by learning from amazing women who struggled before.

From Hunt’s book I am reminded that in our lives, we need to remember that we are complicated. We need to spend time listening to ourselves so that we can live a whole life. We have bright spots and dark shadows; we have chances to speak and to act; we have opportunities to join and live in community with those around us. In order to live a full life, we need to accept and love who we are and be inspired by those around us. Being open to an authentic life leads to authentic actions, as shown in the lives of these five amazing women.

wonder
Source: http://comicsalliance.com/wonder-woman-feminism-meredith-finch-david-finch-dc/

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

“The point of telling our stories, even if only to ourselves, is to help us resurrect the parts we have buried. When we unearth them, even if it’s difficult, we can integrate them into our sense of who we are. Often in our buried self our true power lies.” (Helen LaKelly Hunt)

Reasons-not-to-be-a-feminist
Source: http://sotospeakjournal.org/category/local-feminists/

“Learning to Walk in the Dark”: take back the night

Ever since I picked up Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor I have been a fan.

As I sit at home exhausted and spent from late nights of marking midterm essays, the stress of parent/teacher interviews, and the pressure of writing meaningful yet inspiring report card comments, I am thankful for the quiet hours I carved out to read, uninterrupted, Barbara Brown Taylor’s latest book, Learning to Walk in the Dark.

learning
Source: http://harperone.hc.com/barbarabrowntaylor

I am a night owl. If left to an unscheduled chunk of calendar space, I will slowly revert back to what I think is my natural state of being: late to bed, late to wake up. Do you know that feeling you get when a fresh snowfall mutes the city? That is how I see and experience the night. Everything is still present, but the world seems less demanding and bright. Instead, it is muted and luxurious.

In her new book, Brown Taylor challenges the binary we have created between light and dark. Light means good. Dark means bad. Light means hope and happiness. Dark means evil and despair. Yet, there is magic in the night and I appreciate the research, reflections, experiments, and thoughts Barbara Brown Taylor shares in her book. She challenges us to learn to walk in the darkness instead of assuming that we already know the darkness.

moon
Source: http://farmfolly.com/2009/01/brightest-moon-ever/

Most people think of darkness as the time when our minds torture us. When life is at it’s bleakest. When fears reach at their zenith. Yet it is the night that allows us to sit into those valid human experiences and not push them away. The fear, the pain, and the depression are in us even in the light. One of my favourite sections of the book is when Brown Taylor is writing about John of the Cross and his writings on The Dark Night of the Soul: “God puts out our lights to keep up safe, John says, because we are never more in danger of stumbling than when we think we know where we are going. When we can no longer see the path we are on, when we can no longer read the maps we have brought with us or sense anything in the dark that might tell us where we are, then and only then are we vulnerable to God’s protection. This remains true even when we cannot discern God’s presence. The only thing the dark night requires of us is to remain conscious. If we can stay with the moment in which God seems most absent, the night will do the rest” (146-147).
It is not the dark that is bad, but it is only that we think it is bad because in the dark we have time and space to think of all of the things that we were able to ignore and suppress during our busy, bright, light-filled day.

The whole purpose of Barbara Brown Taylor’s Learning to Walk in the Dark is just that: as humans who live in constant light, we need to take the time to learn, again, how to walk in the dark.

As a kid, I was lucky. I have great memories of night time. Where I lived in Central Alberta on a farm, we often saw the Northern Lights, even in August. I saw stars light up the sky. I saw the Harvest Moon in it’s fully glory. I love to camp, especially in the second weekend in August so that I can see the shooting stars and meteorite showers. I love the cool air. I love the crisp, refreshing cooling of the earth. I love that I don’t have to wear sunglasses or worry about sunscreen. I don’t have a lot of fears that lurk in the dark.
lights
Source: http://www.mikeisaak.com/blog/?p=1754

So, when I experience what feels like the absence of God and it feels like I am lost in the dark, I need to remember what Brown Taylor also realized in her journey to learn how to walk in the dark: “In the absence of any sense of God, I wish I had known that it was still possible to trust God” (162). As she notes, creation starts in the dark: in the womb, in the ground, and in the tomb.

As Barbara Brown Taylor discovered while she watched the moon rise, the change from light to dark is not as quick or as distinct as we might like to think. It is time to let go of the binary of light and dark and to start living in both. We need the darkness as much as we need the light.

“The real problem has far less to do with what is really out there than it does with our resistance to finding out what is really out there.” (Barbara Brown Taylor)

“God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.” (Genesis 1:5)

stars
Source: http://www.massingenuity.com/2012/08/27/aligning-your-stars/

Fall Reflection: regaining hope

If I had to give a name to the past few months, I would name the time The Season of Lost Hope.

hope.3
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wonderlane/5277044468/?rb=1

Lately I have felt joy. Sustained periods of joy. These moments have both delighted and surprised me. They surprised me because I realized that it has been a long time since I have felt joy. Over the past month I have had several ideas, books, conversations, and situations all pile up without me noticing. This pile of stuff is not negative, but is in fact a pile of positive messages that I have finally filtered, sifted, and understood. I have been living without hope.

I know that depression is often talked about as dwelling on the past and on past decisions, yet this summer I was not dwelling in the past, but more so dreading a bleak and dust-filled future devoid of new and exciting opportunities. I felt stuck; I felt hopeless. To quote Catherine Marshall, “Resignation lies down quietly in the dust of a universe from which God seems to have fled, and the door of Hope swings shut” (Richard Foster’s Prayer, pg 52).

Since I named my summer The Season of Lost Hope, I also want to give my summer a theme song: “Silence” by Jars of Clay. “I’ve never felt so cold / I thought you were silent . . . Where are you?” I can’t tell you how many times I have listened to this song in the past few months. Yet again, Jars of Clay nailed it. They were able to express exactly what I was going through and I was able to just dwell in this song. That idea of laying in the dust–that idea of everything disappearing–was my struggle in The Season of Lost Hope. It was a dark place.

SONY DSC
Source: http://photographyheat.com/black-and-white-slices-of-silence-by-nathan-wirth/

As I have reflected on my time in the darkness and the wilderness, I have realized that it is hauntingly similar to what occurred a few weeks ago in Calgary: “Snowtember.” Heavy snow fell in Calgary, breaking limbs and branches off of 80% of the trees in the city. It was so sad to see these beautiful trees destroyed; their limbs laying across roads and sidewalks. Yet, when everything has been brought low, that is when we can see the sky clearly.

I may not be an excellent artist, but in all of my years of journaling (we are talking about seven dedicated years), this was the second picture I have drawn. And it is exactly what happened after coming out of The Season of Lost Hope. “With all of my dreams scattered and tossed, I can see out and above and beyond. Yet, to what? What are you clearing the way for? What opportunity? For what are you destroying my safety nets and the things I have built up?”

trees

I realize that losing hope is a terrible place to be in, yet I am very grateful that I did not lose faith. In his book After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters, N.T. Wright writes about faith and about hope.

“Faith is the settled, unwavering trust in the one true God whom we have come to know in Jesus Christ. When we see him face to face we shall not abandon that trust, but deepen it. Hope is the settled, unwavering confidence that this God will not leave us or forsake us, but will always have more in store for us than we could ask or think”(Pg 203).

Even though I didn’t have hope of what was to come, I still had faith and trust that there was a plan. Part of the loss of hope was that I wasn’t able to see what was coming. I wasn’t able to get excited. After months of living in the dust and seeing no hope, I know I have wandered my way out of the wilderness with my faith intact. And more importantly, I am starting to have moments of hope about what is going to come next and I am also dreaming up some plans for what might be in my future. Today I even found myself whistling as I daydreamed about some of the things I hope to see happen. What a wonderful moment of joy.

I am happy, and relieved, to say that The Season of Lost Hope is over. Faith and hope are back together, waiting to surprise and delight me as I strive to love God and love others.

“May this place of rest in the fold of your journey
Bind you to hope
You will never walk alone.” (“Shelter,” Jars of Clay)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

carefree
Source: http://thenewpresent.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/ninad-pathak-the-beauty-of-being-carefree/

“An Altar in the World”: living in the wilderness

I am on the wait list at the library to get Barbara Brown Taylor’s new book Learning to Walk in the Dark. I have been reading quotations on her Facebook page and I even listened to an interview about her new book on the CBC. As I was browsing her books on the library website, I realized that I had not yet read An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, so I put a hold on it and have been reading it this week.

altar
Source: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5662443-an-altar-in-the-world

Just reading her introduction made me realize that I had made the right decision: “In a world where faith is often construed as a way of thinking, bodily practices remind the willing that faith is a way of life” (xvi). Some of the examples she uses in her book made me turn my head to the side, raise my eyebrows and say, “really?!”. Yet for the most part, I felt encouraged and challenged by what Brown Taylor had to say about experiencing God in the world.

labyrinth
Source: http://www.anglicanfoundation.org/st-stephens-calgary-transformed/

Almost every Thursday I can be found at my Church as a guide for the labyrinth that is open to the Church and to the public. I am always surprised at how quickly the time passes as I sit quietly and act as a guide, participate as a seeker, and mediate as a follower. I often bring a book to read and this week I brought at along An Altar in the World by Brown Taylor.

I know that labyrinths are becoming popular again, and I am excited about that! What a unique way to meditate and for me, to pray. As every book or ‘how-to’ guide will say, every experience in a labyrinth is different. Even though the shape and the space is the same, each time I walk the labyrinth at my Church I have a completely different experience. Barbara Brown Taylor writes in her section “The Practice of Walking on the Earth,” “Most of us spend so much time thinking about where we have been or where we are supposed to be going that we have a hard time recognizing where we actually are. When someone asks us where we want to be in our lives, the last thing that occurs to us is to look down at our feet and say, ‘Here, I guess, since this is where I am'” (56). That is what I appreciate about my experiences walking labyrinths. I am present and I don’t have to think about where I’m going because in reality, I am going nowhere (except in circles around the floor). I find that walking on a labyrinth creates raw moments of being very present and very aware.

Over the years, I have had some great experiences on labyrinths. I have felt loved, I have felt held, I have felt comforted, I have felt peace, I have felt like my questions were answered.

Tonight my labyrinth walking experience was interesting. I was getting angry and annoyed at having to make so many turns, especially the turns that were close together. Walking the long straight sections seemed to calm me down and every time I came to a turn I resented the turn and had such an overwhelmed sense that the labyrinth was making the corners tricky on purpose. Wow. What a state to be in. Angry on a labyrinth. Yet I made it to the centre. I felt closed in and confined until I reached the centre. As always, I feel loved and supported in the centre, which I think is very womb-like. Then, on the walk out, I felt that same resentment toward the turns. Near the end of the path, I finally let go of the anger. I ended the walk smiling at myself for the anger a 12×12 area had caused. But really, I’m angry at life for bending and winding in ways that are confining me and constraining me. Yet I need to realize that life isn’t doing this on purpose. It is just life and I am just walking it.

This has been a particularly dark summer for me. The last three months have been extremely hard, emotionally draining, and just painful. I told my family that they were lucky I showed up to my cousin’s wedding wearing a nice dress and fancy shoes because honestly, I wanted to show up wearing a hoody with the hood up and sunglasses on. That is why I am interested in reading Brown Taylor’s new book about living in the darkness, yet I needed what she says in An Alar in the World. That anger I felt as I walked the labyrinth tonight fits with how I have been feeling the last few months. So it was wonderful to have this experience and then to read these words:

Popular religion focuses so hard on spiritual success that most of us do not know the first thing about the spiritual fruits of failure. When we fall ill, lose our job, wreck our marriages, or alienate our children, most of us are left alone to pick up the pieces. Even those of us who are ministered to by brave friends can find it hard to shake the shame of getting lost in our lives. And yet if someone asked us to pinpoint the times in our lives that changed us for the better, a lot of those times would be wilderness times.

When the safety net has split, when the resources are gone, when the way ahead is not clear, the sudden exposure can be both frightening and revealing. We spend so much of our time protecting ourselves from this exposure that a weird kind of relief can result when we fail. To lie flat on the ground with the breath knocked out of you is to find a solid resting place. This is as low as you can go. You told yourself you would die if it ever came to this, but here you are. You cannot help yourself and yet you live. (Pg. 78)

dark
Source: http://lonelypilgrim.com/2011/10/09/the-wilderness/

I truly feel like I have been living in the wilderness and fighting for my survival. I am exhausted. I am tired. I am angry at those turns that force me to take smaller steps and to change direction. I have been living in the wilderness. I’m sure that I am growing and that looking back, I will see the growth in myself having survived this darkness and this time in the wilderness. Yet in the moment, I think I just need to be content that I am where I am. This is where I am. That anger that built up while I walked the labyrinth scared me and surprised me. I haven’t had a raw moment in a safe place in a long time. I was with God in the quiet and I couldn’t escape (well, I guess I could have by walking off the labyrinth); I was reminded that faith is a way of life. It is not just a way of thinking. This time in the wilderness will end. But in the meantime, I am here and God is with me.

I know I’m still reading An Altar in the World (and I am enjoying it because it is challenging me in a positive way), but I have been keeping my eye on interviews, reviews, and comments about Learning to Walk in the Dark. I believe the quotation below is perfect for where I am right now.

dark.2
Source: Barbara Brown Taylor’s Facebook page

“People encounter God under shady oak trees, on riverbanks, at the tops of mountains, and in long stretches of barren wilderness.” (Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World)

“The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter.” (Psalm 30:5)

light
Source: http://wesleepintents.com/northern-lights/