June 3, 2014 at 7:29 am, by Carl

This year, I have stumbled onto a sweet, powerfully introspective spiritual book called My Bright Abyss.    It is written by a poet named Christian Wiman, and is about his journey back from a form of atheism, starting during dealing with facing cancer.  It reminds me of John of the Cross’ Dark Night of the Soul, or perhaps some of the meditative writing of Teresa of Avila.  Thoughtful, probing, challenging.  

Here is an excerpt I thought very useful:

Christ comes alive in the communion between people.  When we are alone, even joy is, in a way, sorrow’s flower: lovely, necessary, sustaining, but blooming in loneliness, rooted in grief.  I’m not sure you can have communion with other people without these moments in which sorrow has opened in you, and for you; and I am pretty certain that without shared social devotion one’s solitary experiences of God wither into a form of withholding, spiritual stinginess, the light of Christ growing ever fainter in the glooms of self.

WOW…and YES!!  I have been praying a ton lately about the journey of my church.  We have had shared pain of the past 2 years, which for many of us has brought a sense of loss and maybe even betrayal at the hand of God.  This feeling strikes us deep in the core of what it means to walk with God and walk in community.  Why get closer to people when they will cause such pain?  There is more I think about in this, but I will resist from sharing that and only offer that in such pain, we start to get a glimpse of why grace must abound; and He reminds me of how much pain I cause Him, again and again.   Wiman speaks to this a bit in the very next section of the book:

What this means is that even if you are socially shy and generally inarticulate about spiritual matters–and I say this as someone who finds casual social interactions often quite difficult and my own feelings about faith intractably mute–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. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says that Christ is always stronger in our brother’s heart than our own, which is to say first, that we depend on others for our faith, and second, that the love of Christ is not something you can ever hoard.  Human love catalyzes the love of Christ. And this explains why love seems at once so forceful and so fugitive, and why, “while we speak of this, and yearn toward it,” as Augustine says, “we barely touch it in a quick shudder of the heart.”

We need each other IN ORDER TO HAVE SOMEONE TO LOVE if we are really feel and know the love of Christ.  Maybe this is what Jesus is getting at in his first  command verse to love one another (John 13:34) and through that loving, others will finally know I am His disciple.  All my words will never truly convince anyone; yet, that deep love towards another just as He loved….and He loved fully, deeply and yes sacrificially.  Maybe those on the outside of the church see through our words or maybe they note that for many Christians, there is really only a spiritual aloofness to hang out with only a select group of specially chosen close friends.


To that, the outsider (I think) thinks “that’s exactly what I do…have a few good friends and am involved in their lives.”  Jesus wants us to offer so much more than, to offer that love for is shown in the community of those “for whom your first instinct may be aversion.”  Wiman, though, again speaks right into this as well:

There is a kind of insistence on loneliness that is diabolical.  It expunges the possibility of other people, of love in all its transfiguring forms, and thus of God.  It does not follow, however, when one is freed from one’s addiction to, or sentence of, loneliness, that loneliness “ends.” But it becomes–even in love’s afterimage, even when a love is taken from us–a condition in which God can be. Loneliness, when it passes through love, assumes an expansiveness and active capacity. “The body becomes an easy channel for the invisible,” as Fanny Howe writes.  “You may be lonely but are not empty.”

Deep stuff there!