Saturday, 10 March 2007

Always beyond

We can only see where we are when it has become where we were: when we have moved on.
It is only in looking back to where we have been that we can see that place clearly.
While there, we were unable to imagine another place further on, as we were already somewhere we could not previously have imagined. It is not that we try to imagine and fail, it is that the very idea that there may be more, does not, and cannot occur to us.

When we are already taken out of and beyond ourselves, placed outside the limits of our experience and understanding, we have no landmarks by which we are able to judge our position; no recognizable footholds or handholds we can use to hold firm while we attempt to judge our direction of travel, and without which we can find nothing on which to build any sense of security.
We struggle to find our bearings within the newness that has enveloped us.

Where are we? What is this place? And what is our place within this place?
All we can be sure of is that we have moved in relation to our past.
Our present will always stand upon the foundation of our past, but in our spiritual journey all the knowledge, awareness and realization that had, until now, been our present, can seem lost. As with our temporal life, our past is the groundwork for our present, but there is no neatly recorded progression to our present position: no recognizable pattern of steps that has led us here; no memory of the last part of our journey. All that we had been - the safety of our presence within a present perceptibly formed from our past - has fallen away to become part of that past.

Stepping out in faith will bring us to the edge, but sometimes, just when we dare to open our eyes to see how close we have come, we find there is no edge: we have been taken beyond it. Without any of the half-anticipated emotions, we have been placed in this entirely new place. The edge we had been moving towards is somewhere behind us; we never arrived there: we never saw it. It is as though it had never existed.
We may be in no position to learn it at this time, but this speaks of an important truth: - the edge itself is of no real consequence.
What we seek is always beyond.

There is a possibility that every stage of our journey towards God will feel like this, that each move forward will bring an (at first) incomprehensible change to our comfortable and accustomed level of awareness. The change may even be so great that we believe ourselves to have arrived at our destination. We have not, and the experience and feeling of this new awareness, whether leading us towards an apparent misery or ecstasy, is not one in which to linger, and still less one to hope for.
Without doubt the experience will be undeniable, but it is merely a confusion born of our utter ignorance of that which we approach.

Though our movement, in relation to the distance between present knowledge and full understanding, is as climbing a tree to get a closer view of the moon, the change may seem immense, and the feelings disconcerting.
We have been accustomed to looking at the moon with our feet planted firmly upon solid ground, but now, perhaps having never climbed a tree before, we find ourselves in the higher branches in the dead of night. We do not know how we got here, and we have no memory of having climbed the tree. We are clinging on desperately, not daring to look down and hardly daring to look up at the very thing which drew us here in the first place. The whole experience is entirely new to us.
If we had been able to imagine ourselves in this place, (which we were not), we could only have estimated the experience by looking up at the trees; we could not have anticipated the reality of clinging to a branch high above the ground, in the dark, on a wild and windy night. We had not anticipated the wind, and had no way of understanding how much these high branches would move with it.
We are swept and deeply stirred by the breath of the Holy Spirit;
- and for all the disruption, the moon looks no closer.

In this are pointers to two more important truths: - each small approach may bring wholly unimagined changes to our awareness and understanding, and, despite this seemingly large jump and rapid advance, the possibility of seeing God face to face remains infinitely far from us.

At best the experience will distract and delay us; at worst it will bring our advance to a permanent standstill.
Just as the first steps are always taken before we consciously take the first step, so may we be halted long before our consciousness grasps the fact that we have stopped.
This pattern may be repeated several times, possibly many times, before we suspect that we have not in fact arrived, and that we shall not have done so when the next change occurs, and nor the one after that.

We must walk towards a realization of our comparative insignificance, and a growing understanding of just how little is the distance we have come when revealed against the void that still lies between us and our place with God.
“it is impossible to fathom the marvels of the Lord.
When someone finishes he is only beginning,
and when he stops he is as puzzled as ever.”
(Ecclesiasticus (Si) 18:6-7)

About Me

Who I am should be, and should remain, of little consequence to you. Who you are is what matters; who you are meant to be is what should matter most to you. In coming closer to my own true self, I have gradually been filled with the near inexpressible: I have simply become "brim full", and my words to you are drawn from those uttered within myself, as part of an undeniable overflowing that brings a smile to my every dusk, and to my every new dawn.
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