Thursday, 14 February 2008

The unshared secret

In a previous post (15.6.07 ‘Estrangement’) I quoted a passage from one of Cardinal Newman’s sermons. I have always found it memorable and have always been conscious of the truth it conveys, but it has recently returned to me as though of more immediate significance in my present heightened need for an answer to the question, ‘What is it that I should be doing?’

That question can and does take many forms. As written, it is a broad-sounding query without any apparent importance or urgency. It could suggest an awareness that I should be doing some other particular thing rather than that in which I am actually engaged, or that I should be doing something, or even anything, rather than idling my time away doing nothing, but it is a great deal more than that. It is important, and though unable to know whether or not it is in fact urgent, it is accompanied by a sense of urgency born of that lack of knowledge. What if it is urgent? What if I really should be doing some particular thing right now? - Something I am urgently required to be doing, but of which I have as yet no clear idea?
Instead of being a broad suggestion of what could be absentmindedness, indifference or neglect, ‘What is it that I should be doing?’ is etched unavoidably into the surface of my consciousness by the relentless gnawing of my conscience. Whatever the words uttered or heard within, they are felt as a repeated rousing of something vitally important; What am I being asked to do? What am I called to do? What do I need to do? What is my purpose? What is it that I need to accomplish if I am to bear the fruit for which I was created? I may think I know who I am, but who is the real me? Who is it that I am called to be? -That I was made to be? And how near or far am I from being that person?
In that same post I also wrote, ‘Even among our friends we are fundamentally separate ... through our lack of understanding of our place in the world.’ In other words, through not knowing the answer to those same questions.

Reading the Newman passage as though speaking to myself, those parts which seem almost to be a personal reproach combine to read as follows:
‘Perhaps the reason why my attainments are so poor is that I dare not trust others with the secret of my heart, and I fear that, as a cause of estrangement, which really would be a bond of union. I make clean the outside of things; I am amiable and friendly to others in words and deeds, but my love is not enlarged. The presence of Christ is not in it.’
The passage has always made me uncomfortably aware that, other than in a superficial way, I do not share my thoughts and feelings with anyone else, but having personalised it in that way I find further weight being added to a leaning that has already become apparent to me. Though the answer is not appreciably nearer, the direction I should take to find guidance in my search for that answer is perhaps being made more clear.

We all have that same need to become the person we are made to be, and however far we have journeyed, and however vague or intense the questioning may be, there is a corresponding need to be alert, to be awake, to be on the lookout for the help that will always come our way. It is a matter of recognizing God’s provision for us.
This is something of which I thought I was already well aware, and yet, as soon as I found myself deeply embedded in something of importance which has me yearning for clarification, guidance, and a sure sense of direction, all such awareness seems to have drifted away. I have buried myself in a busyness that has apparently prevented me from using abilities I already have: the ability to see and to hear and to feel, in other words, the ability to recognize the availability of guidance in places to which I already have access. God has provided all that I need, but through the narrow-mindedness of my own searching I have walked straight past the doors that are already open to me. Introspection has blinded me, and self-consciousness has distanced me from those who may effortlessly steer me in the right direction. I had been given a key but had failed to see what it could unlock, and I had found the door without knowing that I had the means to walk straight through it.
I have recently written about being free in the hands of God, and have now experienced how easy it is to lose all sense of that freedom as a result of our own striving after that very thing. I already had the freedom, but it slipped away unnoticed as I tried hard to grasp something that could not be grasped. With the return of relaxation and trust, the freedom becomes apparent once more, and with it comes the clarity to see what was already there. It is easy to believe that we have faith, but without a perpetual and living awareness of its life within us the reality will be intermittent at best.

The experience of friendship is warm and it is safe, but the potential within it goes far beyond our normal expectations. Combined with a deeply shared faith it has almost frightening possibilities, and that is why we usually keep ourselves apart at the deepest levels. ‘The presence of Christ is not in it,’ said Newman, and yet we know Christ’s words well enough: ‘For where two or three meet in my name, I am there among them.’ (Matthew 18:20)
Therein lies another aspect of my failure and my fault; I have failed to find a sense of direction towards the answer I seek, not only through the blindness resulting from my self-centred search, but through trying to find the answer for myself: through stubbornly going it alone. The answer will come from Christ Himself through the guidance of The Holy Spirit. He has said that He is ‘where two or three meet’ in His name, not to suggest that He is not with the solitary, but to convey the power and the wonder that is manifested more fully when people truly bring themselves together in His presence. Just as The Holy Spirit can be thought of as being the communication and the love between The Father and The Son, so, in each of us bringing Jesus to our meeting with each other, we enable Christ in me to communicate with Christ in you and vice versa. The Spirit speaks to us and within us, and we are in the midst of the shared secret of our hearts; all we have to do is share that secret fully with each other. Then will our love be enlarged.

That is true freedom in the hands of God; and Christ is in it.
It becomes increasingly clear that I have yet to yield myself fully to this freedom in which progress lies hidden. It is only in having been confined by my own questioning that I have seen how incomplete my freedom was, and only in having regained some measure of it that I realize I had been drawn away from my place of peace and solitude: away from the edge at which I am most likely to be in tune with that which feeds me and breathes within me.
It is in God’s hands that all answers lie, and it is where I slip effortlessly out of the noisy activity of the world that I am most aware of being held within them. My guidance will be unlocked through the sharing of my heart’s secret, and my answers will be found while watching and waiting at the very edge. I must return to the path that takes me there.

‘... let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God ...’
(Romans 12:2)

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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