Bringing God Home – Part II

Bringing God Home – Part II

In the last post, I wrote about something that has bothered me about living with ecstatic religious experiences — i.e., I don’t feel God’s presence most of the time. I realize that this is an obvious fact of human life, but it has bothered me still.

Here is another thing that is even more troubling – most of the time, I am no longer all that bothered by not feeling God’s presence.

When I first started having mystical experiences eight years ago, my spiritual director told me not to seek them or want them.  This is standard spiritual director advice; they teach this somewhere in the basic manual at spiritual director school. Don’t desire mystical experiences.  Detach.  Don’t want them.  That is good advice, at least in theory.

But once I started having them, not wanting them was beyond my power.  My desire could not be contained.  It wasn’t just a desire for some hallucinogenic experience, but for the felt presence of God.

I could discipline myself not to do strange things to seek them.  I could understand that they might not return.  Some days, I could even reconcile myself to that cheerless fact.  But not wanting them?  Not wanting that felt connection to God?  That was impossible.

After awhile I gave up on curbing my desire and went around, night and day, humming that old Diana Ross song, “Ain’t no mountain high enough, Ain’t no valley low enough, Ain’t no river wide enough to keep me from getting to you.”  And I meant every word.

Here’s the part that really bothers me these days.  After awhile, I didn’t just detach from my desire (which would have been a good thing); I slipped into outright apathy.

I’ve been thinking about Peter Mattheissen’s search for the snow leopard as a spiritual quest for the divine.  (See the last post.)  When the feelings were at their most intense, I would have gone to extraordinary measures for the most fleeting glimpse of the snow leopard.  And my enthusiasm knew no bounds – not even the bounds of common sense. As I wrote a few days ago, a part of me not only wanted to glimpse the snow leopard but to take the snow leopard home, to domesticate it.

But the truth is, lately I can’t get myself all that worked up about the snow leopard.  If somebody told me, Beka, look out your window and see the snow leopard, I would probably look. I would even walk out to the curb. I might even drive to the other side of town to the nature refuge.  But if it meant trekking through the wilderness of Nepal or crossing even a medium size river or mountain, I’m thinking I’ll pass.  I would rather stay home.  I’ve got a lot of stuff to do.

Just writing this makes me sad.  Really?  I can’t go on a quest for God because I have too much stuff on my to-do list.  Good God!

But maybe that’s not altogether bad.  I’ve read that in some traditions, people are not given access to mystical texts unless they are householders and have reached a certain age of maturity.  Maybe we need a strong anchor in ordinary, daily life to keep us from going off the mystical deep end.

And maybe, too, householders can turn out to be decent mystics, because God is present in the household.  You don’t have to go on a trek to another continent or climb high mountains or cross broad rivers.

In the last post I wrote about my desire to domesticate God.  OK, for the record, I know that is idolatrous and ridiculous and just plain silly.  But if I can’t domesticate God, it isn’t simply because it’s idolatrous.  It’s also because, at some level, God has already domesticated Godself.  As God comes into the world in Christ, God takes on all of our life, including the ordinary life of the household. I don’t need to bring god home; God is already there.

The task then is not about packing ourselves off to another continent. It’s not about going to a different place but about seeing with different eyes.  It’s not about the hard work of tracking something elusive but of seeing what is already there in front of us — at home, out the window, on the curb, or on the other side of town.

 

[Since I last wrote, my mother-in-law, Pat Delony has been moved to a hospice in Little Rock. If you know our families and would like to keep up, you can follow the caringbridge page at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/patdelony/  I’ll be writing a regular post, letting friends and family know how things are going. We would appreciate prayers for peace and comfort for Pat and for the whole family.]

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Leigh Lloyd on February 16, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Indeed! My grandmother told me of having to wear “rose colored glasses” when she was a girl on the coast in Port Arthur – due to the glare off the water, she said. She gave me a pair to wear around the farm. I wore them even when it was cold, damp, dreary and dark in the middle of winter in northeast Texas. Those glasses just made me feel, well, rosier inside.

    Sometime I think we need GOD glasses – God spectacles – so we can “SEE” the spectacle that is God all around us. Thanks for reminding me of the rosy specs.

    Praying for you mother-in-law and your family.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Pastor Pam Estes on February 28, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    Makes me think of how the monastery restricts the reading of the Song of Solomon to monks over the age of fifty!

    Reply

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