Three o’clock in the morning …

This post is going to be more introspective than any I’ve posted before.  It captures a very significant chapter in my search to understand spirituality in the 21st century.  I hope the reader will indulge me in this.

 

Every now and then I find myself suddenly awake at what some would call “this ungodly hour.”  Just three or four hours previously I’d put my head to the pillow with really not a care on my mind and, as per usual, within five minutes I’m out like a light.  And then, just as suddenly, after a few hours of good solid sleep, the light in my head just turns on again.  And I sit there.  Waiting for sleep to find me.

Half an hour later, I’m still waiting.

So I make myself a coffee and sit outside in the backyard, staring up at a cloudless sky full of stars, and wait for the Divine.  This wouldn’t be the first time.  I actually cherish these moments when the distractions of 21st century life are completely set aside and absent.  It’s just me and my thoughts.

Having spent decades in a variety of Christian traditions, I start to wonder whether it’s even possible to encounter the Divine.  And I call out.

Nothing answers me.

Well, actually, there are lots of other sights and sounds, but no voices from heaven or blinding flashes of light.

The air is full of the sound of crickets.  A dog barks far off in the distance.  A very faint drone comes from a highway a couple miles away (or maybe it’s the quarry right beside it?).  A solitary bird suddenly calls out in the darkness.

“But the Lord was not in those sounds.”

A breeze picks up, brushes past my face, stirs up the leaves in the trees around me.  Makes me bundle the blanket around me a little more tightly.

“But the Lord was not in that breeze.”

The stars are amazing.  I watch a couple planes go by a couple miles above my head, their lights flashing, and it occurs to me that a few hundred people are gliding past oblivious to this one pair of searching eyes staring up at them.  A meteor falls toward the west.

“But the Lord was not in any of those lights.”

It’s now 4:30.  I’ve been here on this lounge chair for over an hour.  No TV.  No computer.  No book.  Just me and my wishes and expectations.  And like Elijah, sitting in his cave, trying to find God in a “great and powerful wind that tore the mountains apart,” followed by an earthquake, and then a fire, I too have come up encounter-less.

At least Elijah eventually heard a “gentle whisper.”  Perhaps it’s a good thing I didn’t, because the gentle whisper gave him instructions about putting a whole lot of people to death by the sword.

I make myself a hot chocolate and grab a sweater … it seems a cold-front has been moving in, which explains the completely cloud-free, starry night and the breeze picking up … and return to the lounge chair in my back yard, which has now become a pew in my imagined cathedral.  This time I brought my laptop to capture my thoughts over the past hour or two.  Try to make sense of it all.

No one can accuse me of not “waiting upon the Lord.”  I’ve done this more than once, and each time I’ve come to the firm conclusion that, if I’m going to encounter God, it won’t be anything like meeting my neighbor at the fence by our property line, or an old friend passing by on the street and striking up a casual conversation.

But at the same time, I can’t conclude that there’s nothing out there.  There are some things that I just can’t attribute to a great cosmic accident.

Like life itself.  Those crickets are still filling the air, reminding me of a trip I made a couple decades ago around this time of year when I noticed the very same sound as I left my house and then again when I landed a few hours later in Helsinki Finland.  Then, and now, I imagined that constant, high-pitched vibrato in the background across all of Canada and Europe … the whole northern hemisphere of the planet reverberating with the sound of millions of crickets.  Maybe that’s the “gentle whisper” I’d been waiting for.

And love.  I recall the backyard party we attended the night before, and anticipate the family coming to our house later today, and I’m thankful for love and good relationships.  Sharing food and stories and memories together.

And that constant nudge that tells me we’re not alone.  The unshakeable conviction that there’s more to life than just living.  I do believe we have purpose and meaning.  We just need to find those for ourselves.

These are increasingly becoming the feelings of my spirituality.  They’re replacing other feelings that used to define my religious life.  They no longer include feelings of guilt, or self-condemnation, or lists of things I need to do (or not do) to earn God’s approval.  I now find it harder to be judgemental of other faiths, even non-faiths, or to be so confident of all the masses of other people going to hell.  Perhaps the earthquake, and great wind, and fire have removed those feelings from me.

It’s almost six o’clock now, and the birds are starting to announce the start of another day.  The dawn chorus.  It’s too bad that most people have never been awake to hear such a beautiful sound.  A flock of geese go by honking and cackling, doing their best to wake up all the other lazy snoozers who are wasting precious time.  The mockingbird practicing his various sound effects and impressions of other birds.

Appropriately enough, this new day is a Sunday.  “The Lord’s Day.”

Perhaps I have met with God.

 

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7 thoughts on “Three o’clock in the morning …

  1. Hi Luke, When I got back from church I re-read your blog again. I’m wondering about the whole idea of, “Waiting for the Divine.” I enjoyed you channeling Elijah’s experience – bringing it up to date – into our backyards. The timeless notion seems to be that God is never where we would typically expect Him to be or where we want to see Him at any given time – or crisis – in our lives. How do we navigate the conundrum of having this, “God shaped vacuum,” that needs filling when that filling is illusive. It seems like some faustian trick. Yet at some core level, we believe because it’s too uncomfortable not to believe. And then, on top of all that there’s silence – our prayers can’t penetrate a drywall ceiling – the dark night of the soul as various Christian warriors in history have written about. Are we just thinking too much? Or feeling too much? I dunno anymore. Maybe the old spiritual, “This World is Not My Home, I’m Just a-passin’ Through,” should have been in the canon. These days, swinging between anticipating productive futures and abject ambivalence about even being here anymore, its a crazy discombobulating churn – no joy ride. But, honestly, “The fellowship of Kindred Minds,” is a life saving – soul saving manifestation of God’s grace. That’s how I know these days, that He hasn’t left the building.

    P >

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  2. Enjoyed your ‘poetic’ and thoughtful ponderings. Late nights and early mornings often bring on such thoughts … I think you DID hear something that morning. Since you mentioned the dawn chorus – I include the following poem by Thomas Hardy (of Tess of the Durberville’s fame) Hardy was married to an ardent believer but could not brig himself to think there was a God who engaged with the universe let alone his creatures – he remained a bit of a dour depressive as reflected in much of his literature, I think, his conclusions led him to exchange a loving personal God (as portrayed in Jesus model) for a distant remote one leading to the belief in an indifferent god of fate with little, if any room for redemption. A bit of a post -modernist before PM’s! I DO like some of his stuff however! And I drank up his his hopeless, brooding novels in high school even re-read his best one a few years back – The Mayor of Casterbridge.This poem alway struck me as insightful both of the invisible world and his honesty at his inability to see it. I think it’s great poem but leaves me sad.

    THE DARKLING THRUSH – BY THOMAS HARDY

    I leant upon a coppice gate
    When Frost was spectre-grey,
    And Winter’s dregs made desolate
    The weakening eye of day.
    The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
    Like strings of broken lyres,
    And all mankind that haunted nigh
    Had sought their household fires.

    The land’s sharp features seemed to be
    The Century’s corpse outleant,
    His crypt the cloudy canopy,
    The wind his death-lament.
    The ancient pulse of germ and birth
    Was shrunken hard and dry,
    And every spirit upon earth
    Seemed fervourless as I.

    At once a voice arose among
    The bleak twigs overhead
    In a full-hearted evensong
    Of joy illimited;
    An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
    In blast-beruffled plume,
    Had chosen thus to fling his soul
    Upon the growing gloom.

    So little cause for carolings
    Of such ecstatic sound
    Was written on terrestrial things
    Afar or nigh around,
    That I could think there trembled through
    His happy good-night air
    Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
    And I was unaware.

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  3. In his book, How to be Filled with the Holy Spirit, AW Tozer wrote, “maybe you feel in your heart that you just can’t go on as you are, that the level of spirituality to which you know yourself called is way beyond you. If you feel that there is something that you must have or your heart will never be satisfied, that there are levels of spirituality, mystic deeps and heights of spiritual communion, purity and power that you have never known, that there is fruit which you know you should bear and do not, victory which you know you should have and have not.”
    I do not think that the Lord would flat out ignore His children by faith. But I do think we all have to go through a crisis of soul to know His presence and power in a deep way, and I think that crisis usually includes His apparent silence. FWIW, I will speak to this on Sunday at Owen Sound Alliance Church.

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