Monday, December 15, 2008

A step on the trek

Sharon wrote about something ("A Long Trek") on her blog yesterday that helps me to take a step. I am going to quote the entire thing (because it's short), but follow the link anyway, so that you can see the great photo she posted with the text:

I keep thinking of what Kay said at the Advent Retreat last weekend. After a year of trials, she could perceive a greater awareness of herself as a complete person. Whereas at one time she would have said all this happened so that she could learn patience, she instead saw a deeper relation with God through these difficult events.

I understand her. In my case, my life can seem like a repeat of fifteen years ago. My grandkids take up most of my time lately, and I can barely get three pages read all day. Is it because I didn't learn what I needed to last round? I don't see it that way Instead, it must be that now I can really enjoy this extravagant effort of caring for kids as I couldn't so easily before. It's a different vision that others point to: "a gaze on life that restores your breath, with a way of entering into relationship with everything so that nothing's banal, everything has the weight of the eternal" (Julian Carron).
This same movement has happened in my life, as well. It was such a habit of thought to come up with explanations and reasons for why God was making this or that happen in my life. I hadn't noticed that I had not been playing this interpretive game quite so consistently or completely, until I read the above paragraphs this morning. Now that I can see the two ways of understanding the meaning of my life, I really wonder...
  1. First of all: what chutzpuh to imagine that I know the particular purpose of God's actions in my life! As if God's work is devoted to giving me what I think I need? As if the sight of his eternal face could render me a service, one that I approve... [this rhetoric is not in any way directed at Kay, whom I've never met, nor at Sharon -- I'm certain that both of them have far more humility than I -- which is why they are able to point this out in their lives while I needed their witness in order to see it]
  2. How much more God has in mind for me than I could ever hope for or imagine!
  3. That having a defined explanation for God's presence in my life means that I am the ultimate generator of meaning in my life. It is the kingdom of Suzanne all over again.
  4. That there is nothing greater in all the world than allowing oneself to be surprised by love, by infinite tenderness, by beauty.
Show us your face, Lord, and we shall be saved.

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Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."