If I were to tell you one more thing, it would be this:
Do not believe that the one who seeks to comfort you lives without difficulty
the simple and humble words that sometimes help you. His life contains much grief
and sadness and he remains far behind you. Were it not so, he would not have
found these words. – Rainer Maria Rilke
I was thinking about these words from Rilke’s Letters to a
Young Poet in the shower this morning as I pondered this online life of mine and
the hiddenness of the life that lies behind it. Online, you see what I show you and I
try to show you what edifies, but I also try to be truthful, as much as is
possible without causing harm.
For example, I posted a picture on my personal fb page yesterday,
a picture of my cat and dog taken after eating lunch on our front porch,
surrounded by sun and sky. It was a good picture and a lucky day (mid 70s!) to
be eating lunch at home. It was the best part of my day and I shared it with
But I didn’t share waking up at 5 am and being unable to get
back to sleep. I didn’t share how I curled up in bed at 7 pm while the boys
were out with John. My daughter came to find me, and I told her, half-joking, “Come
get me in twenty minutes, I think I might have depression, or maybe it’s just
I resigned from my job as Associate Pastor at a local church
just over a week ago. It was not a decision I was planning and was not easily
made. It’s a choice that comes at a great cost to my family and me. It’s a
choice I was privileged to make.
I am grieving. I am free. I am wandering through days suddenly
empty, unpacking the contents from my office at the church into my office at
home. I’m grateful all over again for the shelter of this place we call home,
for the animals and children to tend, for the office and work of my own.
I am grateful. I am grieving. I am wandering. I am free. All
of these statements are true.
But I’ve been careful in what I share.
Looking through Rilke’s letters, I find another line that rings
true for this time: “Do not draw conclusions too quickly from that which is
happening to you. Just allow it to happen.”
I’ve been thinking about the space between a thing and its
naming; how mystery and possibility dwell there. The space before naming invites
a posture of curiosity, which is open and probing, rather than judgement, which
is closed. When we name a thing – an experience or person – we lose access to
all the other names that might have been. Labeling an experience ‘good’ we deny
the bad. Naming a person ‘evil’ we sign an unspoken pact to overlook any
glimmers of goodness.
Think of the way naming the humble dandelion a “weed” blinds
our eyes from the glory of this roadside yellow friend. There’s one even now (in
March!) in my front flower bed, but I won’t celebrate its golden head with anything
near the welcome I offer to the purple crocus nodding just two feet away.
There’s a space between a thing and its naming and I’m
living there these days. It’s a space of mystery and possibility. It’s a space
of occasional fear and dread. For the most part, I’m trying to lean toward
Gerald May’s summation in The Dark Night of the Soul: “To be immersed in
mystery can be very distressing at first, but over time I have found immense
relief in it. It takes the pressure off.”
Few of us are very comfortable once the pressure’s off.
Sure, it’s good for a day, or maybe a leisurely week or two. But most of us
want to be quickly back at it, whatever it may be, if only by naming
experience, cordoning it off, somehow checking a virtual box marked “done.”
Which brings me, finally, to another piece of Rilke’s advice:
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.