Does your life create a mental mixtape of music and ideas? The Advent season seems to invite such collisions … yesterday it was the Indigo Girls jamming with Julian of Norwich by way of Matthew Fox and my morning commute.
First Julian … probably a Benedictine nun, the medieval mystic Julian lived in seclusion in an anchorage (exactly what it sounds like) near a churchyard, which pretty much makes her the patron saint of introverts. She wrote about her experiences of God in trance and meditation, published as the Showings or the Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love.
(BTW: a little Julian backstory … when life completely sucks, or I think I do, I’ve been told it’s helpful to remember her prayer, “All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” And, Julian says, if that sounds hokey and we can’t take the comfort God has on offer, that’s our own damn fault. Well, she called it “mischief.” But I’m pretty sure “that’s our own damn fault” is what she meant. Because Jesus gave her this prayer when she was asking “Why sin?” I.e., why do we have to experience separation from God? Julian says Jesus replied: “It was necessary that there should be [separation from God]; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” And apparently he said it very tenderly. Interesting. How often do we speak to ourselves tenderly?)
Okay, back to my Julian and the Indigo Girls mash-up. In this book of meditations by Christian mystics gathered up by Matthew Fox, Julian says:
God is thirsty for everyone. This thirst has already drawn the Holy to Joy and yet we the living are ever being drawn and drunk. And yet God still thirsts and longs.
I know. It’s tempting to take this God as a vampire or alcoholic … but think about what even those snarky images represent: a lover that won’t die, a bottomless desire.
Exactly. Julian knows God as lover, endlessly loving, as a God who never stops desiring us. Perhaps in a slightly more healthy way than vampires and alcoholics, but a wild God nonetheless. (If your God is more tame than this, you can be pretty sure that’s the God of your imagination, and not actually God. Apologies to Augustine and Meister Eckhart.)
So, God wants us. God is in pursuit of us, the beloved. And so, what does God do?
Cue Indigo Girls.
In case you can’t listen right now, or can’t make out all the words, here are the lyrics:
in the sleep of the night,
in the dark before light
in the silence of stars,
in the violence of wars–
Savior, your name.
to the road and the storm,
to the gun and the bomb
through the hate and the hurt,
through the hunger and dirt–
bearing a dream.
to our dark and our sleep,
to the conflict we reap,
be your dream born alive,
held in hope, wrapped in love:
God’s true shalom.
If the God of your imagination is sitting on a throne in the clouds somewhere, looking down at the world, then let me flip your script because here’s what God does. Gazing at a world full of violence, people on the road and in the storm, holding guns and throwing bombs, full of hate and the pain underneath it, scratching out a living from played-out dirt, God chooses to come into all that pain. God chooses to bring the Holy to the Joy that is human life. God wants to join the people and the Joy that we feel even in the midst of the pain and hurt.
And how does God choose to enter into the violence, conflict, hate? With bigger guns? More powerful bombs? Nope. As a baby, held in hope, wrapped in love.
Now, if you picture God up on a throne in the clouds making somebody named Jesus go be born into all that shit and risk, then yeah, that sounds like divine child abuse.
But that’s where the mystery of the Trinity comes in, and the incarnation, the idea that frankly keeps me in the Christian fold, despite my lack of fit in its institutions.
God. Came. God’s. Own. Self.
The One a poor, hopeful young woman held in her arms, wrapped in her love?
That baby was God.
I really don’t have words for how that makes me feel. Well, maybe thirsty. And longing … longing seems to be the middle name of my faith life.
So, the comfort I am drawing this morning is that in my thirst and my longing for a community in which to experience the presence of God I am at least not alone. I am made in the image of — and keeping company with — a crazy, wild God who is endlessly thirsting and longing, too. For me, and for you, and for what we might become, as a habitation for the Spirit of Love, feeding hungry and thirsty people, holding our fellow lonely ones with hope, and wrapping them in love.