About twenty years ago, I had a hissy fit at God. The trigger for this event was the death of a friend’s son; in my eyes, a particularly cruel and senseless death. I was like a feral cat, crazed in my anger. I remember screeching to a wise friend, “I love (my friend and her son) more than God loves them.”
My friend said, “You know, you may be the only way that God has to love them.”
About three years later, I went to see a monk. I told him that the longing in my heart for connection with God was overwhelming. I felt absolutely bereft in my longing. Why was God absent?
He told me that the longing was a sign of God’s presence.
I put these two together, finally. I mean, they came together in my heart long ago; but I only recently found the words for what I know. That tragic anguish, that unrelievable longing? They mean that my heart has been broken open. This is not to be feared; it will not break me and I won’t lose my self. My personhood will not disintegrate. Whether precipitated by my longing for God or my distress at the suffering of the world, the ache I feel is the movement of God’s deep love through me.
The contemplative path is all about seeing reality, witnessing the beauty and joy of life. It’s also about standing in the mystery of hatred and anger and senseless harm. As Jim Finley says, “Contemplative certitude lives hand in hand with unquenchable wounds and unanswered questions.” Like a bass note so low that I can only feel it, the contemplative path anchors the music of life even when—especially when—discord prevails.
But more than this: the contemplative path draws me headlong into that discord. The only way to make sure that Love is moving through me is this steadfast witnessing of other’s—and my own—longing, joy and anguish.