Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fourth Question

Yes, I see that the third question is a bit overwhelming.  Since I'm about to go on vacation, I'm going ahead with my answer.  I'll read the others over the course of the day.

My response to the third:

For me, the big question has to do with seeking/finding/encountering ~ being sought by, found, encountered by ~ God.

One of the hallmarks of Ignatian spirituality is that God is in all things. 

When I was making the Spiritual Exercises six years ago, I once heard my spiritual director say, in a public talk, "Well, first you have to find God in some things."

I didn't see either statement as much of a problem.

And then Josh died and my experience was of God in no things.  My experience was of a silence and emptiness so vast that it seemed that I was falling endlessly into a great abyss, falling and falling and falling, and would continue to fall forever.

 I could see that God was plenty available to other people.

Eventually, I began to wander through the new territory in which I found myself in an experiential sense by listening to the spiritual journeys of others.  That's how I knew that God was still interested and involved.

I dove into it in an academic sense by continuing with seminary.  One of my ordination exam essays involved a hypothetical in which several people were engaged in a  discussion with their pastor about whether God is revealed only in Scripture (perhaps a Reformed position), only in Jesus (and, therefore, Scripture ~ a Barthian clarification of the Reformed take), or primarily in nature (certainly a view common among spiritual seekers). 

My Catholic friends may wonder why none of the hypothetical conversationalists took the position that God is revealed through tradition.  That would be because they were hypothetical Presbyterians.

My answer ~ and we had to address such questions with a theological exposition and then a practical response to the individuals in the scenario ~ covered all of the foregoing as well as Celtic Christianity, contemporary Calvin studies, and the Wesleyan quadrilateral, and was deemed, well, a good deal more than acceptable. 

How did I do that in an hour? How at all?   I suppose the response has something to do with the fact that I had just completed my second year in seminary over the course of the year and a half immediately subsequent to Josh's death, a year in which I read and discussed and wrote about everything I studied in the context of those questions:    Is God in all things?  Some things?  Any things?  How does God reveal God's own self? 

Over time and in surprising ways, God's presence ~ to me ~ became profoundly evident.  I think now that one of the basic symptoms of grief is Failure to Notice.  Kind of like failure to thrive in babies.  Not, I would think, a startling revelation. 

And now I am more passionately interested than ever in how the Spirit of God sustains and nourishes us, and how we come to recognize and celebrate that engagement of God with us.

Believe it or not, this all has something to do with colors, cities, landscapes, interiors, and clothes.

The fourth question: How do you connect your answers?


  1. Wow. Your insight about grief as failure to notice is particularly helpful to me. I don't know if you remember that last year, when I was going on my first 8-day silent retreat, you recommended I take a camera. I did, and since then, it has been a wonderful "inviter to notice". It kept me going while I was in Panama and would try to walk daily with my camera. I've come back to a hectic life where I have done less of noticing. I am thinking that is so connected to the desolation I get so overwhelmed by. Thank you again, Robin.

  2. Last bit, also password protected at my blog ( The password is life. Thank you

  3. I'm not afraid of change. Personally I have done some very hard interior work in order that I can be a healthier person. As a result I often fail to understand that others are afraid of change, afraid of hard interior work for health. But I am also someone with a level of compassion for how people function ( or not) and the ability to work with all kinds of people. Arizona taught me that there are some situations that I cannot address, no matter what I try to do. Tnding to the grief from that time in Arizona and my feeling that God had betrayed me was tough work. The toughest I've done. But through it all I just worked at trusting God was with me even though imhad absolutely no sign that affirmed that....until now. At some point I want to be able to put into words what this has felt lime, and the profound anchor that trust provided for me through a very rocky time.

  4. Here are my answers to the third question. The fourth is going to require more thought.

  5. Am just back from holiday where your fourth question kept floating to the surface. I think the connection is something like this...

    I find happiness in glimpsing the action of God in my daily life, and colour reflects the different ways in which the light of God comes to me. The cities represent a diversity one of the greatest (NY)and a new city (Kwekwe)which I helped obtain city status but they say to me the same thing .... whether you are in the greatest city on earth or the newest God is still present. Interior spaces - well all life and faith is Holy is it not? Outdoors - I like to see God coming. And sometimes try and get out of the way as I do not always have the courage to let God run me down. But I also have learned that openess is the most productive stance...even in when nothing makes sense and God seems absent from His own Cosmos.

    All these surprise me as they indicate something that I hadn't really understood at coal face of day to day living. I have never really been interested in saints except to see the process by which they became saints...hmmm....I have always beleived that for me God intended me to learn to discern Him in the midst of ordinary life - living and working - married, raising children, accounting...