So a song comes into me, with words and a melody, and it probably isn’t done yet. It hasn’t been crafted. It is more life the song of Life, ever expressing itself without finishing. It is a song of longing, calling out to the Something out there. I know you can’t hear the melody on my guitar just now. But maybe you can sense what’s inside it.
“When I’m fallin’, will you catch me?
When I’m stumblin’, will you lead me?
Can you see me?
Will you free me?”
The monastic spirit is about entering our own solitude like a doorway, and going down through an inner passageway, and being willing to wander in the dark, and to give up certitude, and sometimes to fall. This life of the contemplative in the world is so much like the contemplatives inside monasteries: when we are falling we call out for help towards the Something.
We let go of making God in our own image, as a man, or a woman, or a human. We drop our own projections as best we can, except when it just helps us to use our imagination in those ways. And yet, we still need. We still want help. We still long. And we wonder towards the Sacred: are you really there, here, being yourself in our midst? And in the face of all the great suffering in the world, the unending, cataclysmic suffering, we still wonder: “Will you help me?”
Maybe some people project onto contemplatives an air of super-spiritual holiness. Others imagine monastics are floating around in a fog of illusion, deluding themselves that a life of simplicity, solitude, and inner stillness matters. And maybe we fall for both illusions at times ourselves: believing the contemplative life is super-spiritual, or all just a delusion.
But in the end we keep coming back to this one thing: when we are falling we ask the One to “catch…lead…see…free us.” And even when there seems to be no response, still we keep asking. This faithing is not about certitude. It is hoping Someone will be with us in our need. We keep calling out in a way that might sound like this:
“Out on this vacant lot called prayer…
I will bundle up my vast emptiness
and bring it to You now
and place it on Your doorstep
and wait here outside the door.
And even if You do not seem to answer,
somehow this is what I needed today,
to bring my wanting to You.”
For more stories like this see Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic Culture, now available as a Kindle book.