Monday, May 07, 2007

In and out of the light

Every now and then I amble over to my dark side, and I don't mean anything akin to dirty jokes, swearing, or any other adolescent behavior that only skims the murky surface. I mean wrangling with God, demanding to see the divine Presence, only to limp away the next morning. I mean questioning my place in the universe, thinking that I have followed the call of God, only to feel hoodwinked at best; at worst, lost.

Sometimes I get to this 'valley of the shadow' by way of carelessness: I neglect my relationship with God and then claim that I am the one who has been abandoned. Other times it is through reading a book that is both the hole and the finger in the dam and having no one with whom to mull it over. And still others it is the undertow of being female and over 40 and just letting the wave wash over me, holding my breath until I can rise to the surface again. When it is all three at once, it can feel like an emotional tsunami.

One of 'those books' I just read was The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell and its sequel, Children of God. The former was recommended to me as 'the best book on theodicy' that my colleague/acquaintance ever read. Theodicy is defined as 'the defense of God's goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil' (Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, 1979), certainly a highly relevant topic given the events of these days. In fact, there is no question of the existence of evil, but as for God there are times we must search and stretch the very fabric of the cosmos and of the human soul in order to find any meaning. No wonder the atheists are having their time in the limelight. Evil is at its apparent zenith, making one headline after another while God hardly makes the news at all, and if so, is not named explicitly.

Which is where you'd think the Church would come in, or the synagogue, or the mosque. But most of the time it's the sensational, fundamentalist, right-wing conformists that make the news and whatever the progressive folk are doing seems to come in under the radar. Jesus was an 'under the radar' kind of guy but in this day and age of information technology the existence of evil tends to drown out God's goodness and supposed omnipotence. It can be easy to despair when the voice of reason, hope, and compassion is barely heard in this land that has become so foreign to itself. So venturing toward the darkness of this human life seems less like a spiritual course correction and more like following God into a maze, not sure that one will ever see the promised land.

When I get like this, writing poetry helps. I am not acquainted with many people who want to talk about such things, which would also help. Writing poetry takes this darkness and helps me understand it and transform it into something of beauty, hopefully. Beauty, in all its forms, bestows mercy, that is, the knowledge that somehow we are not alone. This is my latest attempt to make sense of that which makes no sense at all.

Theodicy

Moonlit thanks
Paper joy
This is how I
experience God

The Word made flesh
Wordless
Silent
Mute
This is how I
experience God

‘God’s eye is
on the sparrow’
Yet
the sparrow
falls
This is how I
experience God

Do not
hope for more
for God will
break your heart
This is how I
experience God

And yet
my husband made
me laugh tonight
from the belly
to my eyes
brimming with black
rivers down my face
My side torn in two
where the wound
of despair had been
And this is how I
experience God

5 comments:

Grandmère Mimi said...

Cynthia, "theodicy". There's a scary word. I'm ashamed to say that if you had not defined it, I would have had to look it up.

God is always present, I believe, but sometimes our experience of God is greater and sometimes less. Sometimes she seems completely absent.

We do push him away at times - I know that I do - but other times she seems absent, gone, disappeared, through no fault of our own. I have thought that in the dry periods that God accomplishes greater work in us than when we feel him to be close.

In Jesus' day, the equivalent of "church" was, for the most part, not on his side. I think it's up to us, individual Christians, each of us, to do our small part, within the church and without, to bring about the kingdom.

I love your poem.

And your husband makes you laugh!

Mystical Seeker said...

That's a really nice poem.

For what it's worth, I question my place in the universe almost every single day.

Cynthia said...

I'm thankful for you folks and others like you who are willing (and somedays not so) to question and to companion on the Way.

Padre Mickey said...

I really enjoyed those two books. I was really surprised with the second. The idea that the priest would return makes sense to me as a missionary, but, dang, what a calling!

Share Cropper said...

Like all your poetry, this is good. Thanks.