has only one way to the rest of his life,
we must move with courage
through the wall of flame
into the greater sea.
— Mark Nepo, Book of Awakening, p 172
These words speak to a dear friend of mine, who is going through a harrowing health issue, who is negotiating an ever-shifting landscape full of unknowns.
These words speak to me as I struggle for clarity, and then seek to become willing to make room for all of its implications for my life when it comes.
The imagery of a wall of flame brings to mind the poetry of John of The Cross (known most widely for coining the phrase “dark night of the soul.”). A Spanish mystic, who spent much time in prison for his beliefs, John of the Cross wrote extensively on the growth of the soul. In his writing, the image of bold flames symbolizes loving and transformational union with God.
John of the Cross acknowledges what most of us have experienced if we have lived much in this broken world: in difficult and challenging times – times that cause one to face crucial questions including one’s mortality — it may seem like God is absent. But John calls us to remember that God is ever with us, that we are being prepared and transformed by love if only we will be present and lean into the experience as authentically as possible. If we will trust there is life and depth for us in whatever our circumstances, in spite of sometimes substantial evidence to the contrary.
A good sign for me that something is afoot — that God is shaking things up — is a growing resistance to sitting still in the Great Silence. In the midst of many blessings and meaningful work, I find myself restless, uncomfortable, and finally (after enough pain) driven to lean in again, to surrender to whatever it may be that God is unleashing.
This will be interesting.