Thursday, October 09, 2008
A Long Slow Journey into the soul
I am reading The Interior Castle, a volume written in the 1500's by a Spanish nun, Santa Teresa of Avila. It is an excellent book about the discovery and intricacies of one's soul. The seven dwellings within the castle of the soul. Mirabai Starr translated Santa Teresa's words from Spanish to English. In the introduction to her translation, Starr writes the following.
Listen. Softly, the One you love is calling. Listen. At first, you will only hear traces of his voice. Love letters he drops for you in hiding places. In the sound of your baby laughing, in your boyfriend telling you a dream, in a book about loving-kindness, in the sun dipping down below the horizon and a peacock's tail of purple and orange clouds unfolding behind it, in the nameless sorrow that fills your heart when you wake in the night and remember that the world has gone to war and you are powerless to break up the fight. Let the idle chatter between friends drop down to what matters. Listen. Later his voice will come closer. A whisper you're almost sure is meant for you fading in and out of the cacophany of thoughts, clearer in the silent space between them. Listen. His call is flute music, far away. Coming closer.
Be brave and walk through the country of your own wild heart. Be gentle and know that you know nothing. Be mindful and remember that every moment can be a prayer. Melting butter, scrambling eggs, lifting fork to mouth, praising God. Typing your daughter's first short story, praising God. Losing your temper and your dignity with someone you love, praising God. Balancing ecstasy with clear thinking, self-control with self-abandon. Be still. Listen. Keep walking.
What a spectacular kingdom you have entered! Befriending the guards and taming the lions at the gates. Sliding through a crack in the doorway on your prayer rug. Crossing the moat between this world and that, walking on water if you have to, because this is your rightful place. That is your Beloved reclining in the innermost chamber, waiting for you, offering wine from a bottle with your crest on the label. Explore. Rest if you have to, but don't go to sleep. Head straight for his arms.
When you have grown still on purpose while everything around you is asking for your chaos, you will find the doors open between every room of this interior castle thrown open, the path home to your true love unobstructed after all.
On Sunday after the morning service at church, Steve and Daniel went to a Panthers' football game. Kristiana and I opted not to drive the minivan to church so that we could walk home. On our way, we saw the turtle in the photos crossing the road. Kristiana has loved turtles all her life, so we had to go investigate. Later that evening, she had a youth group activity, and I sat in the church parking lot in the minivan reading, watching the sun set, and observing a flock of geese making its way across the lot. There was one goose with only one foot. Moving at a far slower pace than the others.
Such powerful and appropriate metaphors for my life.
A solo journey across vast open spaces. Carrying my life, my protection, my home on my back.
Feeling like parts of me are missing. Incredulous at being able to continue anyway.
Being unwilling to stop moving. Even if I move at a turtle's pace.
Picked up and gazed upon by unknowing strangers.
Judged and criticized, insulted and belittled.
But undaunted, unfazed, determined, diligent.
I hear the voice of The Beloved, calling to me to come away, come apart. To leave behind some of the attachments that keep me anchored to stuff and programs and unrealistic expectations that have nothing to do with me and everything to do with other people's fears and doubts and confusion. I see so many connections between the books I read, the movies I see, the music I hear, and I smile because I know that it is all perfectly timed and divinely inspired. I wake up in the middle of the night and cry about international and internal conflicts that I feel powerless to end. I read the words of fellow travelers struggling with life's messiness with sadness, but I rejoice with each of them as they, as we refuse to settle for less than what is best.
Between the sound of the approach of fighter planes, the popping of gunfire, the exploding of bombs,
between the predictions of the end of the world as we know it if ______ happens,
between the honking of horns, the yelling of epithets, the banging of enraged fists on steering wheels,
between the cacophony of fear and panic and chaos and terror,
there is silence, there is peace, there is hope, there is love,
there is the wonder of travel, of movement, of discovery on this long slow journey into soul.
I find myself returning often to the words of the Only One whose utterances make sense so much of the time.
"Then because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, Jesus said, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place."
I think I'll go have some tea, toast, and solitude.
Well, until homeschooling starts in half an hour...