Rationality and blessed refreshment.

I sang with some choir friends at a funeral on Monday. I didn’t know the lady, but funerals always remind me of the deep connections between people. I never met this woman – who by all accounts was a pretty impressive woman; I think I’d have liked her, and I’d have hoped that she liked me – but she was my sister in this universe, a fellow creation of the Creator.

One of the comments I took away from the eulogy was that this woman – this beautiful, loving wife and mother, shrewd businesswoman, and vibrant human being – could not have articulated deep and elevated theology, but lived her faith. She could not articulate the theology of the Eucharist, but it was a part of her being. She drew comfort from it without understanding it – any more than we need to understand how hydration works in the membrane of our cells to be able to celebrate the cool refreshment in a glass of water on a hot day.

I’ve spent a lot of time with intelligent people. I value intelligence, my own and that of others. Theology is something that’s important to me and sometimes I want to weep at the theological illiteracy in our churches. I think that my theological understanding, and my capacity for analytical, reasoned and abstract thought enriches my faith.

But all my rationality, my intelligence, my reasoned thought processes and eloquent (or otherwise!) arguments are nothing without the faith that underpins them. That’s one of the things I’m learning, not just about my theological understanding of the world but about myself in general. Head is nothing without heart. Knowledge is nothing without the life that underpins it.

That’s something that I’m realising. I’ve spent the last ten years in my head. That’s been important – it’s got me through a lot of pretty horrible stuff, kept me from being overwhelmed by just how painful it’s all been. But here’s the problem which now comes with that: when I stop, when there are no thoughts in my head (which does happen, sometimes), then my feelings rise to the surface. All the heart stuff that I’ve masked with head stuff – it’s still been there, quietly and patiently waiting for me to notice it. I can articulate my pain and my healing, the process of my mental and emotional and spiritual and creative recovery. But that’s not enough. I have to learn to feel it.

I’m working on it. I’ll always value my head, the easy working of my mind. But I’m learning to value my heart too. My soul. What they tell me. What they yearn for, what causes them to recoil. And in doing that I’ll watch myself deepen. I’m watching my healing deepen and become real. I’m watching my faith expand from being limited by the realms of intellectualism, beyond those realms to encompass me as not only mind, but body and heart and soul.

I love being able to explain why the glass of water is important. But I’m learning to move beyond that knowledge, to revel in the blessed refreshment it offers on a hot day.


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