I was asked some time ago – and I can’t even remember the context, but it’s an unusual and specific enough question that it probably came from my spiritual director: What has the landscape of prayer looked like for you lately? I was asked to let the image – not words, tools with which I’m comfortable and familiar, but image – to arise in silence. And my immediate response: howling winds.
I’m not a right-brained person. I think in words; I’m logical and rational and analytical and I don’t play well with images. I’m probably quite unbalanced (out-of-balance? That sounds better, really, doesn’t it?) in that respect, really. Which, for the record, is probably a big part of why I’m struggling so much with my emotions – they live in a part of my brain where analysis doesn’t reach.
And this is actually quite a big problem for me. Because I have no way of analysing what what “howling winds” actually means. It’s safe and snug to be inside, wrapped in layers of blankets, and invulnerable, when winds are howling outside. It’s exciting to be on a lookout or a cliff face, my hair whipped back from my face, watching a storm blow in over the water and the waves churn themselves to destruction on the rocks below. But howling winds – grey, bleak, cold – can be desolate too. Lonely. An anguished landscape scoured raw by merciless winds.
And I don’t know what to make of that. I don’t know what to do with it. Partly, it’s a reflection of the fact that I’m so heavily biased towards analysis and rationality that other parts of my mind, my psyche, are starved. But – and this is the bigger part – partly it’s fear. Because for my prayer life – my inner life, my spirituality – to be anything but desolate, it means I actually have to step into that desolation.
At the moment I’m comfortably analysing it from the snug safety of my rationality. I’m looking at the desolation out of the window, knowing that I’m shielded from all it means. But I have to step out into that desolation. Because as much as God’s in here, in the safety of my intellectualism, God’s also out there, in the desolation. In the howling winds.
Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire,
Oh still small voice of calm.
I kind of think I have to go out into the earthquake, wind and fire to hear that voice, at the moment. That’s where that voice is calling me. To be brave. To step out of safety and into the howling winds – to step out of safety and into something else. Something richer, and more nourishing, and more alive.
Rightio. I’ll let you know how that goes then, shall I?