I wrote yesterday about my image of prayer: howling winds. Desolation and bleakness, a cold, grey, wind-whipped landscape. And my thinking around this was as follows: a, the Sacred exists in and through all things; b, the Sacred is something I’ve fairly frantically shut out of my life because the experience of divine compassion will challenge me and force me to feel what I’ve been trying not to feel; c, the Sacred has entered my life and touched my soul in myriad ways despite my frantic attempts to shut it out; d, I am now called to actually leave the safety of my intellectual world and enter that howling maelstrom; e, the act of doing so is me finally stepping out to meet the Creator, rather than waiting, passive and frightened, for the Creator to come to me.
So I entered the Cathedral today with the intent of doing just that: of answering that call, of trying, deliberately, to open myself up in the beauty of the liturgy to the Divine Presence against which I’m often closed-hearted. Of being vulnerable to the touch of the Creator: exposed, laid bare, unshielded to the Source of compassion.
And here’s what I realised: it’s hard. It’s frightening. It hurts, and it makes my hands shake and it makes it almost impossible to sing. Howling winds are raw, elemental. It’s scary out there, unprotected by intellectualism and rationality and analysis. Out of my head, and into something else. Because here’s the other thing I’ve only just realised: the desolation of howling winds is my right-brain’s way of imaging my emotions. Emotions resulting from ten years of abuse, of heartache, of fear and shame and loathsome acts committed against me, acts which I’m only just starting to draw back into my consciousness, just starting to make room for. Ten years over which I’m only just starting to be able to grieve, and rage, and mourn. Ten years which I won’t truly escape until I acknowledge, and name, what went on.
I can’t live in my head forever. My head is full; my intellectual life is rich; my spiritual life is not. My spiritual life – the life of soul, of emotion, of those things I can’t intellectualise and rationalise and analyse – is desolate. If I am to meet the Sacred where It’s calling me, I must face those howling winds head-on. Because for me, at the moment, prayer – true prayer, true engagement with the Ground of my being – means also opening myself to emotions I’d rather not face. That’s where I’m being called right now. That’s why I’m being called there.
And that’s going to mean that singing is hard, and my hands will shake and my voice will fail, and I will question my right to be in the choir, and it’s coming up to all the Christmas singing so it’s a really inconvenient time. But then, we’re talking about the Creator of time here – I guess that God’s idea of a convenient time is slightly different to mine. I just have to trust that somehow, it will all work out in the end – and hope fervently that I don’t screw up the Christmas singing in the meantime.
Because surely God knows what It’s doing, right?