Monday, November 29, 2010

The Spaces In Between


The sound of loose gravel shifting beneath my feet breaks the silence as I crest the steep hill leading up to Tiedemann Field.  Tucked away on the grounds of a private school in western Connecticut, this tumbling meadow of soccer pitches and softball diamonds is my sanctuary.  Embraced on all sides by wooded glory, the rustle of fallen leaves and the lonely caw of a distant crow are the only sounds accompanying the slow steady cadence of my own breathing.
It is here in the solitude of a Sunday afternoon that I find the room to stretch my legs, to let my mind wander, and open my heart to God.
It is here that I talk to God.
It is here that I listen to God.
It is here where the veil between the material and the spiritual, at least in my world, is at its thinnest.

When I need to talk to God, to vent to God, to rave and rant at God, I run.
The words tumble out of my head so rapidly my body is forced to propel itself along in earnest just to keep up; turning my thoughts and fears over to divine ears as fast as my legs will carry me.

When I need to listen to God, to feel the presence of God, I walk.
Slowly, methodically, attentively.
Allowing deep longings to rise, quelling the inner chatter, and listening for God in the spaces in between.

Listening for God in the spaces in between.
This is the definition of theology that resonates most with me.

We listen for God, we look for God, we feel the presence of God, in the vague, shadowed spaces that drift in between our existence in the material world and our understanding of the spiritual world.
We search for language, images, and emotions that best describe our encounters with these spaces, in an attempt to bring order and meaning to that which is otherwise indefinable and unknowable.
Theology is the bridge we build between the known and the unknown, between God and ourselves.
For some, this bridge takes on solid unmoving form, with extensive, ornate, often redundant levels, towering towards the heavens while resting on a seemingly sound and sturdy footing.
For others, this bridge to God is strung together with fishing line and cotton thread.
A seat-of-the-pants, cargo-net-like contraption with shaky handholds, unsure footing, and gaping holes in between.
Twisting and billowing in the wind.
Changing form with every gust.
At times sagging beneath one’s weight, swaying dangerously close to the jagged rocks below.
Yet manifesting enough resiliency to spring its occupant high up into the clouds on the rebound.

This is the theological bridge that best fits the way in which I encounter God.
Where language and faith are liquid.
Ebbing and flowing.
Coming and going.
Birthing and dying.
Shrinking and growing.
With a gardener’s eye pruning the excess, the unnecessary, the no longer needed.
While letting the sturdier offshoots spread at will, never quite knowing exactly where they will lead.

Theology for me flows in both the mystical and the practical.
I go to church to worship God, to be in community with others who worship God, to experience the feeling of being held up by the hardwearing bricks of scripture, tradition, ritual and sacrament.
But church is not where I go to talk to God, or to listen to God.
Instead, I come to this hilltop sanctuary.
Where leaves tumble across the grass, 
where the wind whistles in baring branches, 
where shadows and sunlight continually shift form and place, 
changing perspectives, 
altering the colors,
blurring the outlines of the world,
and giving me a fleeting  glimpse of the spaces in between.

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